Anglian Water uses diverse communications to reach urban and rural employees


Anglian Water’s 5,000 UK employees are split roughly in half, between office staff in Huntingdon, Peterborough and Lincoln, and site-based and remote employees across the east of England.

This poses a specific problem because the experience at head office is vastly different to that of an employee at an operational site, water treatment plant, or even within the organisation’s haulage fleet, which alone accounts for several hundred staff members.

To ensure that it engages and caters to as wide a range of employees as possible, the organisation aims for breadth within its benefits package, according to Sally Purbrick, head of reward at Anglian Water.

“We try and select benefits that keep in mind [everyone] across the workforce and are accessible to anybody,” she says.

However, a challenge arises when it comes to communication. Site-based or remote employees may not pick up communications with the same frequency as those in the main offices. In some rural locations, this issue can even be as fundamental as having limited access to mobile phone signal.

Part of Anglian Water’s approach to this includes briefing packs for managers, to ensure that messages are cascaded down to individual employees regardless of region. Purbrick explains that these will tend to differ slightly depending on location to reflect the needs and interests of various groups.

“[Many rural or remote] employees don’t see managers day in, day out, and the time lag can even be monthly, so we have to plan in advance what messages we’re going to need to share, so that they land at the right time,” she adds.

Another tactic is to diversify communications. For the past two years, for example, the organisation has run a financial wellbeing initiative, which is due to occur again in either March or April 2019. This comprises drop-in sessions at key sites, benefits roadshows, and an extended-hours telephone service.

“The reality is that part of the workforce can’t just drop in, but by providing an extended phone line, that goes some way to meet their needs and [fit with] what is practical,” says Purbrick.

Purbrick also reports that technology is an integral element of the approach to reaching rural staff, and to ensuring as much fairness across the different employee experiences within the workforce. To this end, Anglian Water launched its benefits portal, Boost, in April 2018.

“The challenge is directing employees to the technology,” says Purbrick. “Once they’re on the site, their experiences are exactly the same [regardless of location].”

When catering to employees with vastly different needs and points of view, Purbrick advises creativity and care: “It just goes back to being mindful of all your employees. Don’t [avoid doing] something just because it is more difficult across the employee base; it is just more challenging to land things, and you need to be more creative from an engagement point of view.”