Putting People First
Seven actions Wedgwood took to drive employee engagement to an all-time high
By Tom Hickey
President - Wedgwood Insurance
Chief Operating Officer - The Magnes Group
At Wedgwood, a high level of team engagement has always been central to our operating philosophy. Our consultant conducts an Employee Engagement Survey for our team every year and, this year, in the face of unprecedented challenges with a global pandemic, our team gave the highest overall engagement score we’d ever seen. We learned a lot over the last year, some of it was purposeful, some accidental, but all learning that can be carried forward into the office of the future.
Here's what we learned:
- Engagement will come from actions and behaviors, not slogans. The best mission statement, core values, or anything else you have on the wall means nothing if the leaders in the company do not live up to it. If your team is the most important thing, you’d better honestly believe it and show it in actions. This may happen in daily calls to staff, check-ins on their welfare or mental health, or proactive communication about the company’s plans to deal with safety issues.
- Leadership can’t be afraid to show vulnerability. Leaders are people too – many times with the same work and personal challenges their teams face. There is a fine line to be walked but, when “we are all in this together” is true, it helps for the team to know that leadership understand and can empathize with those challenges because they are facing them as well.
- Kindness matters. Small Gestures of kindness were shown by many individuals on our team to each other. Managers took the time to know the personal circumstances of team members and often helped them in ways outside of a regular working relationship.
- Flexibility around policies. Policies are there to provide guidance, not make decisions, otherwise leaders wouldn’t be needed. At Wedgwood, we believe policies should never be an excuse to not make an exception for a team member. We don’t let HR policies get in the way of creativity for individual situations and never let them be the default position.
- Keep communication transparent. We didn’t wait until we made a decision to talk about it with the team. We let them know what we felt might be best and got feedback. While most of the time we had it right, we also got good ideas to help make our plans even better. I am pleased to say that our team always understood where we were coming from as we built work-from-home policies and safety protocols on the fly – we were all in it together.
- Keep communication consistent. We sent a video every day for over 100 working days providing updates on progress, results, and anything else that needed to be shared. This provided much-needed reassurance and a feeling of connection for a separated team. The constant communications let our team know that leadership at the highest level in the organization were vested in everything that was happening.
- Provide your team with the tools they need. Aside from investing in technology like IP Phones and better remote solutions, most Employee Assistance Programs were woefully inadequate to provide the level of services needed to cope with remote work, isolation, and mental health challenges. We found creative solutions to provide unlimited support to our team on a very broad basis for mental and physical health, counselling, and diet – all customized to their needs while still being confidential for them and affordable for the business.