Better Work - Serco

Serco is an international service company that improves the quality and efficiency of essential services that matter to millions of people around the world.  One such service provision includes the delivery of facilities management to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). NNUH is a 1,010 bed hospital treating over 700,000 patients each year where Serco provides services including catering, cleaning, security, grounds maintenance, waste and portering. The contract employs 610 full and part-time people.

Serco's aim was to develop and further engage their employees in maintaining an exceptional service provision whilst at the same time adopting new work practices to support the achievement of significant cost savings for the client. 

Key Impacts

  • Significant cost savings of over £1million achieved without staff reductions or impact on engagement and staff relations.

  • Increased response from employees to partake in the survey, rose to 91% participation.

  • Employee engagement has increased to ‘High Performance’ range.

  • Customer advocacy at Serco NNUH is also strong; the contract has a net promoter score of 10 per cent.

  • Reduced sick absence levels. By improving the sickness absence management process, and by increasing employee engagement, sickness absence went from 8% in 2008 to 2.57% in 2011. It is currently maintained between 2 - 3%.

  • Employees engaged in new work practices achieved savings of over £150,000.

  • The creation of positive working relations with staff and Improved communication across all levels.

  • Quality, cost and customer satisfaction of the service to the client has improved.

How did they achieve this?

They used staff surveys to measure workforce engagement, staff forums to provide employees with a voice, allowing their input to job design and work practices, and to move engagement to higher levels.  Assisted line management to lead and communicate effectively to drive the success of their teams at the same time as supporting the workforce toward the achievement of life-long learning and development.

Their Viewpoint annual staff satisfaction survey along with the half yearly pulse check is more effectively used across the contract and no longer seen as a tick box exercise.  The survey provides managers with much better information on how employees are feeling, and what managers can do to enable their teams to do a better job.  The results of the survey were successfully used to make improvements and provide our staff with an even better place to work.

The creation of an engaging culture at NNUH

In the beginning, employee engagement at NNUH was a matter of filling in the annual survey, but now it is well-embedded within the workplace culture of the contract. This is the result of making engagement a core operational issue, and tasking managers with the responsibility of improving engagement levels within their teams.

Managers now see that good employee engagement enables them to move from ‘fire fighting’ problems as they occur, to a more proactive position where they are made aware of issues early on, and can use their positive relationships with employees to address them more effectively.

The Contract Director who advocates engagement believes that the improvements to communications and feedback have had the greatest impact on employee engagement levels at Serco NNUH. By improving employee engagement on the contract, the quality, cost and customer satisfaction of the services Serco provides have also improved. The Employee engagement score has increased over time and the last score placed the contract in the ‘High Performance’ category.

Engaging employees with the ‘big picture’

Part of the engagement challenge is connecting people working in a local setting with Serco as a global company.  The management team has focused on linking the operational information they communicate to the corporate ‘big picture’ to help Serco employees understand how their work contributes to Serco’s global success.

Employee Voice

The staff at Serco have regular team meetings held monthly.  The staff come together with management to discuss news and information, giving employees a ‘voice’ for discussing resolution of every day issues and to focus on maintaining positive communications with management and within the contract.  The contract also uses "Big Ideas" cards which are collected and distribute to the right areas for action and find the use of ‘hazard cards’ for any particular Health & Safety ideas particularly useful.

All suggestions, ideas, and concerns are brought forward to the Leadership meetings where speedy resolutions are sought and agreed.

Developing managers’ engagement skills

Creating more effective channels for communication has improved on giving employees the information they need, and making their voices heard. Managers on the contract have been encouraged to use a more consultative approach which enables an open and honest culture based on trust and respect. The senior management aim to lead by example, but they also see the first line managers as crucial in making this culture change. If supervisors are not engaged, and do not feel that their voices are heard, then the employees they manage are likely to feel the same.

The management team reviewed their approaches to recruitment of supervisors, and now look to identify those who possess engaging leadership attitudes and behaviours as well as the necessary skills. They have also developed an inhouse training programme to give supervisors the necessary leadership and management skills. Following feedback from employees, who were dissatisfied with their personal development reviews (PDPs), the contract commissioned specific training for managers on this.

Trust & Openness

Beyond specific initiatives to increase efficiency and performance, improving communication and the management capabilities of first and middle managers is beginning to strengthen the involvement of employees in their work. With that, by improving trust and openness, employees are more prepared to share ideas for improvement and raise concerns.  Before, employees would have been reluctant to partake in employee forums, however the increased trust with management has enabled its success as a valuable communication tool.

The patient services managers on the contract have worked hard to build trust with their employees, and to raise their ambitions about the level of patient care they deliver. Employees are continually encouraged to question whether they would be happy if their mother was receiving the service they are delivering, and if not, to look to improve it. As a result the team has contributed a number of ideas that have improved the quality of the service.

Life Long Learning - Apprenticeships and Talent Opportunities

In 2012 the Apprenticeship scheme was launched on the contract where job related apprenticeships were offered by Serco Vocational Training.  Numerous applications were received and over 80 employees were offered a place on the scheme.  Most employees will complete the Customer Care Apprenticeship which will be of great benefit to their customer facing roles.

The apprenticeship is a structured training programme tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual.  To achieve the apprenticeship the following must be completed:

The Serco apprenticeship enables our employees to earn, learn and gain recognised qualifications as they work. It also provides them with a level of job security, securing them valuable skills for the future.  As well as this, Serco’s Hard FM team have also been offered Advanced Apprenticeships for school and college leavers as the foundations of a career in engineering and skilled work.  These apprenticeships are a three way agreement between EAGIT apprenticeship training provider, Serco and the employee and are a 4 year commitment. We currently have 4 apprentices currently active in Hard FM.

In addition to the apprenticeship programmes, every Serco employee participates in an annual appraisal where their job specific training and personal development needs are discussed and then reviewed at quarterly one to ones. Each employee has a training plan and is supported in their effort toward life-long learning, ranging from tailored training programmes to inhouse devised short courses.

Following each appraisal, all staff appraisal ratings are calibrated and are fed through to a talent management database held locally.  This is then reviewed every quarter in line with the succession plan for the contract.  Succession planning at Serco NNUH has enabled at least three internal appointments at a Supervisory and Leadership level in the past 2 years.


In addition to the aforementioned training programmes, Serco will launch later this summer “the Academy”, a training institute designed to provide employees with further opportunities to enhance their skills and further themselves along their career path with Serco. 

Health and Wellbeing is also a strong focus for Serco over the coming months. Recognising their people as assets, they are striving to develop a strong Health and Wellbeing Strategy to serve their aspirations under  their “Living Well, Being Well, Doing Well” motto thus contributing to all employees wellbeing and making Serco an even better place to work!