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The IoIC Insight Seminar on trust heard how Allied Irish Bank was turned from a “basket case” into a business on the up.


Group head of employee engagement and IC, Anthony Burrows, joined the bank in 2012 and staff morale – and trust – were at rock bottom following the economic crash.

“It was a complete basket case,” he told the seminar candidly. “Staff didn’t trust leaders to lead the business and leaders didn’t trust staff to do their job – no-one had even bothered trying to measure employee engagement in seven years!”

One of his first moves was to create a strategy and performance survey for the bank’s 11,000 staff asking questions like ‘Do you understand the bank’s strategy?’, ‘Do you understand what part you play?’, ‘Does your manager manage your performance effectively?’, ‘Do you have goals that are clear?’

“The results were deplorable and some of the comments were heartbreaking,” he reveals. “Staff would say things like ‘My leader doesn’t even know my name’, ‘They treat me like a commodity not a human being’.”

The first Gallup employee engagement survey at AIB in 2013 put the bank in the fifth percentile, meaning that 95% of other businesses were scoring higher.

However, Anthony (pictured) says: “Since then we’ve since been on a journey that led to the biggest increase in one year that Gallup had ever seen. We achieved five years’ worth of increases in one year.

“In 2014 we were in the 22nd percentile, which means that 78% of companies are scoring higher than us. In absolute terms, we’re still in casualty but we know we’re going to survive.

“In the first year 88% of our teams were in the bottom quartile, now that’s down to 55%. This year we hope it will be 20%.”

Anthony told the IoIC Insight Seminar in London the turnaround was achieved with the help of five steps:

1) We made leaders accountable for engagement and made it part of their objectives and performance ratings

2) We provided one-on-one coaching in engagement for the lowest scoring leaders.

3) Shared best practice around the business via virtual masterclasses where leaders could dial in and hear the experiences of others plus drop-in clinics for engagement issues.

4) We’re embedding the principles of engagement – like listening, valuing employees – as business as usual through a new set of values, which were created through consultation with employees.

5) Worked hard to focus on the business case for change and involved employees in changes at an earlier stage.

“Over three years we’ve improved morale and driven engagement, which has had a positive impact on trust. It’s no coincidence that during that time AIB has turned a massive loss into a profit.

“There’s still a long way to go but I think we’re off life support – we’ve resuscitated the corpse.”

The seminar also heard from Nick Howard (pictured right), executive director at EdelmanENGAGE, who talked about the annual Trust Barometer his company produces.

He told delegates that trust in CEOs and business generally had declined but that trust in employees was till high - presenting a great opportunity.

"More than 80% of people mistrust business, the Government or both," he said. "However, there's an internal 'trust surplus' - most people trust regular employees or experts from companies, they trust a 'person like yourself'.

"In fact 47% of people trust employees, against 27% who trust CEOs."

Nick said this presented a huge opportunity for organisations to create employee advocates, but added: "It's not about training employees, it's about providing them with the stories, giving them things they can credibly and comfortably talk about, explaining what their organisation is doing and why it's a force for good."

IoIC, Westminster Business School and Top Banana produced a special report exploring the connections between leadership, communication and trust. Institute members can download the full Trust In Leadership report, an e-book summary and an infographic summarising key findings 
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