Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Vodafone recognizes its Legends
Article Type: HR at work From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 7, Issue 3.
Short case studies that demonstrate best practice in HR
Alan Thomas is based at Vodafone UK.
When I joined the mobile network operator, Vodafone UK, nine years ago as personnel manager for its retail stores, it was an exciting time. The regulations had just changed allowing mobile operators to sell directly to customers rather than having to go through a third party. Vodafone had just bought three mobile phone retailers, which we were re-branding as Vodafone, and we had the task of integrating their existing staff into Vodafone while implementing standard processes. I remained a generalist HR manager until a couple of years ago when I decided to specialize and moved into my current role as Vodafone UK’s head of reward and employment policy. One of my key achievements during my time with the organization is the launch of the company’s recognition schemes.
Engaging employees a priority
Employee engagement is pivotal to the success of Vodafone. We work hard to create a workplace where employees can thrive and succeed. It is absolutely vital to our business success because creating the right employee experience motivates our people to deliver the best service to our customers. I believe there is a 100 percent correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Engaged employees give great customer service and great customer service delivers fantastic business results.
This is why three years ago, we embarked on a new people strategy that we called the “employee experience strategy” based around seven “touchpoints.” These included recognition and reward as well as organization and change, learning and capability, policy and diversity, well being and workplace environment, communication and involvement and careers and resourcing. Structuring our strategy around these seven touchpoints has helped us to achieve an employee experience that we believe is unique, something that we strive towards at Vodafone.
Launching Vodafone’s Legends
Analysis of feedback from Vodafone’s employee survey identified that company recognition of employee efforts was not scoring well, so the HR team stepped into action to revamp the way it recognized employee achievements. Our challenge was huge; we wanted to implement a program that engaged and motivated our 11,000 plus employees, who are based across more than 350 stores and offices and have a variety of jobs ranging from retail to call centers, technology and support. This task was made more complex as the program was also required to engage a diverse range of people, including parents returning to work, mature workers and employees from ethnic minorities.
One measure that we introduced to boost employee recognition is called Legends and I believe this is the pinnacle of recognition programs. This peer recognition scheme recognizes those who have made an extra special difference to the company and our ability to reach our strategic goals. The Legends scheme is now in its third year and moving from strength to strength. You can feel the buzz when the nominations open and staff are given the chance to recognize a colleague who does an exceptional job every day. This year we were overwhelmed by a record response, with over 1,600 individuals being nominated.
Simplicity is key
The key to the scheme’s success is its simplicity. All staff can use an online form to nominate colleagues for an award under the following criteria: who do they think embodies all the core values of the company and goes the extra distance to delight customers and make sure Vodafone UK is successful by bringing about positive change. This is in line with our brand values, Red, Rock Solid and Restless, which are three words distilled into a single thought describing Vodafone at its best. Red for the passion and spirit that drives us; Rock Solid as we are dependable and empathetic and people can trust us; and Restless as we are always challenging ourselves to improve.
All of the nominations are then assessed by a panel of up to 150 volunteer assessors from across the company’s main employee base. The assessors, some of whom are past Legends themselves, are given specialist training and support to enable them to impartially and objectively judge the nominees and pick the winners. They conduct a telephone interview with each person who has made a nomination in order to gain more information about the nominee. The assessors complete up to 15 telephone interviews, each lasting around 15 minutes. Taking all of the information gathered into account, the list of nominees is reduced to 300 finalists who are discussed at the national assessment panel, where around 100 winners, or Legends, for that year are selected.
This year we held a party at Madame Tussauds to celebrate the 300 employees who had reached the finalist stage. The following week all of the winning employees from across Vodafone UK received a personal visit from a board member to be told that they are a Legend and discover their prize, which is an all expenses paid experience of a lifetime with a guest of their choice. Past trips have included Dubai and Cape Town and the 2007 Legends enjoyed a trip to Hong Kong in February.
A culture of recognition
The recognition does not stop there. Back at work employees also receive visible acknowledgement of their achievements throughout the year, for example, by being given a star to hang in their place of work, and through announcements at internal conferences. The high profile recognition scheme not only lifts the whole organization with a very real impact on the winners, but we have also found that this scheme has knock on effects. It helps to continually reinforce our brand values, which are at the core of our success and raises awareness of our other recognition processes.
All of our employees are encouraged to recognize additional contributions made by their colleagues, however big or small it is an important part of Vodafone UK’s people strategy. Thank you are small words but have lasting impact when delivered with sincerity and I strongly believe that positive praise creates mutual respect and satisfaction. This is why recognition is becoming more a part of everyday culture within Vodafone UK. It helps to drive our overall employee engagement, which we measure and review every six months through our people survey.
We use both internal and external measures to review and measure our employee engagement, which is steadily increasing. We were voted 15th in the 2007 Sunday Times 20 Best Big Companies to Work For awards, and our employee turnover stands at 21 percent, compared to the average 30 percent across the retail and customer service industry all of which are excellent measures of our continuing success in recognizing and engaging our people.
About the author
Alan Thomas is Vodafone UK’s head of reward and employment policy. He has been with Vodafone for nine years and has worked as personnel and training manager, HR account manager for corporate functions and HR business partner for the technology function. He has been in his current role for two years and his responsibilities include reward and recognition, employee relations and employment policy and diversity. Prior to Vodafone, Thomas worked in various generalist HR roles with Evans Halshaw, First Leisure Corporation and Bass plc. Alan Thomas can be contacted at: Alan.Thomas@vodafone.com