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We are all in this together

By Rebecca Jeffs, Group Director of Colleague Experience

Originally published in the Serco People Report 2020.

Serco colleagues are the beating heart of every difference that we make.

We pride ourselves on delivering better outcomes for citizens who need help and support, either in their own lives or in order to serve and protect others. Public services that improve the lives of millions every day depend on the empathy, courage and insight of people who are guided in all they do by deep personal connection and commitment to the communities they serve; the communities they belong to.

We work hard to cultivate close-knit, high-performing teams of people who bring the very best of themselves to work every day; feel fully supported and empowered to take action in the best interests of our customers, service users and society; and who inspire the same in everyone they encounter.

This goes beyond ensuring Serco colleagues are safe, fairly paid and well managed. Continuously analysing what it means and feels like to work with Serco through the colleague lens enables us to better anticipate and respond to colleague needs, creating optimum conditions for them to thrive and be at their most effective.

This is by no means new to Serco. For example, we have spent years:

  • embedding the celebration of Trust, Care, Innovation and Pride in our culture. Every year, our enterprise-wide system of recognition culminates in the Serco Pulse Awards, when our entire colleague community comes together to recognise hundreds of people who have gone above and beyond in living our Values; and
  • embedding a focus on colleague engagement (which we made a Group Key Performance Indicator in 2014) in our core approach to people management, helping it grow from 42% in 2013 to 71 points in 20191.

We now see exciting opportunities to do much more. With our partners at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School, we have looked into the future of work, exploring new trends and the growing importance of human attributes such as care, compassion, collaboration and creativity.

As the world of work continues to evolve, we believe that the most effective and sustainable approach is for colleagues to take greater ownership, working side by side with us to co-create an even better Serco experience.

The relationship between Serco and Serco colleagues has always been robust and healthy. As Rupert Soames says, they are ‘feisty, fearless and passionate’. Building on this and our rising engagement, we want to reinvent the employee/employer relationship, creating partnership based on transparency, trust and shared sense of purpose.

Choice of language is important in reframing how we think and behave. ‘Colleague’ moves us away from limitations embedded in ‘employee’ and ‘employer’, which can imply traditional hand-offs and exchanges. Instead, ‘colleague’ communicates personal, supportive and flexible partnership. Similarly, shifting attention from ‘engagement’ to ‘experience’ recognises the more pervasive impact of everyday interaction and experience; the moments that matter.

Naming conventions are only a first step. True partnership is forged in understanding expectations. For this, we focus on four key people elements: feedback and communication, diversity and inclusion, health and wellbeing and recognition.

Whilst communication, wellbeing and recognition are critical elements in colleague experience, we consider a positive sense of inclusion and belonging to be the foundation for colleague connection with Serco. That recognition underpins our commitment to building greater diversity among colleagues and greater inclusivity within workplaces.

In recent years we have poured new energy into diversity and inclusion at Serco, raising strong colleague community networks who are helping us drive real change in colleague experience. They are actively engaging colleagues of all levels and backgrounds, gathering invaluable feedback, shaping policies and bringing our diversity to life through a vibrant calendar of inclusive events. They have brought the outside world and leading-edge practice into Serco through strong specialist partnerships and shared our voice and experience externally.

Through our diversity networks we draw on lived colleague experience to guide us in setting ambitions and taking action to better support these communities and help them thrive.

For example, they have helped to:

  • inform the evolution of our people data; making it more inclusive through closer alignment to self-identification preferences, thereby enabling more meaningful analysis and value generation for colleague communities whilst improving performance monitoring;

  • facilitate the sharing of experience and expectations by colleagues with senior leadership and global audiences – challenging assumptions, promoting fresh thinking and helping move discussion of colleague experience further into mainstream conversation at Serco – whilst also supporting leadership in becoming visible allies, champions and role models;

  • develop communication and collaboration solutions to help bring together and empower globally dispersed communities. We recently launched an online environment, the Serco Inclusion Hub, where all communities are flourishing in their own right whilst also helping each other evolve and establish a stronger, more strategic presence in the organisation. Since launch, it has been visited more than 44,500 times by colleagues using it to stay informed, stay in touch, contribute, access support and download resources; and

  • identify opportunities to improve our support for more vulnerable colleagues. By engaging our global LGBT+ community through Virtual Pride events, In@Serco offered support to colleagues in adverse lockdown conditions. Serco Unlimited worked with the charity, Action on Hearing Loss, to publish guidance on facemask challenges for deaf and hard of hearing colleagues. They also led our adoption of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, enabling colleagues to signal less visible disabilities or health conditions discreetly.

Throughout 2020, inclusion has been a cornerstone in the collective resilience of Serco colleagues. Unity of purpose, supported by the growing depth of our connections with each other and the communities we serve, and the recognition of being valued individuals in one cohesive team, has strengthened us all as we lean into the pandemic.

By continuing our work to proactively and positively engage with colleagues, seeking to listen and truly understand their needs and expectations whilst being clear and transparent about customer needs and organisational expectations, we have been more effective in our actions to protect people and public services. Looking to the future, we anticipate that our evolving partnership will enable us to more quickly and capably help society to recover and emerge stronger.