Personnel Today Awards 2020: Employee Experience Award shortlist


brighterkind accept their 2019 Employee Engagement Award

As we prepare to celebrate the Personnel Today Awards in November, it’s time to showcase those organisations that made the shortlists for each category. Here we profile eight employers who are in the running for the Employee Experience Award.

Benenden Health

Not-for-profit healthcare organisation Benenden Health was experiencing absenteeism and presenteeism issues, which were affecting the standard of its work. Mental health was a concern for many employees, while some staff had musculoskeletal problems.

Personnel Today Awards 2020

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This led to the development of a health and wellbeing strategy, which followed three themes: addressing sedentary lifestyles; personal development, work relationships and job fulfilment; and financial health and work-life balance. KPIs were put in place to track progress and employees were invited to a two-day ‘Living Our Values’ development programme to engage them with the strategy, during which they developed their own personal wellness plan.

Key outcomes included training managers to spot mental health issues, the introduction of ‘active challenges’ throughout the year, ‘Be Aspirational’ career-planning conversations, ‘Golden Hour’ development meetings with managers, organisation-wide social events, engagement and recognition budgets for every team, and financial education.

Overall absence rates have fallen by 8%, saving the firm £9,000 per year – a 50% return on its investment in the programme.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme

The Covid-19 pandemic created some unexpected obstacles for the FSCS, which has more than 200 employees. It wanted its leaders to demonstrate a new level of empathy with its staff and wanted to provide clear and consistent communication throughout a time of uncertainty.

It audited its communication channels, retiring some, introducing new ones and adjusting others. It looked at new ways its CEO could engage with staff, including birthday recognition and the ability for all staff to ask the CEO questions directly; and introduced more flexible and dynamic interaction between the board and staff.

During the lockdown, the organisation increased dependants leave for employees with children from five to 20 days; allocated a £200 home-working allowance to help employees by the equipment they needed; conducted regular temperature check surveys; ran informal chat sessions with the CEO; implemented web chats with the executive team; introduced e-vouchers for reward and recognition purposes and provided mental health and wellbeing support.

Overall engagement increased from 79% to 84% and its Net Promoter Score rose from 26 to 56 points.

Great Western Railway

To enhance its employee experience, Great Western Railway focused on three primary areas: awareness of business priorities, freedom to deliver their role and personal development.

A new people strategy was launched and saw the introduction of a new leadership support package, ‘time with your manager’ sessions, a colleague-led continuous improvement programme, and the continuation of its ‘Great Experience Makers’ customer service training programme – which has now covered 85% of colleagues.

Staff were also urged to collaborate to improve the customer experience via innovation focus groups, job shadowing, Q&A sessions, local manager-led forums and roadshows.

GWR said investing in its colleagues enabled it to achieve a timetable change that was of ‘historical significance’ and earned it a Gold Investors in People award in May 2020.

2019 saw it receive its best colleague survey results ever, with engagement at 83% (up 4% on 2018). Some 87% of colleagues recommended GWR to friends and family as a great place to work.


Communications company H&H made the bold decision to put wellbeing ahead of its bottom line in 2019 and consulted with staff on creating a wellbeing framework that was diverse enough to resonate with everybody, but structured enough for the firm to measure its outcomes.

Staff were invited to a two-day retreat in the Yorkshire countryside where they could recharge by reading, walking, playing board games or meditating, which enabled colleagues to find out what wellbeing techniques worked for them and encouraged them to share experiences with each other.

Over 3,300 hours of personal development, ‘me time’, coaching/buddying, team building, and voluntary work has been logged over the past year, averaging at 150 hours per person.

Employee touchpoints have also been reviewed. New starters now join a three-month onboarding programme, and employee-led objective setting has been introduced.

Through being more open about wellbeing, more employees are being honest about needing compassionate and discretionary leave, and there has been a shift in sickness absence from 45% sick leave on Mondays and 0% on Fridays to a more even spread throughout the week.

London Stock Exchange Group

In order to meet its goal of becoming “the leading global financial markets infrastructure group”, London Stock Exchange Group needed to develop and embed a global unified culture. This was to be achieved by developing a culture of collaboration, innovation, feedback, learning and inclusion.

Since 2018, the organisation has introduced a colleague forum led by elected volunteers; leadership breakfasts with the executive committee; CEO awards that recognise staff who go above and beyond; and employee-board consultation to facilitate board engagement with staff.

A range of views and feedback is collected through its diversity and inclusion committee, and its mentor exchange project has supported more than 1,100 people since 2016.

During 2019 more than half of its managers attended a global management development programme, which aims to enhance their ability to coach, develop and delegate effectively.

A culture dashboard is used to measure progress on its initiatives, and colleague engagement is continuously assessed via an annual survey, leavers’ survey, leadership forum survey and 360-degree feedback.

Its October 2019 annual engagement survey had the highest response rate to date of 84% and an engagement index score of 81%, up six points from 2018.

Longhurst Group

After finding that its legacy structure was causing operational and cultural inconsistencies, which lead to productivity issues and confusion, housing developer Longhurst Group formulated a three-year HR and L&D strategy, which was shaped by colleagues’ views.

Its HR team was rebranded as the People Services Department and worked closely with the communications team to develop a programme that focused on two strategic pillars of health and wellbeing and economic resilience.

It recruited a team of employee representatives, spread over a range of locations, to help shape its benefits offer around the two pillars. Colleague feedback was used to inform what the firm would begin to offer, and support packs were distributed to the employee reps to help them promote it and gain feedback.

All affected colleagues – over 1,000 people – received letters both at the start of consultation and at the end, outlining in detail the proposed and confirmed terms and how these would impact them on an individual basis.

The new employee offer was launched on 1 April 2020 and more than 2,000 pieces of feedback were received – including just two counterproposals.

The firm is also considering consulting employees about further changes to the package in light of increased agile working.

Perfect Home

Household goods retailer Perfect Home employs 250 people across four locations in the UK. Three years ago it has a Glassdoor Rating of 2.2/5 and a long list of negative reviews, but has since improved its score to 4.83 thanks to investing in creating a supportive and inclusive working environment.

Prior to the lockdown, the company had been thriving on face-to-face communication and it needed to maintain the energy this created while staff worked from home.

It maintained its regular communications programme, but decided to focus more on individual and team efforts to support colleagues and the business during the transition to home working. A weekly lockdown podcast involving the CEO and a different member of the management team for each episode was launched, and its monthly internal magazine began featuring the people and teams that stepped up during such an uncertain time.

The strategy’s success paid off in the form of an improved customer experience, with a slight increase in its call answered rate and a 55% reduction in call wait times.


Upon finding that 29% of staff felt its values did not resonate with them, creative and recruitment firm Wiser held an open discussion at an away day in February to realign everybody with the business and encourage staff to ‘be real’ and air their concerns.

However, shortly afterwards the pandemic hit and threw up another challenge. Wiser was left with a 50% reduction in revenue and staff agreed to a reduced salary in order to maintain the business.

Its Covid-19 messaging strategy was proactive and positive. From February, its People team shared daily updates to help it navigate new challenges and each week CEO Fin O’Kane speaks transparently about structural decisions, business wins, finances and goals, with staff encouraged to ask questions.

Wiser ‘champions’ are recognised each week, and each year all employees can apply to join a ‘culture council’ by submitting ideas to improve culture. The council organised social events throughout the lockdown including virtual bingo, dance classes and live DJ sets.

To support staff on furlough, it launched the Furloughborough University, which included a ‘Freshers’ Week’, remote societies, mental health support WhatsApp groups and daily wellbeing classes.

A culture audit in June showed 93% felt their experience at Wiser has been exceptional and 98% felt its values strongly aligned with their own.

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