A Window of Opportunity for VEKA

In 2015, Gabriela Hammond was attending a NWEEG event when she saw an opportunity to boost the reputation and culture of her employer.

During the event, Anthem’s founder Steve Smith had described how his company creates employee engagement strategies that deliver results.

Gabriela is Head of Human Resources at VEKA, a worldwide PVC profile systems designer and manufacturer to the window and door industry. Locally, in Burnley, the company’s reputation was suffering. Staff turnover was inching upwards and rumblings of discontent could be heard from employees.

Over the previous five years, the business had undergone substantial changes. An acquisition meant lots of new employees and lots of new issues. The leadership team had to prioritised day-to-day integration challenges and wider matters were put on hold.

The workforce had been neglected and Gabriela recognised it was time to reconnect with the people of VEKA after this period of turbulent change.

Gabriela had run employee surveys before and knew their value. Anthem offered a local service – something VEKA is passionate about – and a flexible service, allowing a survey to be crafted to focus on exactly what mattered at VEKA.

While there are many off-the-peg, downloadable surveys which can be tailored, the analysis and consulting would not be included. And a national survey would be generic, with inflexible timings, insights and reports.

Anthem made it easy to get precise, robust information around critical issues. During the initial consultations, Anthem guided Gabriela towards finding a balance of questions that would get to the heart of business-wide and department-specific issues.

VEKA’s office-based, production, warehouse and engineering workforce needed online and paper-based options for the survey. Anthem provided both and guaranteed absolute confidentiality with the use of a ballot box on site and a freepost address to collect the paper surveys.

An intake of breath

VEKA’s leadership team braced itself as the first year’s results rolled in. They knew they had much to learn and would need time to build trust with employees.

In 2015, the response rate was 64%, below the 74% average for the industry. They scored 58.8% on the Employee Engagement Index (EEI), coming in just shy of the 59.8% regional average for the North West. Gabriela and the team were keen to improve.

Anthem helped VEKA build an action plan that would emphasise the good things VEKA was doing while tackling the not-so-good.

These actions included an evaluation of job roles and salaries, renovating canteens and locker rooms, introducing shift trainer roles (hired internally) and the introduction of emergency days to allow staff greater work-life flexibility.

They also introduced ‘The VEKA Way’, a best practice leadership training programme and developed the vision, mission and values of the business.

Gabriela ensured employees saw the action taken was in direct response to the feedback. A ‘you said, we did’ approach to communications supported this, along with recognition of the ideas that weren’t possible and explanations as to why. Posters were designed and distributed to rapidly cascade the information to all employees.


Forging forward

VEKA is committed to improving its culture, reputation and the way they engage with their people. The action they took following the survey delivered astounding results in 2017, when they ran the survey again.

This time, the response rate was 69% and they soared to 71.6% on the EEI. Anthem typically expects organisations to grow their engagement score by 2.5% year-on-year (if action is taken). VEKA increased their engagement score by a huge 12.8% in a single year – the highest ever increase we have seen. This is testament to the work done by Gabriela and the team at VEKA, who secured a gold accreditation in employee engagement.

That same year, VEKA was awarded Employer of the Year at the Burnley Business Awards and Large Business of the Year at the Red Rose Awards. Group turnover hit £1 billion for the first time and the business celebrated 30 years of manufacturing in Burnley.

“Engagement is difficult to cost out,” reflects Gabriela. “But an engaged employee does the job they’re paid to do, and the little extras too – like participating in a suggestion scheme or volunteering for overtime. That’s the measure. Consideration for the work and environment you’re in is perhaps one of the most tangible outcomes. If you’re more engaged, you’re more inclined to be productive and in the end that does track back to the bottom line.”

“I would wholeheartedly recommend Anthem. They really took time to understand us and our business. They don’t just sell us their services regardless. It was always the best fit for us and they got us where we wanted to be.”

The Power is in your People. Are you listening?


% Increase in EEI

% Response Rate