Peab is one of the Nordic region’s leading construction companies with operations in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. With 16,000 employees – and diversity in the workforce – Populums pulse surveys with team focus have been used since 2018.
with Anders Berge
We talked to Anders Berge, Head of People & Organization about how Peab works with pulse surveys that have a focus on the team.
“Populum has managed to make the difficult easy, which makes it tangible for the businesses out there. The important thing is the effect. Do not think of anything else.”Head of People & Organisation, PEAB
Why pulse surveys?
Traditional employee surveys often generate “false answers” too late. Peab wanted to achieve continuous improvement in real-time in the approximately 2,500 projects we run annually around the entire Nordic region. Here is where the improvements should take place – and we had missed that before. When the team, or “Laget” in Swedish – which consists of both officials and skilled workers – receives current results and feedback immediately, conditions are created for discussing how to become better, more efficient, and work together long-term towards common goals.
What is most important to make pulse surveys work in Peabs type of business?
Populum has a user-friendly tool that focuses on the most important things, what is needed – instead of “possibly-good-to-have-things” that many easily fall for. For us to be able to help our local units, they need something concrete and useful that contributes to the team’s development. We went from 64 questions in our previous employee survey to 8 with Populum, which reduced the complexity and increased usability significantly.
How has the collaboration worked with Populum?
It has worked perfectly. Everyone I have worked with at Populum wants to understand our business and supports the entire organization directly with a high sense of service. We have a very fruitful dialogue that leads us both forward. The collaboration is just as good as you want with an important supplier and partner.
“Laget före jaget”
In English this means the “team before the self”
You often talk about “the team before the self”
– what do you mean by that?
Within Peab, we like to talk about the “team”, because it alludes to the artisan team, but you can just as easily say “the team”. The inexperienced leader – or the less good leader – does not always realize that it is all employees in the team who create the result together. Therefore, it is important to help the leader open up the dialogue about how the team can get better together. Through Populum, we give our leaders the tool to have this important dialogue.
Populum believes in the strength of transparency and in striving for an open conversational climate in the team. Therefore, each employee automatically gets access to their team results and the submitted improvement proposals. Like many other organizations, before the launch of Populum, there were some concerns about whether Peab employees and managers should be ready for that kind of openness.
What made you dare to take the plunge and drive with “open cards” in this way, in a traditionally conservative industry such as the construction industry?
Since the result is the overall team experience – to which everyone has contributed – my view is that it is natural that everyone also has the opportunity to take part in it. In this way, it also becomes clearer the team’s results, rather than the manager’s.
How did it go?
In our first survey, there were a handful of “non-constructive” comments that we removed (and explained why). The second time there were very few. On the third occasion, there were virtually no such comments at all, in an organization with 16,000 people and an 83% response rate. Now everyone agrees that the comments that are written are displayed in the transparent report that everyone receives (albeit anonymously). Thus, we now have only developing comments, and everyone likes this – including our unions.
Build improvement from within
A clear trend in employer branding is that organizations are moving away from the “old school”, primarily polishing their surface on the outside and emphasizing how they are perceived externally. A more modern focus, on the other hand, is to strive to become more genuine on the inside through investments in committed and prosperous employees, ie. to build the employer brand from within.
How do you view this personally, and how does Peab work with this?
For me, this is central. A colorful advertisement or costly activities that do not represent what our employees signal in their everyday lives to friends and acquaintances, is a waste of money. We have invested in building our employer brand from within with the eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) as the overall temperature gauge. When our employees are willing to recommend us to friends and acquaintances – then it’s good. If not, we need to ask them why so that we can do better. As a group, we have an eNPS that is far above the Swedish industry standard. In those parts of the organization where it is lower, we work actively to improve it.
What results have you seen with that strategy?
(Eg impact on employer-branding rankings, increase in eNPS, link between eNPS and profitability)
We climb the ranking lists for attractiveness in all the different measurements made in the market. At one of the most prominent players, we are now also nominated for this year’s “Best Employer Branding company” in Sweden. In the nomination text, they write:
“This company has worked in a very sustainable way with the employer branding issues. This communication has strived to be completely sincere and transparent. This has paid off as the company now very clearly takes a position as the best in the industry. There is a clear anchoring of the issues in the management and the internal attractiveness is at least as important as the external one. This company is therefore a true role model in the issues. That the good, sincere and sustainable – wins in the long run.”
We have performed analyzes where we link eNPS, financial results for the unit and other indices in Populum. We see a very clear connection between these values, which is not remarkable – but a good proof of our efforts.
To launch a team pulse survey in an industrial company, like Peab
You have told us that one of the reasons why you chose Populum was our serious appearance. How important is it for an industrial company like Peab to choose a pulse survey partner with a serious appearance?
A lot – seriousness is an important prerequisite, and at the same time Populum also lives up to one of our most important values: “Down to earth”. We looked at several different heart rate measurement options but got stuck right after we met Populum.
You started 2018 with a pilot with 1,000 employees in your “home turf” Skåne, and in six months the scope grew to 16,000 employees in all countries. How do you view the process you chose? What are your top tips and recommendations for other HR leaders who are thinking about how to successfully “get started” with larger-scale heart rate measurements?
We chose to implement the pilot in the part of the organization where we anticipated that the resistance would be greatest, to put the pilot to the test. Together with Populum, we invested in them having a positive experience and then spreading positive signals to other parts, which worked excellently.
How to think when scaling up from 1,000 to 16,000 people?
The pilot gave us important lessons about the fact that some old thinking remained in the organization. The lessons learned and the good examples from the pilot meant that we were able to carry out a really good communication process before the group-wide launch.
From old to new
One thing that impressed us at Populum (and at the same time been a very fun part of the collaboration) was how we, together with your HR and communication department at Peab, created the layout for the product. You have photographed from the construction sites, making films – our designers have adapted based on your graphic identity, your colors, your language. What do you think about the result?
I think it’s amazingly good. It feels like a partnership where we have been helped to find the best common solution. We challenge each other and develop further together. This is how you want it with a supplier; you are helped to move on to the next step.
Your previous concept had a strongly established brand – “Handslaget” – with high recognition among employees. At the same time, you were looking for a new technology platform with modern technology that focuses on the team. With Populum, you could both preserve what already worked well, but at the same time take part in the new. How were these trade-offs made?
We are a family business, and Handslaget is something that has lived in the company for all years. “Handslaget” represents reliability and is deeply rooted in the company. Our strategy was to take this well-established concept and modernize it to new technology and at the same time increase the focus on the team. By maintaining the existing brand, it became easier for us to implement this modernization. The new one is Handslaget in its true sense – the old one was there so that our staff could look at a single static snapshot for 2 years.
When you switched to Populum, the lead times were severely cut. Today, 16,000 employees respond in a few days via SMS or tablets on all construction sites. Instead of waiting 1 month for results, all results will come immediately. What is the biggest benefit of fast feedback?
The biggest benefit is that the result is current and useful locally. If the result is not relevant when it comes to the teams, the meaning of measuring disappears. We now create transparency in the organization by the entire team receiving their results immediately. We do not hide anything and make it accessible to everyone, which gives all employees the team’s overall picture. Only then can you work together to develop. Now everyone has an equal voice in the improvement work – regardless of whether you are an official or a professional.
How was this improvement received in management and the board?
We have shown that with a few accurate questions, relevant insights can be obtained, without the disruption and time required by questions that are not needed. Previously we had 64 questions and got feedback after 3 months – now we have 8 questions and get results immediately. The management and the board did not believe that this could be achieved.
Populum’s analysis portal has been a model internally at Peab to show how to report back data quickly, clearly and user-friendly.
You use eNPS as key figures at an overall level. How does it work?
Having the eNPS value as the overall temperature gauge in the business is appreciated by both Group management and the Board. eNPS does not provide answers to what or why, but it does provide an opportunity to follow the trend and focus where it is needed most, for example during a reorganization.
Coordination with HR
Populum coordinates delivery with your 100 HR superusers and HRBPs in different countries and several languages. What do you hear internally? What is the experience among your HR colleagues of the new process compared to how it was?
Our HR representatives are super happy, period. I have not heard a single hesitation. The big difference from an HR perspective when implementing a new system, compared to before, is that the time required and the heavy work of preparing the organizational structure has now become minimal. Here, Populum’s solution stands out with both simplicity and flexibility.
Also, it was previously necessary to arrange computers for the employees who do not have a work computer. Now, instead, the pulse survey (except via e-mail) is also sent via SMS directly to all employees, which means that our professionals can also participate without any logistical hassle – and with significantly less time.
Our previous employee survey was more consultant-driven, and a large part of the cost from the supplier came from consulting hours to review the results. Now everything is both simpler and gives a higher effect.
One of your HR colleagues told you that Populum is the first supplier to succeed in understanding and managing Peab’s complexity. What would you say is the most unique thing about Peab, compared to other organizations you have worked in?
We are a family company, with limited top management and a high degree of decentralization. This means that we have many different business logics; things can be named differently in different parts of the organization, and organized in different ways. We have 2,500 projects that are constantly moving, which gives a very large variability. Populum has managed to meet this complexity.
Peab’s eNPS has increased in Populum to levels well above the industry index, you have climbed the employer branding rankings and you have won awards internationally for your leadership programs.
What happens in the future?
HR Analytics and Artificial Intelligence | We are now taking the next step to use our Populum data in a broader perspective – to further strengthen our ability to understand what works well and be able to direct the right efforts proactively. This includes combination with other data sources, e.g. profitability, quality, working environment, staff turnover, and sick leave. Here we have an ongoing investment together with Populum that will be very exciting to follow.
Strategic workforce planning | To build the abilities and skills for tomorrow’s business in each organization. This needs to start from the local and be built from the bottom up. It is the same as the reason why we chose Populum; it’s about the here and now, and about the local reality. It should not be a need invented by a staff.
In conclusion, do you have any tips for other organizations that are considering launching Populum in their operations?
My advice is to think about why you have an employee survey. For me, it is obvious that the purpose is for things to get better in the business – not primarily for the staff to focus on information centrally. That information gets the staff from the analysis portal anyway, if you just focus on making it work at the local level. We needed a solution that transparently could help all teams to become better locally. We chose Populum because we want to produce things that improve the business.
Populum has managed to make the difficult easy, which makes it tangible for the businesses out there. The important thing is the effect. Do not think of anything else. If you still have questions after reading this interview, give me a call.