How Sonic Telecoms improved Employee Engagement in 4 months

1/31/2019 Case Studies
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The team at Sonic Telecoms were seeing frustrations in their staff but couldn't pinpoint the issue. Judy, the HR Manager, decided to take action and find a system that would give the managers the information they needed to make better people decisions. Here's how she did it.


Who is Sonic Telecoms?

Sonic Telecoms is an Internet Service Provider based on Cape Town, South Africa. It is growing rapidly and went from 35 staff in 2016 to over 100 staff in 2018. While this growth was great for revenue, it led to some unforeseen problems. When a company is under 50 staff, relationships are naturally strong because everyone knows everyone else. The CEO can typically see everyone from her desk and tends to act on staff issues quickly. Once over 50 staff, however, that starts to change. Managers can no longer ride the Startup Advantage and have to make a conscious effort to build a strong culture and high engagement.

The Problems

In October 2017, the HR department started receiving cases of internal disputes between staff members of various departments. There were also some incidents of staff providing bad customer service, a very rare occurrence up until that point. These were good people who had been with Sonic since the beginning. Head of HR at Sonic, Judy Harrison, decided to tackle the issue. After some investigation, she took her findings to the executive team. They decided that there had to be deeper problems and required more information at a company level to move forward.

Finding a solution

After some research, Judy chose an Engagement Survey as the best tool for the job. Judy spent some time choosing the right survey questions and then set it up the survey on Google Forms. The results confirmed the team's suspicions: Sonic had low scores for the question "I believe co-workers give each other respect here". Judy had hit a wall though. The way the survey was set up on Google Forms didn't allow a deep dive into the issue. Was it just one department? Was it the whole company? The survey pointed out that there was a problem but didn't allow Judy to pinpoint it.

What now?

Judy decided to look for a better solution. She needed on that could gather the feedback she needed in a way that allowed her to drill-down to where the real issue was. Without that, she wouldn't be able to truly attend to the issue. She also needed a way to automate the process because it was very time consuming setting up the survey. Judy came across Roslin after a suggestion from a fellow manager and sent out her first survey the same day, late in January 2018.

Problem found, time for action!

As the data came in, a clearer picture started to emerge for Sonic Telecoms. One that Judy could do something about. While scores for Respect and Collaboration were mediocre across the company, they were especially low in the Sales and Operations teams. Reading the open-ended comments, it became clear to Judy that issue was due to frustrations between departments. The operations team relies on sales to communicate key information in order to deliver great customer experience. The communication wasn't happening due to bad workflows and so the operations team was getting very frustrated. Eventually, it led to a few yelling matches.

When this happened, it was initially thought to be due to personality clashes. It was almost brushed off but because Judy used a good system and dug deeper, she got to the root of the issue: bad workflows.

Judy collaborated with the sales manager and the operations manager on the issue. These two went on to tackle the broken workflows. Judy also had a budget approved for a social committee which went on to organise team building events. These went a long way to building and repairing relationships between the departments.

The results for Sonic Telecoms

In the 4 months since the implementing Roslin at Sonic Telecoms, several key metrics improved as shown in the below infographic.

Even more importantly, tangible results are showing. Since February 2018, Sonic Telecoms has had zero resignations and zero incidents of staff disputes. Employee Engagement is at an all-time high and still climbing! The management team has Roslin running automated surveys and they are constantly reviewing the data for potential improvements. Judy is busy training all the managers to use the system as a tool to better engage and empower staff.

"Roslin has given us insight into what issues are decreasing our staff engagement, specifically training and internal communication." - Judy Harrison, HR Manager at Sonic Telecoms

Why was the project a success?

According to Judy, the key to success was the buy-in of the management team. Both the executives and the relevant managers were on board. She goes on to share the following tips for making a project like this a success:

  • Get the buy-in of the key players before doing anything. You're going to need their help and their credibility to make it work.
  • Be transparent with staff on why you're running the survey. Judy noted that some staff actually approached her with concerns that it was a retrenchment strategy.
  • Communicate the results AND the intended actions within a month after the survey closes. Staff will quickly lose faith in survey and management if no action is taken. Judy adds that staff didn't expect everything to change overnight, they were just happy that management was listening and acting.
  • This is an on-going process, not a once off. Find a way to automate the process of getting staff feedback and acting on it. The positive feedback loop will boost Employee Engagement and innovation in the company.

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WRITTEN BY
JP Olivier
Chartered Accountant, self-taught coder, entrepreneur, investor. Co-Founder of www.roslinlab.com and CFO at www.sonictelecoms.co.za.