Tyre retailer ATS recognised that to improve its financial performance, it needed to address low engagement levels among its employees.
Five years ago, the organisation was making a financial loss, so newly-appointed group HR director Irene Stark was tasked with helping the business return to profit.
“We decided that the best way to do this, and to make sure that any sort of change was sustainable, was to do it through our staff, but also through things that would be transformational,” says Stark.
She recognised that although ATS could change policies and procedures and restructure departments to try to improve business, to bring about lasting change, it needed to alter employees’ behaviours and the way they worked.
Stark and her team concluded that one of the best ways to do this was to make sure staff were aware of everything that was going on in the organisation, and knew what its three-year plan involved.
“We told staff what was going on and treated them like adults,” she says. “Some of them didn’t even know we were losing money.
“So the whole engagement piece was around communicating our three-year plan for the business, and getting everybody involved in taking us back into profit.”
ATS involved staff in writing its three-year business plan, so they could take ownership of it. The organisation then communicated the plan to all employees using a story-telling approach: it described where the organisation had been, and where it was going. All staff were given a face-to-face briefing by their line manager.
The employer also invested in leadership development, and learning and development initiatives.
When Stark joined ATS in December 2007, the organisation’s employee engagement score was less than 30%; now it is over 60%. Staff turnover has also improved and now stands at 16% a year, compared with 40% five years ago.
“We’re on track to break even in the near future,” says Stark. “Also, things like customer complaints have reduced because our service is better.”