A Business with Change on the Agenda

Having run employee engagement surveys in a previous role, David Nicholson knew the power of anonymous insights: harnessing the voice of your employees can have a significant, positive impact on boardroom decision making.

David is James Cropper’s Group HR Director. He was benchmarking the company against an industry peer who recommended Anthem for their insightful and strategic approach to employee engagement.

A new CEO was entering the organisation who was intent on improving the commercial standing and culture of the business. David knew now was the time to develop a greater understanding of what was really going on within the organisation.

“In a previous role, I had initiated an anonymous survey and seen the benefits delivered by independent providers. It can surprise you. As business leaders, we carry pre-conceived ideas about what our employees are thinking and believing about the organisation. But it’s only when you get a large sample of reliable, robust data that you can trust those instincts and act accordingly.”

James Cropper began working with Anthem in 2013. It was the first employee engagement survey they had done. Would it tell them anything new? Would it be useful? Would it highlight challenges they weren’t yet ready to handle? Before the results came in, the leadership team had its concerns.

But Anthem’s founder Steve Smith, with his passion for people and infectious enthusiasm, worked well with the senior team. David saw someone who, when put in front of employees, would be authentic and credible.

A personal touch

Anthem offers a flexible, tailored service. Surveys are available online and in paper format.

As a paper product manufacturer, it was important this survey was produced on James Cropper’s own stock. That connection to the product was a small but vital indication that the leadership team was listening and recognised the work done and the people doing it. There was also a feeling that employees would place more trust in a paper version than an electronic one.

The confidentiality of the survey was also essential. To avoid fuelling suspicion and to ensure absolute honesty, ballot boxes and a freepost address were provided for responses.


The results are in

The Employee Engagement Index (EEI) is a standard measure of employee engagement used across the UK. The regional average for the North West is 59.8%. In 2013, James Cropper came in at 57.6%, with 67% of the workforce completing the survey.

Anthem helped the team respond to this. As part of the solution, guidance was provided on the two or three initiatives that would help to motivate James Cropper employees, increase a sense of belonging and ultimately increase the performance of their people.

Recognition and reward would be essential for improving how people felt about working at James Cropper. Performance management, career development and greater training opportunities were introduced. There was also a focus on coaching skills and leadership development.

David also ensured everyone could see the cause and effect of the survey. One of the most powerful steps an organisation can take is to share the results and feedback from an employee survey. This is the moment trust begins to build between people and leaders.

A ‘you said, we did’ presentation meant people, as a collective, understood the key themes of the survey results and what the leadership team planned to do in response.


Continued success

Come 2015, James Cropper was keen to run the survey again. Many of the questions remained the same to monitor improvement.

Again, 67% of the workforce responded, but this time the EEI score soared 11.7% to 69.3%. James Cropper’s employee engagement was now 10% above the North West average.

During this year, positivity increased against every single question including the strength and capability of the leadership team, their ability to handle change and their ability to communicate effectively. Indeed, the positivity in response to the section on Senior Management increased massively from 48% in 2013 to 73% in 2015.

Two years on, profit is up 400%, the share price has increased 2000% and the business continues to enjoy significant growth. This year’s survey results showed no improvement in the EEI score, but the response rate increased to 71% – a sign the people of James Cropper believe their leaders will listen to them.

While cause and effect is not absolute, David would be happy to argue there is a link between the way a business is lead and the level of engagement:

“If a team is well led, they’re happy to feed back. A person’s engagement impacts motivation, innovation and productivity in the workplace. These are obvious links and we’re working hard to improve them. We’re committed to continual development. We won’t remain ahead of the game if we stand still.”

“Anthem is flexible, approachable and easy to work with. The team is knowledgeable and efficient. They get a good understanding of you and your organisation and are an effective and efficient organisation to work with. I’m happy to recommend them.”

Positivity in response to the section on Senior Management increased massively from 48% in 2013 to 73% in 2015.


10% above the North West average

% Increase in EEI

% Response Rate