Southern Water Case Study
Southern Water is a key employer in the South East of England, with approximately 1,700 people working across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. With headquarters in Worthing, West Sussex, the company also has offices in East Sussex, Hampshire, and Kent, as well as additional operational sites throughout the region.
Within its regulatory environment it is essential that Southern Water drives optimum performance from its people, yet the company had long recognised that performance management was an area in need of vast improvement.
PlusHR was selected to develop a new performance management framework that would help drive individual, functional and organisational performance, and optimise the remuneration costs of the business. A project entitled ‘Performance Excellence’ was born, with the objective of designing and implementing a best practice performance management approach with accompanying tools, engagement plan and process.
Working closely with Southern Water’s HR and senior leadership teams, we used our established performance factors methodologies to quickly understand the challenges, culture and desired outcomes for the wider business. A number of one-to-one meetings were held with key stakeholders, as well as reviewing previous employee opinion survey data and carrying out external research to benchmark best practice.
Having identified the strengths and limitations of the current practice, a completely new approach for performance management was created. This involved going back to basics and focusing on a regular conversation between employees and their line managers. The process was documented in a straightforward, simple way to ensure it did not inhibit open discussion, and a programme of development opportunities – centred on coaching and experiential learning – was formed to support the process and help increase both the confidence and ability of employees. To ensure consistent application of performance measurement across the business, a validation process was introduced, aiming at aligning individual and organisational performance, and linking performance with pay and bonus structures.
Recognising that an effective strategy cascade was a key success factor, a workshop concept known as Making Connections was developed. This four-hour workshop was designed to remind and re-educate employees about the company goals, targets and values, and the programmes and projects that were established to deliver them. As part of the workshop, employees were helped to establish their own aligned, relevant and robust individual objectives, as well as being given the opportunity to understand the goals and targets of other functions with a view to building cross-functional relationships. Comprehensive facilitation packs for these workshops were provided to Southern Water, enabling it to deliver this process year-on-year, driving continuous improvement.
The project is in the early stages of implementation, but already Southern Water is seeing a positive impact. The ‘Making Connections’ workshops have cascaded throughout the business and employees across the board are now more aware of company targets and values. Feedback suggests that they feel more engaged and involved in the organisation as a result, and can see how they are able to contribute to future organisational success.
The leadership team in the organisation are committed to the process, and have ensured that time is allocated within their functions to set robust and meaningful objectives. Initial reactions about the process have been extremely positive; managers are keen to start using it as the next round of performance review is initiated.
PlusHR worked closely with the Southern Water team to provide invaluable advice and support, which has enabled us to implement the first phase of this project successfully, within the agreed timescales and within the allocated budget. We found real benefit in having a consultant, who understood our needs and who could come up with new and innovative ideas to stretch our thinking. We also benefitted from our consultant acting as an independent and skilled facilitator to assist in the co-ordination of activities between different work streams within HR, and in other areas of the business. We are likely to call upon PlusHR’s support again in the move to Phase 2, entailing the up-skilling of selected managers and the provision of coaching supporting to the business.
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