“Let the employees bring forward suggestions on how to improve employee morale”

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A twist on the old Employee suggestion box

In our last post Rob Hurrell from Surface Technology explained how they’re transforming their metal finishing company into a fun and learning environment.

“A mood device from Celpax gives us a KPI of our people and it is part of our business plan. We want to strategically change the business based on our findings and adjust trainings, investment opportunities and productivity across the floor.”

“Let the employees bring forward suggestions of what they see” says Rob. “Chances are they know how best to improve them.”

Heavy metal industry vs. feelings

“The first day we hung the Celpax device on the wall I was quite excited to see where it would go. There was certainly some scepticism… actually a lot!”

“It’s a bit frilly; you wouldn’t expect something like this from a business like ours. We sit at the bottom of the supply chain, handling heavy, dirty lumps of metals. You would more think this would go into a smart office with design engineers. It could easily raise the questions “why are we doing this? What’s the catch?”, says the Operations Director.

Measuring employee morale at Surface Technology

Employees at Surface Technology Coventry press green or red to answer “How was your day?” as their work shift ends

“At work, you’re supposed to keep your head down”

“This wasn’t our case though”, Rob continues.

The quarter before the company installed the mood button they rewrote their mission and core values.

“We discussed them into what they are and how we want the company to run; what we expect and what we want to achieve.”

“So it wasn’t a complete shock, it had been mentioned at a meeting before and we had explained the purpose. In general, the scepticism was what we were trying to do with our culture… We keep our heads down, do what we are told and then go home is more normal in our type of factory business.”

“Some might think He’s trying to find out who’s pressing red so we can get rid of that guy. Or identify troublemakers… We got through that fairly smoothly”, says the former England rugby dream team member.

Employee Mood KPI at Surface Technology, UK

New processes reflected in the Mood KPI

“Since we started we’ve introduced new customers and new processes. When they go live we see it in the employee mood results. You see how well something was implemented and brought into production, whether the movement between sales and the work on the floor is creating extra work, etc.”

Rob believes in an open, transparent, working environment:

“We share the graph on the floor, every week. When the weekly email from Celpax comes through I print the graph from the dashboard and hang it so everybody knows the green %.”

A twist on the old employee suggestion box

The business followed this up by putting a small twist on the old employeee suggestion box idea, which can often be seen like a black hole:

“You don’t know if someone saw your note or what happened to it. Our idea was to use a flow chart and an ideas board where people post ideas.”

“When/if five fellow employees tag a proposal to support it, they can present it to the management team, who will then investigate the feasibility and report back with an explained go or no go. Our open culture allows sensitive feedback via one to one but this board promotes great participation in a brainstorming forum”, he explains and points to the board.


Ideas board for employees to bring forward improvement suggestions

“We see more usage when people have a bad day”

“Initially I wasn’t happy with the participation, I thought more people would have jumped at it”, says Rob.

They talked about it and he says they got questions like Does it scan like a clock-in?

Where we reading moods from their hand? No :)”

“Some said they only press when they have a red day. They didn’t realize they had to press green every day if they had a green day. It’s reasonably well used now. However, we still see more usage when they have a bad day”, he continues.

Strong trend between productivity and employee mood

“If you establish a baseline of how your employees are feeling, you can see how it flexes.“

“You get a genuine and realistic impression. In the day to day, everyone is really involved in the business. We have a great atmosphere. Our team keeps a connection well past the work door”, says Rob.

He goes on to explain how they initially established group chats to allow shared communication across shifts and teams:

“However that then brought an extra-curricular involvement and fun to the communication. That then evolved into a resource where individuals often remained connected and willing to support and help while off shift.”

“There’s a strong trend between our productivity and employee mood. It hasn’t been a straightforward year. When the production line is empty it drags the employee morale down. That’s when we should really give additional training or do social things to take away attention from the fact that we are quiet”.

Employee mood metal coatings factory

Measuring the effect of losing a client

Rob describes himself as very hands-on in the business.

But only hands-on because he remains involved and close to his team, not by taking over others roles.

He sees a huge difference.

“We talk about the results at a staff meeting once per quarter, unless it’s very significant and we need to act before that. In May we lost a reasonable account. That week we saw a drop in the mood so we called an extra staff meeting to go through the facts.”

“The mood button told us something was wrong that wasn’t clear to see. Our people were concerned and feeling the pain. It’s a question of not letting rumours start flowing. We just explained why this happened and said listen, don’t panic, this is the new project coming in, which as you can see is a new product that actually fits better… So fairly quickly after the mood picked up again”, he says with a smile.

Data getting more defined

“The Mood KPI gets more useful as time goes on. I like the way it’s evolving, seven months in we get a good amount of data now and it’s getting more defined. It’s not going stale, it’s improving” Rob clarifies.

“It’s nice to see the trends that have led us to where we are now. We recently started overlaying KPIs and look at things like productivity, the impact of meetings, announcements, and decisions on our employee mood. We can map it now and see how it affects our people doing the work. It’s really an incredible tool”, says the UK Operations Director. “It actually provides more and more value over time.”

Surface Technology’s goal for this year is to get the participation and green mood up, but also to smooth out the graph:

“We have many ups and downs in our employee mood”, says Rob.

“Better use of quieter time is now a goal in our strategic plan. If we hit a slow period, that’s when we train more. I’m confident that will keep us green.”

Factory Real time: improve employee morale

Employees now understand the environment we want to create

The company sees the improvement in their green Employee Mood KPI.

“People understand this is a genuine direction for the business. We want you to develop as people, and come in, and leave, happy. This is a very simple and incredibly useful tool that helps us do that. But we need to show employees that something positive comes out of this”, he emphasises.

“Maybe sometimes you have a red day, and then you realize others pressed red too. You gotta make sure you stay on top and follow through. You can’t let people press red for two weeks and do nothing.”

“There’s still a lot to be done but in the last 18 months, we got over the most difficult hurdles to get people to understand the environment we want to create. It was so unnatural to so many people. They felt uncomfortable”.

Rob is really pleased and loves the environment they have:

“It works incredibly well. Our success at the moment at Surface Technology is down to our people coming first”.

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Rebecca Lundin, CelpaxHej, I’m Rebecca! A workplace analytics enthusiast, co-owner at Celpax, and convinced that a great workplace is everyone’s job. I might appear in our chat, or say aloha on twitter?
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