Engagement surveys for employees: How Unilever started tuning in to employees in real time

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Engagement surveys for employees

When Eugène Kusse was appointed Factory Manager at Unilever Kleve in Germany, he continued using his democratic leadership style to improve the workplace.

He teamed up with his HR Officer and in December 2013 they installed a simple device to get ongoing insights as to how their coworkers experience their workdays.

Here’s the first chapter of their journey.

Eugène was on a mission the first weeks in December: to make his coworkers understand why they wanted to know how people we’re feeling at work, and to explain just how easy it was to participate.

At Unilever all factory workers press the Green or Red button to answer the question “How Was Your Day?” (Wie war dein Tag) on a device at the exit door. After pressing, the result from all colleagues is shown on the device.

The mood trend and alerts (a very green or red day for example) are also shown on TV-screens.

“We want everyone to see the Celpax results. There’s nothing secret about it” says Eugène.

“I work on a daily basis, not on a two year basis”

When elaborating on why Unilever Kleve decided to tap into how their people feel, Eugène states

“A yearly survey is seen as something like ‘This is my time to empty my garbage bin’. After a while if you actively start engaging with your people and they realize you’re trying to improve, then when you send the survey they don’t fill it in as a garbage bag”.

“I wanted an engagement surveys for employees that was an ongoing system like the Celpax because I work on a daily basis, not on a two year basis”, he continues.

How to measure employee engagement with a device

Katharina Brinkmann, Unilever’s HR Officer, installed one Celpax next to the time clock, and an additional device at the exit door where it would be impossible to miss:

“We have to make it a habit to press in order to detect really good or bad days”, she says.

Katharina used the Unilever branding on the device, and chose a picture from their production line as the background.

What Unilever Kleve wants to achieve with the employee survey

Eugène has the objectives of the employee engagement survey clear. It’s less about high engagement in itself:

“We want to have an open conversation about how we can make everyone feel better about entering and exiting our workplace.”

“It’s clear that the system is anonymous and I’m happy we don’t see individual scores. The Celpax will be a good indication that the things we do lead to a more satisfied workforce” says Eugène.

“Management has to be able to tune into what’s going on. Instead of getting yearly or half yearly insights and then you engage, we will now be able to continuously try to steer in the right direction. We will be able to see our mood trend and react. The boss shouldn’t come down only when things are going bad. Nor when it’s too late.”

“DO something with the staff engagement survey results”

Katharina and Eugène are open to listening and ready to act on the results from the employee happiness survey:

“You need to do something with the results. If people feel bad and we don’t do anything than they will just ignore the system after a while.”

“We do weekly safety breakfasts where volunteers bring forward feedback and suggestions from their colleagues. Our people then see that we execute a lot of the things they mention. That is one engagement tool, safety, but it only works when you action the things they bring up”.

What does a factory manager do when there’s a “bad day”?

“The first days there may have been some question marks from our colleagues”, says Katharina.

“But we made an effort, I was in the meetings myself explaining how easy it is”, Eugène fills in.

“I believe motivated, happy workers are better for company results so we need to know what’s going on, how people are feeling. If everything goes wrong in the factory it’s not necessary a bad day. It’s a bad day if no one helps out to solve the problem. When you can say yeah, we had a tough day but my colleagues were there to help me so I had a good day”.

Will we be able to link a bad production to a red day?

“I’m curious to see how people are influenced by results”, Eugène says with a smile. “When our factory line runs good, are people more likely to press green? Will we get more red pulses when the production line has problems?”

Motivation needs to come from within

“A daily reflection is an important area to start with. People have to motivate themselves, we just provide the conditions. We are happy to discuss the conditions but motivation needs to come from within” continues Eugène.

The workers’ union

Katharina and Eugène also sat down with the workers’ union:

“We explained that we don’t track times, that it’s not a control system and that it’s up to everyone if they want to do it or not”.

“We explained that we are trying to bring more positive change. That we need to keep doing things to get the whole organization more positive”.

The first results

Apart from the employee poll results being shown on the device after pressing red or green, it is also available online where companies can compare their different sites or offices.

The weekly and monthly reports make it easy to share the news with coworkers.

“The first reactions from our people were very good I think, people see this as something positive” says Katharina. “Now we are starting to communicate the results via our tv-screens, to give relevant feedback.

“We will use the red and green ratio as a basis for our weekly meetings with shift managers, technicians, etc. We only recently started and among the results we could see that after the Christmas handouts the green went up for example”.

Supporting managers: no management by fear

“As managers we have to be positive, there’s a lot of talk about customer this and customer that but with this pulse survey we will be able to see how people respond to things.“

“If people are down, it means that we as leaders need to be positive and not just get annoyed when something goes wrong. There’s no success story in management by fear and anger…”

“We will use the Celpax device in our leadership meetings to discuss what we can do to make people stay positive on any given day, and long term”, finishes Eugène.

Interested in a simple engagement surveys for employees?

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Rebecca Lundin, CelpaxHej! I’m Rebecca, co-owner at Celpax. Try our engagement surveys for employees. We want more people to wake up in the morning and feel good about going to work.
I might appear in our chat, or say aloha on twitter.
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