Building employee voice through technology at Aggregate Industries
From changing the culture of meetings and snap polls to making faster technology decisions, the move to a real-time engagement app is helping construction materials manufacturer Aggregate Industries to nurture a collaborative environment, says organisation and HR director James Roberts
As a leading manufacturer and supplier of aggregates, asphalt, cement and ready-mixed concrete, Aggregate Industries is at the frontline of the UK’s construction and infrastructure industries.
A member of LafargeHolcim, the leading global building materials and solutions company with around 90,000 employees in over 80 countries, Aggregate itself has more than 4,000 employees working across some 330 sites in construction materials production and supply.
With such a geographical spread of sites the company wanted to ensure all of its workforce felt engaged and included and that everyone within the organisation believed their voice was heard. But, as we all know, this is easier said than done.
As James Roberts, Aggregate’s organisation and human resources director, says: “Over time, we were becoming increasingly aware that when we got large groups together in company meetings, the same people raised their hands. We were not hearing from large swathes of the business. We knew we needed a better way of engaging with everyone across the organisation.
“For us, the driver was around how do we capture more diversity in the organisation? How do we promote more inclusivity? And how do we get more inputs and elicit more innovative comments and ideas from people who would not necessarily speak in a typical meeting?”
What Aggregate did
To address these issues, Aggregate decided to investigate and review a real-time audience engagement app. After a period of evaluation, it chose to implement the Vevox tool. It started using this technology primarily for big set-piece company meetings.
Engagement starts before the meeting begins. Aggregate makes the app available to employees in advance and then asks them to highlight issues and topics they would like management to address, as well as outlining how the company could best support them in their role today and throughout their future in the business.
Typically, Aggregate uses the tool to ask the audience questions right through the meeting. If a question is especially topical or attracts a lot of engagement, it will ask attendees to use the app to vote on it. The executive team then takes the process further by fielding out the questions and providing responses.
The app is now utilised across the business in meetings and workshops rather than just the big showpiece events. It is used most widely for the Q&A section at the end of debates but also for snap polls during meetings. It gives senior management a quick take on the balance of opinion on hot topics impacting the business. Aggregate has also started using the app in HR talent meetings to gauge the overall employee perspective on how effective the company is at developing talents today.
Implementing the app has made it much easier for Aggregate to capture the views and feelings of a wide variety of people within the organisation in a way that is non-immersive and fully anonymous and confidential. That enables the company to tap into a much wider and more inclusive set of opinions.
The app has also helped to usher in wider organisational change. Says Roberts: “Having this kind of technology in place has helped kick-start a change in the culture of our meetings. If you go back three or four years, they typically took the form of an update pitch from senior leaders on how the business was performing. Today, thanks at least in part to the technology, they are far more participative.
“The last one day meeting, we had consisted, for example, of just one hour of corporate presentations,” he adds. “The rest of the time was focused on team building around our strategy and growth plans.”
It’s not just about the bigger strategic picture, however. Insights from the app are resulting in important tweaks to employees’ working approach.
“We had one recently through the app, questioning the time that the payroll department was having to spend waiting for the timers on their laptops to move through their standard processes. It brought the issue to our attention and gave us the opportunity to make fast changes and bring in new laptops for the team,” explains Roberts.
“That’s important,” he adds, “because for many employees, personal engagement tends to come from their own work, their boss and their outlook on their future. Engagement may resonate across the business, but it also resonates at a personal level.”
Like many organisations today, Aggregate is focused on cutting through barriers, sharing information and knowledge and enabling fellow employees to be more effective. Technology in isolation cannot drive a positive culture but, as this example shows, it can be instrumental in facilitating it.
James Roberts, pictured below, is organisation and human resources director at Aggregate Industries