Increasing Engagement and Business Success C2

This is a live blog from the CIPD ACE conference 2016 so please excuse any typos!

Introduced by Stephanie Davis of Laughology, we heard from Kim and Alistair from giffgaff about the company and their approach to HR.
Giffgaff have become the UK’s number one SIM card provider over the past 24 months. The story starts with a fundamental question When was the last time you thought “I could run this company better”. Gav, the giffgaff founder, was working at O2 and was at a conference where he realised the potential power of online communities. He had also recently bought a motorbike and found that he got better responses to his questions from online communities of volunteers than he did from the manufacturer. He thought it could work well in a telecommunications environment. He came up with a concept and positioned it to the O2 Board as 2-0 – a new approach to telecoms with mutuality at its core. O2 thought it was a good idea but didn’t like the name and so giffgaff was born.
Giffgaff is an old Scottish word which means mutuality. They are strict on one metric – they call it the golden metric – which is the Net Promoter Score. Their question is “How likely is it you would recommend us to a friend”. They have 9 & 10 as promoter and 0-6 as detractors. Giffgaff averages 55 which as far as they know is the highest for a telecoms company.
They call it a virtual circle: they provide a better experience by working with the members. If members get involved, they save money. Giffgaff pass those savings on to their members. “Member get member” is their biggest driver of growth.
Alistair, People Partner at giffgaff. “I get to do some of the nice stuff”. He covers recruitment, development and engagement. You have to focus on your employees and your customers because they are the answer. The world around us is changing. Technology is driving change. Companies like Netflix, Airbnb and Spotify are creating new businesses. We’re in an era of instant gratification.
Millenials are changing the economy. People are different and want different things from work. It’s easy to industrialise work. We need to be more like agriculture and create the environment where people can grow.
The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs.
Giffgaff have something different – they call it the giffgaff way. They have just tried to boil it down for the first time – they are launching these new values:

  • Collaborative
  • Gritty
  • Curious
  • Positive

Alistair said engagement is key to what they do at giffgaff. They do a lot of work on it. They use Gallup’s Q12 questionnaire. They have increased their score from 3.9 in 2013 to 4 in 2014 then 4.15 in 2015. They listen to the feedback and take action, particularly on the “blockers to engagement” question – this gives them a long to do list. Alistair cited Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and said it’s no good doing bean bags and trying to be Google when people need the basics to do their job.
You have to drill down into the data – averages can hide things. They look at scores on a team by team basis. Measurement without targeted action is meaningless.
They realised they don’t always get hiring right. Working at giffgaff is like marmite – some people love it and some don’t. Alistair quote Jim Collins: “If you have got the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters”.
They look to New Zealand All Blacks as an ideal team. The All Blacks have a saying: “no dickheads”. Giffgaff try to hire right first time. They are looking for people who share their values. Once they’re in, it’s all about development. If you’ve hire high performers, they want to learn. “If everyone at giffgaff grows more then we grow as a business”. They have a strengths-based development approach and use Gallup’s Strengths Finder.
The old way is dead – or it is at giffgaff. No career plans, no formal classroom learning, no one size fits all. The new way: treat everyone uniquely. The “Goldilocks” rule – not too much, not too little. The people own their own development. Share, guide, steer their ambition. Surround people with amazing colleagues with access to anyone. They are empowered to make massive decisions and to take on big challenges.
You don’t need policies, it’s all about trust.
Giffgaff use an app to enable colleagues to recognise their peers.
“The science of serendipitous interaction”. Google spent years trying to analyse what makes workplaces innovative. It’s the small things. You need to bring together developers and marketeers. As an example, they do desk swaps so they spend time with different people. Giffgaff wanted more so when they had a certain number of members, they declared The Joyous Republic of Giffgaff. They created a passport to come to events and ministries such as the Ministry of Sports or the Ministry of Good Deeds. Through this they have raised a lot of money for charity.
Lastly, fun is important. Don’t take yourself too seriously.