The Gatehouse Blog

Transfer Window: How Amey Engaged Its Rivals’ Employees When Contracts Switched

Amey’s Senior Internal Communications Manager Nathan Wallis talks about his experience delivering communications to employees who joined from
19 different organisations.

Amey is one of the largest and most diverse public services providers in the UK. One of our areas of expertise is facilities management (FM); where we provide services such as cleaning, catering, security, reception and energy management to a wide range of customers including the NHS, MoJ, schools and airports.

Last year, we won an innovative contract – where for the first time, three local councils came together to outsource FM services to a single external provider in order to reduce cost and protect frontline services. To make sure we hit the ground running, we had to get a new team and infrastructure in place within a six month mobilisation window. We also had to engage 600 new employees who would be joining Amey from 19 other organisations via TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment).

From an internal communication perspective, the challenge was twofold. There was
a culture change to manage as our new employees were joining us from a range of different businesses, with many of them having worked for their existing employer for up to 40 years. Additionally, they didn’t become Amey employees until the go-live date, meaning that we had to engage with them while they were still working for a different employer – using communications channels we didn’t own.

Selling the benefits of joining Amey

One of our goals was to bring over a workforce that wanted to work for Amey and were motivated by what we stood for. We regularly referred to our company values and sold the benefits of working for Amey – including our Investors in People accreditation, award winning training and development resources, as well as our flexible benefits scheme. We also wanted to communicate our social value credentials including our community day programme which allows employees to have an additional day of holiday every year to work with a community group or charity of their choice.

Sharing communication channels

In order to reach this audience effectively, we needed to work in collaboration with our new client. I approached my counterparts within the councils and suggested that we develop a combined communications plan which proved to be a very effective way of working. We identified what channels the councils had to reach their audiences (including their intranet, newsletters and information screens) and how Amey could utilise those to reach our new employees during the transfer period. Successfully doing so was mutually beneficial so everyone bought into the plan.

In addition to our client’s channels, we developed a suite of new, bespoke materials for this project such as a mobilisation newsletter and a detailed welcome pack. We supplemented these materials with pre- recorded audio messages which could be listened to at a time to suit the team member and helped reach the employees who worked mainly offline and antisocial hours.

The audio calls took into account the different working patterns of these
teams and the fact that as a multi-lingual population, they might not be able to read English as well as our online employees.

Leveraging face-to-face communication

Due to the nature of Amey’s work, many or our employees don’t have access to the internet during their shift so aren’t easily accessible through online channels. This project was no different; so we had to rely on traditional communication methods to engage with them.

Working closely with Amey’s HR team, as well as those from the 19 existing employers, we held regular face-to-face meetings to discuss their transfer into Amey.

We also worked closely with the unions to deliver these messages which supported a smooth transition into Amey.

Face-to-face communication was an excellent way of capturing feedback on the process which helped us to continually improve our messages throughout the mobilisation.

After the ‘go live’

Once the contract went live and we had given every new member of the team an induction, we made sure there was a structured communication programme in place. We have regular, corporate communications such

as our monthly newsletter and employee magazine, as well as collaboration tools such as Yammer and Microsoft Lync. We appointed a local communication manager and have “employee champions” who work with the team to gather and share good news, as well as encourage the use of our community days.

I feel strongly that embedding good communication starts with your manager population. We talked to our new managers

about what role they could play in delivering effective internal communications to a diverse, offline workforce and also ensured they knew what support was available from Amey’s corporate communications team.

Measuring success

A few months after the go-live, our company-wide engagement survey showed a general satisfaction score of 94% with this group, significantly above the Amey average of 80%, indicating we had succeeded in engaging the new team.

One of the lessons I learned from this project was the value of communicating with people as early as possible. This can prove challenging as a communicator when you’re still in the process of defining the solution; but even communicating that there is no news can serve to put people at ease and increase engagement from your most vital asset: your employees.

Nathan has worked for Amey for over three years where he has delivered both internal and external communications. He began his career in media relations, working for one of the UK’s largest banks and has public sector experience from his time at the Highways Agency. A father of two, he enjoys watching live music and going to the cinema.

Twitter: @nathanwallis; @ameyplc