WHAT’S the secret to being happy in your work?
A farmer’s daughter from Denby Dale reckons she has the answer after conducting a “happiness” survey among workers at mobile phones company O2.
Sarah Sargeant, head of the O2 Customer Service People Programme, invited the firm’s call centre advisers to suggest ways of making their working lives more enjoyable.
Now she is helping put their ideas into practice.
Suggestions ranged from providing staff with clear career paths through training, coaching and mentoring to giving workers “break-out” time to aid their health and well-being. Others wanted to see fun events and more family time.
Said Sarah: “All too often when companies want to improve things for employees, they ask managers to think of ways of achieving that goal. These ideas are then imposed on staff.
“We believe in doing it the other way round. We think our employees are the best people to come up with ideas for enhancing their working lives and environment. We want to find out what will motivate them and how we can help them move up in the organisation.”
Sarah admits she likes a challenge. She lives by the maxim of “doing something every day that scares” – which recently included taking part in the Manchester Shine Marathon.
In her working world, her challenge is to engage everyone in customer service, so that they stay loyal to the company and give customers the best possible service.
She strongly believes that employees should have a say in how their part of the company should progress if it is to be a fulfilling and fun place to work – which is how the People Programme came about.
Sarah began by taking 100 staff of all grades on a two-day brain-storming break in the Lake District and challenged them to come up with ideas to enhance their jobs, career prospects and working environment.
Said Sarah: “We wanted our employees to tell us how they felt. We asked for volunteers who wanted to make a difference and more than 500 people came forward. Those who were selected left their job titles at the door and worked in teams.
“Following workshops, they gave presentations to Cheryl Black, customer service director, and her top team in a Dragon’s Den format.
“After two days, we ended up with some really exciting ideas. We were bowled over by their enthusiasm. They are empowered to make change happen and some of their ideas are already being put into practice.”
Sarah said: “Listening to staff is critical and time well-spent. I believe passionately that a fulfilled, happy and engaged employee who feels valued and respected will do a better job.
“One of the most rewarding comments to come out of the People Programme event was from someone who said: ‘Prior to the conference, I had lost enthusiasm and was considering leaving O2. I have now completely turned around’.”
Projects already under way include Twinville – the opportunity for staff to “shadow” someone in another department to learn more about the different career opportunities in the company. Staff also suggested Stepping Stones – an online portal enabling advisers to chart their own career development, link to a mentor and get help with career essentials such as CVs.
Other projects include providing health and well-being space – available on-site for relaxation in break time. There will also be Fun Champions for each of O2 UK’s four customer service centres in Bury, Runcorn, Leeds and Glasgow. They will help co-ordinate activities ranging from family days to events such as running a fantasy football league.
O2 staff gave their employer a ringing endorsement in a recent Sunday Times survey which put them in the UK’s best 25 big companies to work for. The survey said that O2 staff feel in tune with their workmates and very connected with the firm. They were also said to care about giving a good service and were proud to work for O2.