RML’s Employee Engagement Programme Through The Lockdown

By Simon Kidney, CEO

From the moment it started looking likely that a lockdown would be put in place across the UK, I knew I had to think about what we could do to help keep Robinson Manufacturing staff across the country in good shape and feeling like they were still part of the RML family, whether they were working from home or furloughed.

It’s always a challenge to make sure that everyone feels like part of the team in a multi-site business and as the vast majority of our employees work in teams, I knew people would also be missing out on day to day contact with their colleagues.”

The resulting programme – which started off with my first, tentative first vlog sent out to all staff on March 24th – has snowballed into a daily vlog, sent to everyone together with a range of challenges, activities and resources to help employees stuck at home for an extended period. It builds heavily on input from staff at all levels and from all locations, something that has particular resonance for me, and it will continue throughout our phased return to work until all employees are back working full time.

Robinson Manufacturing started off as a family business and maintaining that family feel has been one of our key drivers since we bought the business from Tim Robinson four years ago. The amount of input we have had from staff has been a satisfying reflection of the extent to which we have already succeeded in that – and it’s clear that many of the challenges we set are helping to build an even stronger community across our seven UK factories, despite the fact that four of our sites didn’t even exist as part of RML back at the start of 2016.

As a company, we have committed to topping up the pay of furloughed workers to 100% of their normal salary, and I record a daily vlog, which sits at the heart of the employee engagement programme. This combines updates on the business and support from its partners with more light-hearted content. It’s emailed to all staff, along with regular extra activities designed to support them through the lockdown as well as build cross company communication, wherever people are based. These include:

  • A weekly opportunity to send in an individual vlog – these are then complied into a single video showcased alongside my vlogs on our YouTube channel.
  • Links to a wide range of wellbeing and learning resources.
  • Invitations to submit box set and book recommendations, exercise work outs, recipes and Dad jokes.
  • Encouragement to send weekend walk photographs for the company’s new RMLColleagues Instagram account.
  • Weekly welfare surveys to find out more about what our staff are up to and help to identify those employees who may need a little extra support.
  • Celebrity shout outs for RML staff, including a specially created workout video from former All Black Sam Tuitupou

Recognising many of the company’s nearly 250 employees based around the country are in lockdown with children, we have set up activity streams dedicated to them, including:

  • ‘Draw the House of Your Dreams’ challenge – also uploaded to instagram.com/RMLColleagues
  • A WhatsApp group just for RML employees at home with kids, where they can share hints, tips, activities and even just vent.
  • Easter baking activities

As with many businesses, many of our teams are engaging with department ‘coffee break’ video calls to stay in touch – as well as taking part in the cross-company weekly quiz activities.

With 75% of staff furloughed (the rest working from home) I am delighted that well over 80% of the workforce actively engage with the programme on any given day.

There are business benefits to the programme as well as its positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing. As we start the process of calling some our staff back in to work as our customers’ building sites reopen, in a phased return to production, not only is that easier to do with a workforce that have stayed strongly engaged with the us, but with new relationships that have been built across departments and sites, we all know each other a lot better too.

It’s great to see how well our staff continue to cope in lockdown; according to our latest staff survey, in the last week alone:

79% have established and stuck to a clear routine at home

25% have tried a new activity

65% have undertaken some kind of learning activity

97% are taking daily exercise, 34% outside, and a further 51% mixing up indoor and outdoor activities

84% have been in touch with colleagues from their own team

56% have been finding the wellbeing resources provided helpful

We also asked staff what they’ve been finding most difficult about lockdown:

56% find missing face to face contact with friends and family hardest

24% have struggled with missing the structure of work and home that comes from full time employment

12% have been finding it difficult to keep their mind active

7% have been finding it tough to take enough exercise

We also know that plenty of staff have really appreciated the efforts to keep them closely in touch with the business – so much so that many of them have contributed to a video to say just that. This can be seen here.

Having built this new level of engagement, the company is now looking at how to maintain some of these activities into the future beyond Covid-19.