Founded by two GPs and a businessman in North Yorkshire 30 years ago, EMIS Group (www.emisgroupplc.com) is a major provider of healthcare software, IT and related services. Having grown quickly through acquisition and with 2,000 employees in the UK, India, Australia and New Zealand, the company commissioned Employee Feedback to conduct its first Group-wide employee engagement survey in 2015.
Providing the evidence for a new people strategy at EMIS Group
A blank sheet of paper
Despite the size of the business, there was no formal people strategy in place at EMIS when the company’s first Group Human Resources Director Nicola Cliffe joined in November 2014. It was a challenge she embraced.
“One of the interesting things about EMIS is that it has grown and been very successful without some of the infrastructure you’d expect in a company of our size,” explains Nicola. “We were set up as a series of individual businesses so I inherited about six different HR teams. We had very little in terms of induction processes, handbooks and management development. It was a blank sheet of paper so I knew there was the opportunity to do some groundbreaking work.”
Having proven the value of employee engagement in other organisations – including getting into The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies – Nicola knew she wanted to develop a people strategy at EMIS that focused on engaged employees making a difference to the organisation.
“I’ve always believed that the more motivated people are to do a job, the more effort they’ll put in, the better service they’ll give to customers and the better the results,” she says.
Getting under the skin of the business
Shortly after joining EMIS, Nicola made the commitment to conduct an employee engagement survey so that everyone could openly express their views and she could present the insights to the various Managing Directors and the Group Executive Board. Having worked with Chris McGivern of Employee Feedback in previous roles, she turned to him and business partner Mark Williams to design and run EMIS’ first Group-wide survey in March 2015.
Employee Feedback kicked off the process with focus groups across EMIS. It also interviewed and trained a number of engagement champions so they could promote the survey to their colleagues. Data from the focus groups and the mini-survey of engagement champions drove the content for the main survey, called Your Say.
As Nicola comments, “Employee Feedback is really good at getting under the skin of a business, taking a temperature check and turning this into survey questions that will get the data you need.”
“The first survey meant I could present hard facts to our Managing Directors and the Group Executive Board. We had a great response rate of 81% so I was confident that what people said was statistically valid. The results revealed that our people love the business, our vision, our customers and our products, especially as they feel they make a difference to people’s health, but they had some concerns about pay, training, benefits and the way we communicate what’s going on.”
After the survey had taken place, Employee Feedback benchmarked the results against other businesses in its database and also helped the HR team to communicate the findings to employees. As a result of the survey, EMIS’ management team committed to delivering an intranet and bi-monthly magazine, reviewing pay and benefits and improving inductions and training.
Informing the people strategy over time
In March 2016, Employee Feedback conducted a second survey using the same core questions to track engagement as well as some new ones about changes that had been made in the previous 12 months. Over time, the results from these annual surveys enable EMIS to see what has been achieved and where work is still needed.
Nicola notes, “The concept of a people strategy is new to EMIS and it can sometimes be challenging to persuade colleagues about the commercial benefits of employee engagement. I think the turning point for me came in the second survey when some of our managers and leaders saw that the effort they had made with their teams had improved their engagement scores. It’s become much more common across the business to talk about how our employees feel about working here. There’s still a long way to go but we’re getting there.”
Having developed people strategies in a number of businesses, Nicola understands how having the right data can help to drive organisational change and business performance. The Employee Feedback surveys and follow-up activity are helping her to create action plans that bring out the best in people at EMIS.
“As occupational psychologists who know employee engagement inside out, Employee Feedback comes from a position of credibility,” she adds. “Chris and Mark are very responsive and easy to work with and, when they present the survey findings to our Group Executive Board, it’s very engaging. They give us what we need.”