A large, distributed workforce can bring a few challenges for employee engagement. With teams split across different offices and speaking different languages, it’s up to their managers to unite them, motivate them, and listen to what they need.
Christian Dahl, Senior Vice President of Talent Management and Global Human Resources at BCD Travel, explains how the organization has used Workday Peakon Employee Voice to focus on the employee experience at BCD, and how engaging and empowering managers to take charge of their feedback has been an instrumental part of that process.
Understanding the complexities of engaging a global workforce.
Our employee engagement journey started with the annual survey. It was always sent out via email and took a long time to complete. By the time we got those results back three months later, it was far too late to identify what the issues were and try to rectify them. It obviously wasn’t working to help us understand the employee experience at BCD Travel, and as a result, we were looking to go more real-time. It seemed that this feeling was something other people in our company shared, as we found out when one of our offices in Australia went—for the lack of a better word—rogue. They found their own real-time employee engagement system that they implemented by themselves. However, when we looked at that from an organization-wide perspective, we found that this couldn’t work for our global workforce.
We decided very quickly that Workday was the tool for BCD, not only because it could do what our other tool couldn’t—instantly translate employee comments—but also because it was slick and flexible and helped us put employee engagement back into the hands of our managers.
We have over 13,000 employees, and we work in 90 countries worldwide. The way that our organization is structured means that we’re not in any one location in a country, so we might have a manager in Atlanta who has people on their team speaking six or seven languages. This is why language is a very key element of our employee engagement strategy. We always say that English is the company language, but if we want our people to give more detailed answers about their wellbeing that goes beyond the day-to-day business conversation, then we have to be able to accommodate most of the languages we speak across the globe.
Workday supports over 50 languages, which makes this goal much easier to achieve. In our old tool, the only way we could find out how our employees in other countries were feeling was to find an authorized online service to translate their comments manually—and the results were never good. We wanted our managers to take ownership of employee engagement, but the complexities of our setup made this difficult.
Since implementing Workday Peakon Employee Voice, we’ve been able to segment our data by themes and topics and better understand the experiences of our people. For instance, in our Latin American offices, we saw that there was quite a bit of discussion about the lack of informal spaces, and in our EMEA region, we used the data to highlight to our global CIO that we had some IT issues in Europe. Being able to give concrete user experiences through our employee comments in Workday meant that we could drive these conversations forward and make positive changes.
Addressing questions about anonymity.
We started out using Workday Peakon Employee Voice through a pilot with our UK office. Going from annual surveys to a weekly cadence felt like going from zero to 100, so having executive buy-in from the start was a fundamental part of our roll-out. The way that we communicated the pilot to our employees before we launched is that it’s not just another HR tool. Workday is a tool for them, something that they can use to give feedback on their experience. And for their managers, it’s their opportunity to understand how their teams are feeling in real-time.
In the beginning, the main question our employees asked was around anonymity. We had a lot of pushback when they found out that leaders would be replying to their comments, because they were worried it meant they would be singled out.
This attitude doesn’t change overnight, so it was an essential part of our initial communication to help our employees understand that we take their queries seriously, and that we use Workday to protect their data and anonymity. In our European offices, we did this by working with our employee representatives for the European Works Council. They had an opportunity to test the software out, and they helped show that employee comments were truly anonymous.
Thinking long-term about reinforcing employee engagement.
One thing we learned quite early on in our Workday journey was that it’s not just rolling it out as an employee engagement tool that’s important, but equally making sure we have an effective change management process in place. As a result, one of our main goals has been to drive participation from our managers. Central to this goal was communicating that Workday is another tool in their toolbox that means they have the facts on how their employees are feeling at their fingertips—when have they ever had something like this before?
Having executive buy-in from the start helped us support this message. We calculated that employee disengagement would cost our business $25 million a year—and when CEO John Snyder presented this to our senior leaders, it highlighted that Workday is an integral part of our business toolkit.
The trickle-down effect of having our CEO bought into employee engagement became really clear when we asked our managers to start engaging more with their comments and data. When he stepped in to respond to some employee feedback, it showed our managers that you should never underestimate the watercooler conversations in your business—and that when you react to one comment, it goes so much further.
Now that our managers can translate feedback right in Workday, they can act faster—this is a major advantage for our business. We introduced manager clinics to ensure this drive multiplies throughout our business. One of our managers has even started leading peer-to-peer learning sessions, where managers meet up to share their results and look for solutions collaboratively. We’ve seen the success of this drive in our data. In the past year, our managers have had over 103,000 comment interactions with our employees.
We’ve also seen increases of +20 in our Net Promoter Score (NPS) for the Recognition driver and +14 for Autonomy. We have also seen tangible business outcomes in our retention—especially in our under-30 age bracket, which is seeing an improvement quarter over quarter. Instead of acting upon the event of turnover, we can now predict and prevent using the Employee Experience Cycle. Ultimately, when we combine the insight Workday has given us about our employee experience with what we already know about our workforce, it’s incredibly valuable because it gives us an extra layer of understanding. Now that we’ve started the process of continuous listening, we want to put more and more employee engagement in the hands of our people—and we want to be on the forefront of this together with Workday Peakon Employee Voice.