Best employee engagement initiative

Harvester

 

In the ever-changing restaurant industry, a three-decade heritage and hundreds of sites is a proud badge of accomplishment. But pub chain Harvester was increasingly aware there was more to standing out from the crowd than having good food and a decent dining experience.

The HR team’s intuition was that engaging staff and offering them clear development opportunities aligned to core behaviours would take guest experience from good to great. The result was the ‘Making Feel Good Moments’ initiative – which was to prove them right in spectacular style.

From 2016, Harvester involved each of its 7,100 employees, from frontline team members to general managers, in a transformational change programme to drive a real behavioural shift in the business.

HR collaborated with an external coach to devise a training programme that focused on five key service values: dealing with different guests and their needs; selling skills; service philosophy and behaviours; complaint handling; and celebrations.

From the outset, the team delivered a comprehensive communications plan to help leaders implement these values across Harvester. They interviewed team members to genuinely understand the challenges of working in the service industry, and the mindsets of existing employees. They also analysed guest data from review websites, online feedback survey data and guest comments on team handling to define and match service values with desired behaviours.

In a matter of months, the business had launched the initiative at roadshows for management teams across the country. Each included training sessions, coaching and materials to enable managers to cascade the training to staff in restaurants.

Harvester also created a recognition programme, which encourages peer-to-peer appreciation, and a badge system used by senior staff to recognise high-quality service.

The HR team charted the initiative’s progress using analytics to measure and evaluate impact across the business. The judges were particularly impressed by the clear linkage between inputs and output, the clarity of metrics used during the programme and the impact on financial and commercial performance.

Indeed, the programme has seen outstanding results. Harvester’s guest recommendation score jumped five per cent in a year, while Making Feel Good Moments was credited with saving £600,000 in recovery costs as complaints dropped significantly, and driving an additional £2.2m in sales. Two other brands within parent company Mitchells & Butlers are now adopting the same programme – proof, if proof were needed, that better motivated employees really can make a difference to the bottom line.

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