Aggregate Industries, UK: Focus on Our Future Employee Engagement Campaign.

Project Description and Background

By the end of 2008 Aggregate Industries required a new approach towards employee engagement due to the ongoing recession across Europe. Traditionally the start of each year heralded a campaign or initiative aimed at improving a specific area of business practice, communicated to senior management and subsequently cascaded down the management chain. In February 2009 Focus on our Future was launched with a different approach to motivating and engaging employees in the business. It has been the most successful campaign of its kind within Aggregate Industries.

A Team Leader receiving a gold pin for recognition of exceptional effort towards FOOF in 2010 from CEO Alain Bourguignon

Objectives

The original objectives of FOOF were:

  • to challenge every employee to manage costs within the business
  • find new revenue streams
  • to empower employees to take direct responsibility for their actions to save jobs and hit budget

Activities

FOOF grew from an initiative into a culture at Aggregate Industries within the space of three to four months. The success of this change is down to many key factors.

Initial Communication and Engagement

The initiative was launched as a road show in contrast to the usual single event aimed at senior managers. The road show spread across three UK locations, with nearly 1000 people involved and middle management level employees a key proportion of the delegates. Not only did this approach directly engage a new level of employees, but it allowed the cascade of messages to be much more effective and prompt. A stark contrast to previous events was apparent from the off set, overnight stay or lavish meals were banned and a stripped back, minimal presentation provided to drive home the message that costs had to be managed.

Each employee was challenged to save £1 per day, aligned with other central process improvement targets this provided a target £2 million for the year campaign. Eighty of the middle managers at the road shows were recruited to become Team Leaders, each team being named after a UK site. These managers had to go back to the business, recruit people into their teams and cascade the road show messages. The key messages of the FOOF campaign:

  • empowered each employee to be in charge of their own fate
  • made clear to each employee that their contribution, no matter how small, could have a direct effect on the business achieving its targets
  • if the scheme failed, the business would have to make difficult restructuring decisions
The 2009 London reward event with team leaders and ExCo members celebrating excellent performance

These messages were the main emotional capture, and when relayed at the road shows were supported by famous films clips from movies such as Gladiator (to emphasize working as a team) and Any Given Sunday. It is this latter clip that began the new culture within the business, by explaining that if we all found an inch (i.e. a tiny amount to save or new revenue) replicated over the business the effect would be huge. From then on, the benefit employees found through FOOF were known as inches.

Every four team leaders were assigned a Mentor – either an ExCo member or senior manager. They provided coordination and support which again opened a new avenue of communication from the top of the business down to the grass roots, for the first time a dump truck operator or shot-firer could directly discuss inches with an ExCo member.

From this event, each employee was provided with a pin badge of the Aggregate Industries blue logo to wear. This was a requirement, and when worn by a colleague would remind others to keep in the FOOF mindset. This simple visual stimulus was a tremendous success, and people became proud to wear the pins and show support for the campaign.

The Early Stages

Within a few weeks of the road show, the interest in FOOF had become so great that a FOOF coordinator was recruited to manage the information and efforts of teams. Within the company intranet system, pages were set up to allow:

  • Teams to submit their inches – savings, revenues etc which were verified as accurate and realistic by the FOOF Coordinator
  • Teams to submit Big Ideas – these were ideas that would require support from the business to launch
  • To consult an inch directory – of all the submitted inches. From this, the term “pinch an inch” was developed, where a good idea from one team could be used across the business by other teams
  • League Tables and a Cashometer were launched and published every Friday in the weekly bulletin.
  • The competition became fierce to become the number 1 team in the business
  • The screensaver on every computer was upgraded to show the main FOOF aims and the total amount saved by Aggregate Industries to date

The daily interaction by employees with the screensaver, pin badges and competition, plus weekly bulletin news and articles for FOOF within the quarterly Agenda Magazine provided a communication platform from the bottom of the business up to the top. This remains the most successful engagement and communication strategy the business has developed to date.

The FOOF Cashometer featured in the weekly bulletin and on the screensaver across the business

Through 2009

The FOOF campaign generated enough interest to require a June and September update event. These were held with the 80 Team Leaders and were used as a platform to share inch ideas, set new targets and provide updates from the ExCo on central targets for the business. These videos were supported with either a power point cascade or video footage, and again the team leaders were tasked with taking the key messages to their teams. This communication format proved hugely successful in directly engaging employees immediately after an event when traditionally a delay in receiving the communications would occur and momentum lost.
These events were also supported by the CEO awarding silver and gold lapel pins to a few select individuals who had made a significant contribution to the FOOF cause. This could be by renegotiating a contract worth several thousand pounds, or an idea such as the green dot, where all employees had to put a small green sticker on plugs, computers, printers and light switches to indicate that they should be switched off at night to save energy and costs.
From these events and towards the conclusion of 2009, constant publication via the company intranet, screensaver, weekly bulletin and team leaders of the savings, revenues and progress towards targets provided a constant communication cascade.
At the end of 2009, such was the success of FOOF in generating an additional £30.8m that the Team Leaders were asked to a reward event in London. Although the business was trying to reduce costs, it was vital to reward such an enthusiastic and determined push from the team leaders.

A FOOF event with Team Leaders discussing inches

FOOF in 2010

The market conditions at the beginning of 2010 in the UK ensured that a FOOF campaign again could still provide benefit to the business. Team leaders from the previous year were asked to nominate a team member to take their place, although the team structures were altered to ensure personnel from a variety of businesses was included in each team. This promoted a cross-business communication route and again the campaign was launched via three events in the UK.
The challenges to the teams were re-set, further central projects developed to improve operational and central service functions and an increased emphasis for teams to generate extra revenue. A change of focus was also achieved by ensuring the “inches” from 2009 would become the standard that all employees work to, and any FOOF saving or revenue had to show going beyond this standard.

Results

FOOF has produced an unprecedented change in Aggregate Industries:

  • Starting as an initiative, it has produced a culture change within the business
  • Employees now manage costs and think more creatively and innovatively to generate revenue and solutions to problems
  • FOOF developed a new, responsible way to do things, that has now become a standard all employees must work towards
  • Its successful engagement of almost all 5500 employees is down to the emotional capture of empowering people to control their own fate within the business
  • Combining this effect with the competitive element of the FOOF league tables and the success of the scheme enabling us to hit our targets in 2009
  • It is now time for the business to draw FOOF to a close as a campaign. It is now time for employees to act within the FOOF spirit:

    • Conscientiously
    • Responsibly
    • Innovatively
    • Creatively

    during every task that they complete.

November 2010