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Understanding the benefits of employee engagement – a case study

March 8, 2010

Serco Group Plc is ‘an international service company that improves the quality and efficiency of essential services that matter to millions of people around the world’. Serco provide important services to thousands of people around the world; their services include health, education, transport and defence sectors.

Corporate Responsibility has always been close to the heart of Serco; Chris Hyman, Serco’s Chief Executive, states that ‘doing the right thing will always be fundamental to our culture’. Employee engagement has been something that has been at the forefront of Serco’s business for some time ensuring that the ‘right thing’ for employees and customers is considered carefully. I myself used to work for a Serco division and was employed at the time that the first employee engagement survey was rolled out and the drive to encourage honest responses was incredible and the drive to act on the results was even more impressive. Serco claim that ‘empowering our people to excel is one of our governing principles and it is by unlocking their full potential that we sustain our competitive edge’; in short, getting employees engaged in the business has been the key to their success in many ways.

In the Engaging for Success (Macleod & Clarke, 2008) report a case study of one of the Serco units is provided. A division providing a variety of roles from cleaners to security guards across different locations was the focus of the case study; employee engagement was at the heart of the strategy to improve things for employees and customers alike. As a result of the employee engagement survey leaders could pinpoint the problem areas and developed action plans locally with teams. Communication was a fundamental part of the change programme. It was found that the key to success was to ‘proactively identify, recognise and publicise great performance’. As a result of management taking action on the results of the survey, employees began to believe in the possibility of change and improvements and subsequent engagement scores improved, with survey participation rates increasing too from 56% in year one to 71% in year two. Employees now feel that they are integral to the business, a change agent in their own right and that their views, suggestions and fears are listened to and taken seriously and that they are valued for their contributions. Not only this, which is no small achievement for such a large organisation, it was found that there was a 12% increase in customer satisfaction and a significant rise in revenue and market growth.

Serco have four governing principles: foster an entrepreneurial culture; enable our people to excel; deliver our promises; build trust and respect. It is clear that as an entire business they are doing something right as they are growing in size all the time, which is incredible at any time but even more so given the current turbulent economy. They were even tipped towards the end of last year as a stock option to pay attention to. Employee engagement has clearly made a big impact on Serco as it can for any business, small or large.

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