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The People Strategy Which Changed Virgin Experience Days


Let us tell you a story. There was once an online business that sold experience vouchers, primarily as gifts. Unlike those stories we used to listen to as children, this one doesn't start with an idyllic background. However, it does have a happy end.

Virgin Experience Days used to be your regular successful company. But as many organisations do, this one came to realise that it was facing a quite familiar problem to many of us - its name is stagnation. The state of the company was not dire, but the feeling was that a lot more could be achieved.

The only constant in life is change. Following the natural cycles, the employees started to notice the slow deterioration of their efficient business model in the winter of 2018. Spring is frequently associated with conception and flourishing, and just like in a garden, new life for Virgin Experience Days was in sight.

Several internal modifications marked the early 2019. The firm got a new owner. A new Exec and SLT were appointed, but there were also two new roles revolving around the team and their needs. Contrary to the traditional hierarchical approach to people which had been the modus operandi before 2019, team engagement became a significant success measurement in this period. This was the starting point of the change to come.

To test their status, they asked Culture Amp for help and ran a survey in July 2019. Their first engagement survey was alarming - having scored only 54%, they decided to set a goal: reach 70% the following year. In 2020, they surpassed their goal.

But how did they do it?

It started with a firm belief: Virgin Experience Days' success relies heavily on the engagement levels inside the team. They implemented a new approach centred on the feedback platform, designed to hear the employees' voice. Their objective was to establish and sustain a new culture. One that was reflective of the needs of the people who worked on creating that culture to drive their ambition of being the go-to provider for all things experiences.

Establishing a clear purpose and agreeable values was rudimental, yet they had neither. So they created them, collectively, not as a top-down directive. To remove any suspicion in their honest efforts, they made radical moves. They closed the entire business for a day, taking the team off-site. The day was full of constructive discussions, brainstorming ideas about their business identity, but most importantly: what values they aspired to and how to synchronise them with the team's values. This session resulted in a new business purpose - "Making Every Experience Extraordinary".

The session was the first step towards their new People Strategy. It was supported by five pillars of growth: Clear Vision, Wellbeing & Social, Communication, Personal Growth and Recognition. These clearly defined areas of focus were presented to the team, reciprocally laying the foundation of the sixth, most crucial one - Team Engagement.

Soon enough, they introduced regular behavioural sessions to help them get into the smallest of details for each value. Questions such as "what behaviours would display our values?", "what behaviours would detract from them?" and "what would you expect from our leaders in line with them?" paint a striking picture of the sessions' significance.

The next step was setting up a new peer-to-peer recognition system, with the help of a new HRIS implemented to keep the team tightly connected and informed better. Then came the new performance management, the individual and team-based bonus system (which strengthened the notion of excellence as a team and enabled individuals to see their contribution, and to own their individual success). The organisation kept having quartal pulse surveys to check their progress and ensure transparent communication.

The results:

The impact of their cultural change journey and unwavering focus on helping their people has delivered clear results. Despite the pandemic, their engagement score went from 54% in July 2019 to 73% in November 2020, topping the initial target of reaching 70% by the end of 2020 with careful and timely implementation of key initiatives.

October 2020 survey saw an increase of an average of 6% on every question since the first survey. The belief in the statement "I believe action will be taken as a result of this survey" increased by a gigantic 38%. The participation rate improved with every survey and in October 2020 reached 100% for the first time, which marks a genuinely engaged team.

As for business results, they reached a historic peak trading period in November - December 2019, with 40% of revenue growth. Virginia Experience Days' CSAT score went from 74% to 90% between July 2019 and June 2020, further evidencing that an engaged team can better support customers and directly impact the business bottom line.

The aftermath: A new beginning

Virginia Experience Days spread the news of their inner journey with us, and we're happy they did! Their entry was evaluated by an independent judging panel with (when summed up) more than 30 years of experience. Yet the presenters were not nervous. Their confidence was backed with results and the lack of doubt in their journey. After all, how could they doubt it? They were part of it!

They won the gold medal in the Employee-Centric Company - SME at UK EXA 21. The smiles on their faces, the change of pitch in their voices and the glow in their eyes spoke volumes. It was inevitable, their hard work paid off! They received proper recognition for all the changes they've implemented, all in troublesome times.

We're delighted to shine a light on stories like this one. So if you believe you're playing an active role in a story of your own, apply for our UK EXA 22! Show your team they are appreciated and reaffirm their motivation to continue working together!

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