Populum have managed to make the difficulties easy, making it tangible for the units in the field. The important thing is the actual impact. Don't consider anything else.Head of People & Organisation,
Interview with Anders Berge
We spoke to Anders Berge,
Head of People & Organization.
Why pulse surveys?
Traditional employee surveys often generate "false answers too late". What we wanted to achieve was continuous improvement out in the real world, in the approximately 2,500 projects we run annually throughout the Nordic region. This is where the improvements should take place – something we had missed before. When the team - consisting of both white- and blue-collar workers – receives immediate real-time results and feedback, it creates a basis for discussions regarding improvement, efficiency and how the team can work more efficient together in the long term, toward common goals.
What is the most important aspect for pulse surveys to work in your field?
Populum have a user-friendly tool that focuses on what is really needed - instead of "might-be-good-to-have-things" that many often fall for. In order for us help our local units, they need something concrete and useful that contributes to the team’s development. We went from 64 questions in our previous employee survey, down to 8 with Populum, which reduced the complexity and significantly increased the usability.
How has the cooperation with Populum worked out?
It has worked out perfectly. Everyone that I have worked with at Populum really wants to understand our business and supports the entire organization directly with a high level of service. We have a fruitful dialogue that lead us both forward. The cooperation is as good as one could wish for with an important supplier and partner.
There’s no I in team
You often speak about "there’s no I in team" - what do you mean by that?
At Peab we like to talk about the team, rather than the individual. The inexperienced leader - or the not as skilled leader- may not always realize that it’s every team or team member that together make up the results. It’s therefore important to help the leader open up the dialogue about how the team can improve together. Using Populum, we give our leaders the tool to create this important dialogue of improvement.
Populum believe in the power of transparency and strive for an open dialogue within the team. Therefore, each employee automatically gets access to their team’s results and the submitted improvement suggestions. Like many other organizations, there were some concerns before the launch of Populum whether employees and managers in Peab would be ready for this type of transparency.
What was it that made you take the leap and be this transparent, in a traditionally conservative industry like construction?
Since the result is the gathered team experience – in which everyone has contributed to - my view is that it’s natural for everyone to also be able to take part of it. In this way, it also makes it more clear that it’s the team's results, rather than the manager's.
How's it going?
In our first survey there were a handful of "non-constructive comments" that we actually removed (and explained why we did so). The second time there were a few and by the third occasion, there were virtually no such comments at all, in an organization with 16,000 people and an 83% response rate. Everyone now understands that the comments written are displayed in the transparent report available to everyone (albeit anonymously). As a result, we now only receive constructive comments, which is appreciated by everyone - including our labor unions.
Build improvement from within
A distinct trend in employer branding is that organizations move away from "the old school", namely polishing the surface of the organization and emphasizing how the organization is perceived externally. However, a more modern focus is to strive to become more authentic on the inside through investments in committed and healthy employees, ie. to build the employer brand from within.
What is your personal view of this approach and how do you work with it in Peab?
For me, this is key. A colorful advertisement or costly activities that don’t fundamentally represent what our employees signal to friends and acquaintances in their everyday lives, is a waste of money. We have invested in building our employer brand from within using eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) as the overall measurement. When our employees are willing to recommend us to friends and acquaintances - then it is a good thing. If they are not, we need to ask them why, so that we can do better. As a group, we have an eNPS that is well above the Swedish industry standards. In the parts of the organization where it’s not as high, we are actively working to improve those areas.
What results have you seen using this strategy?
(eg impact in employer-branding ranking lists, increase in eNPS, connection between eNPS and profitability)
We climb on the rankings in all different measurements of attractiveness currently available on the market. At one of the most prominent actors, we’re also now nominated for this year's "Best Employer Branding company" in Sweden. In the nomination they write: ”This company has worked with matters regarding employer branding in a very sustainable way. With this communication, one has strived to achieve complete sincerity and transparency. This has certainly paid off, as the company now very clearly takes the position as best in the industry. The questions are clearly anchored in the management team and the internal attractiveness is just as important as the external one. This company is therefore a true role model in employer branding. They have proved that the good, the sincere and the sustainable win in the long run.
We’ve made analyzes where we link eNPS, the unit’s financial results and other KPIs in Populum. We see a clear connection between these values, which isn’t really remarkable - however it serves as a proof of our efforts.
Launching pulse surveys in an industrial company
You’ve said that one of the reasons you chose Populum was our professional appearance. How important is it for an industrial company like Peab to choose a pulse survey partner with a professional apperance?
Very important - professionalism is an important prerequisite, meanwhile, Populum lives up to one of our most important values - being down to earth. We looked at several different pulse survey alternatives but we had no hesitation after we met with Populum.
You started off in 2018 with a pilot with 1,000 employees at your "home turf" in Skåne and in six months the scope grew to 16,000 employees in all countries where you’re active. What are your thoughts on the process that you chose? What are your best tips and recommendations for other HR leaders looking to "get started" with pulse surveys on a larger scale?
We actually chose to implement the pilot in the part of the organization where we anticipated the greatest resistance, to really put the product to the test. Together with Populum, we invested heavily in generating a positive experience amongst the pilot-users, and in turn spread the positive signals to other units, which worked out excellent.
What should one think of when scaling up from 1,000 to 16,000 people?
The pilot gave us important lessons - there were some of the “old-school” thoughts still around in the organization. These lessons learned together with good best practises from the pilot enabled us to carry out an ideal process of communication prior to the group-wide launch.
From old to new
One thing that has impressed us at Populum (and at the same time has been an exciting part of the collaboration) is the co-creation of the product details together with your HR and communications department. You’ve taken photos at the construction sites and made films - allowing our designers to adjust the product based on your graphical identity, your colors and the language that you use. What do you think of the result?
I think it's fantastic. It really feels like a partnership where we help each other find the best common solution. We challenge one another and develop further together. This is exactly the way you want it to be with a supplier; you help each other to further advance to the next step.
Your previous concept - Handslaget - was well established with high recognition amongst the employees. Meanwhile you were looking for a new platform based on modern technology that focuses on the team. With Populum you could both preserve what had already worked out well, and also at the same time, take advantage of the new ways. How were these decisions made?
We are a family business, and Handslaget is an initiative that has been a part of the company for years. Handslaget represents reliability and is deeply rooted within the company. Our strategy was to take this well- established concept and to adjust it to new, modern technology and at the same time direct more focus on the team. Maintaining the existing brand made it easier for us to carry this modernization into effect. The result is Handslaget in its proper sense - the old one was there for our support functions to look at a single static snapshot for 2 years.
When you switched to Populum, the lead times decreased significantly. Today, 16,000 employees respond in just a few days via SMS or with tablets at construction sites. Instead of waiting 1 month for the results, they now arrive instantly. What is the biggest benefit of quick feedback?
The biggest benefit is that the result is current and useful at a local level. If the results aren’t relevant upon arriving to the teams, the purpose of the measurement disappears. Now we create transparency in the organization by having the entire team share their results immediately. We don't hide anything and make it accessible for everyone, giving all employees the team’s shared impression. Only then it’s possible to improve as a team. Everyone now has an equal say regarding change management - regardless if you’re a white- or a blue-collar worker.
How was this improvement received by the management and the board?
We’ve shown that with only a few accurate questions, relevant insights can be obtained, without the disruption and extra time following unnecessary questions. Previously, we had 64 questions and received feedback after 3 months – we now have 8 questions and get the results immediately. The management and the board thought this wasn’t achievable.
Populum's analytics portal has been an role model internally at Peab, to show how one can report back data quickly, in brief and user-friendly.
You use eNPS as a key performance indicator at the overall level. How does it work?
Having the eNPS value as the overall measurement index of the organization is appreciated by both the group management and the board of directors. eNPS does not provide answers as to what or why, but it allows us to follow the trends and direct focus where it’s needed the most, for example during a reorganization.
Coordination with HR
Populum coordinates the delivery together with your 100 HR superusers and HRBPs in different countries in several languages. What do you hear internally? What are the experiences amongst your HR colleagues about the new process compared to how it used to be?
Our HR representatives are very satisfied, end of discussion, and I haven't heard a single doubt. The major difference from the HR perspective when implementing a new system, compared to before, is that the time required and the heavy work of preparing the organizational structure has become minimal. This is where Populum's solution stands out with both simplicity and flexibility.
In addition, computers previously had to be arranged for employees who don’t have a work computer. Now, the pulse survey is sent (besides via email) via SMS directly to all employees, which means that even our blue-collar workers can participate without any logistical hassle - and with a lot less time required.
Our previous employee survey was more consultant-driven, and a large part of the cost from the supplier was related to consulting hours to review the results. Now everything is both simpler and delivers a higher effect.
One of your HR colleagues told us that Populum is the first provider to understand and manage Peab's complexity. What would you say is most unique about Peab, compared to other organizations you have worked with?
We are a family company, with limited management from the top and a high degree of decentralization. This means that we have many different business logics; things can be called different names in different parts of the organization, and organized in different ways. We have 2,500 projects that are constantly moving, which results in a vast variability. Populum has managed to handle this complexity.
Peab's eNPS has risen to levels well above the industry index, you’ve climbed the employer branding ranking lists and you’ve won awards internationally for your leadership programs.
What will happen ahead?
HR analytics and Artificial intelligence | Now we take the next step to use our Populum data in a broader perspective - to further strengthen our understanding of what works well and how we can work to direct our efforts more proactively. This includes a combining with other data sources, e.g. profitability, quality, work environment, staff turnover and sick leave. Here we have an ongoing collaboration with Populum that will be very exciting to follow.
Strategic workforce planning | To build the skills and competence of tomorrow's business in each organization. This needs to be rooted in the local units and built from the bottom up. It's for the same reason that we chose Populum; it's about the here and now, and the reality of the different local units. It should not be a requirement invented by “out-of-touch” support functions.
In conclusion, do you have any tips for other organizations that are considering launching Populum in their operations?
My advice is to think about why you have an employee survey. To me, it goes without saying that the aim is to make things better in the business - not primarily that the support function centrally should sit on all the information. They get that information from the analysis portal anyway, if you just focus on making it work at the local level. We needed a solution that could, in a transparent way, help all teams improve locally. We chose Populum because we want actions that improve the business for real.
Populum have managed to make the difficult easy, which in turn makes it tangible for the units in the field. The important thing is the actual impact. Don't consider anything else. If you still have questions after reading this interview, call me.