At Engage Solutions Group we have the absolute pleasure of working with some key players in the employee engagement and Top Employer world. It’s their knowledge and insight which drives and inspires us to continually evolve the Employee Engage App.
Last month we were pleased to sponsor the TrustFord Awards for Excellence. Having worked closely with TrustFord over the past year to deliver their Employee Engage App, TF Connect, we were delighted to help them celebrate the best of their colleagues’ achievements.
You can see some photos from the evening below and, in celebration of all TrustFord’s recent success, we caught up with HR Director, Sharon Ashcroft.
Sharon joined TrustFord as a HR Manager for the Yorkshire region in August 2005, attracted by the Ford brand. Since joining she has progressed to HRD, implemented the TrustFord purpose, principles and ambition and has been a key player in the company’s Top Employer success.
Engage Solutions Group (ESG): We attended the annual TrustFord Awards for Excellence earlier this month and had the best evening! Congratulations on pulling together such a great event. Can you tell me more about the TrustFord Awards for Excellence? What is the drive behind the event?
Sharon Ashcroft (SA): It was lovely to host you as a sponsor, and thanks for coming along. The awards were in place when I joined the company going back about 12 years ago. This was my second opportunity to organise our awards ceremony.
The Awards for Excellence are based around engagement, celebrating success and thanking our colleagues for their exceptional hard work and contribution to our business success.
Around 350 of our colleagues joined us this year and it was the first year that we introduced some additional colleague based categories such as Technician of the Year. Not only were we celebrating success determined by business factors such as KPIs and strategic goals, but also those individuals who have been recognised and nominated by their own colleagues for being valued members of the TrustFord Family.
Not only is the event great for recognition but we also publish all the KPI’s and balance score cards after the event. This aligns with one of our principles about ‘honesty and integrity’. It also means colleagues can see how they can improve and perhaps be the one collecting the award next year.
It’s a great event – all our colleagues and sponsors absolutely love it. It’s certainly the highlight of our TrustFord calendar.
ESG: The company has had a very successful time over the past year with the launch of your app, placing Highly Commended in the Employee Engagement Awards and with new sites opening across the UK. You were also ranked 22nd in The Sunday Times Top Big Companies to Work For back in February. How does it feel to be recognised as a top employer?
SA: Yes, 2016 was a successful year for a lot of different reasons. This type of recognition is an accumulation of a lot of hard and support from many colleagues, so it means a great deal to everyone in the TrustFord Family. Being listed in the Sunday Times Top Big Companies to Work For brings great internal pride which we celebrated by having Best Companies Day. It astounded me how many people got involved and dressed up to enjoy the celebrations.
I’ve always said we have to be an employer of choice in order to be authentic. The badge itself? It’s what our colleagues say we are – not a beautifully scripted award entry but a genuine representation of what it’s like to work here as told by our colleagues. And it also means we can recruit even more great talent, as the recognition makes us more attractive as an employer.
As for our app, we have got a bit more work to do and are always aiming to improve and refine it. We’re working on our next version currently. The app has allowed us to reach out to all our colleagues, especially those on the move, keeping them all up to date with initiatives and successes we’ve enjoyed since it was launched.
ESG: How long has employee engagement been a key business focus at TrustFord? What kind of results do you see in the business which have come from having highly engaged colleagues?
SA: To be a recognised employer of choice was one of the strategic goals implemented back in 2012. Our measure of this goal was to get listed as a top employer. We looked at our exit interview survey data which was telling us why people were leaving. Retention was at 78% and now we’re at 85%. It was by looking at these previous results that we knew where to focus. Colleague engagement has become a key objective in helping us become recognised as an employer of choice. If we have engaged colleagues, we’ll have happy customers and we’ll have happy profits. Every interaction we do is aligned to those elements.
ESG: What would your advice be to companies who are struggling with employee engagement? What are the best first steps to becoming a top employer?
SA: Data is key. Start with the data, analyse it. What’s your turnover? What’s your retention? Why are people leaving? Get out there, speak to people and ask them what they want from you as an employer.
One of our big objectives was around communication. Colleagues felt we didn’t communicate enough and told us we often confused them with mixed messages. We wouldn’t have found this out if we hadn’t asked. So get in there and realise what peoples frustrations are and analyse the answers. Then set a benchmark of what success looks like and use this as your goal. For us success was being listed in The Sunday Times. Everything we then did was focused on that area and we never lost sight of that.
Also, don’t try to do it yourself. If you haven’t got your board and leadership team truly on board, it’s going to be hard. I spent around 18 months trying to get some organisational clarity, to resolve the mixed messages, and this involved taking all the board and leadership team with me on an 18 month journey to establish our organisation’s purpose, behaviours and ambitions. Because they were part of that journey and decision it is became easier to drive those changes forward.
I think my advice from one HRD to another would be, don’t deviate, make sure everyone knows the plan and is sticking to that plan. Sometimes you do feel like you’re on a hamster wheel but when every individual in the TrustFord Family can tell you that our purpose is to drive the standard in customer care, it’s worth it.
ESG: Well it’s obviously worked hasn’t it? Those 18 months of hard work have helped the company achieve your goal of being listed in The Sunday Times Top Big Companies to Work For – you must be really proud.
SA: I’m very, very proud. I am. I mean being listed last year when we came 23rd was a highlight of my career. It was just absolutely fantastic and I felt so proud to be HRD of a listed company. So moving up a place to 22nd this year, I was delighted and now really looking forward to finding out if we make next year’s list. This time I’m aiming for a 1 in front rather than a 2. That’s the next goal.
Thanks to Sharon for spending the time answering our questions and to all the team at TrustFord for letting us play a crucial role in the TrustFord Family.