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Sky Betting & Gaming was named Top Employer for Employee Engagement in workingmums.co.uk’s 2021 Top Employer Awards.
When the first lockdown happened in March 2020, Sky Betting & Gaming immediately recognised the importance of employee engagement.
The team got together to brainstorm and came up with the idea of having three different pillars to their approach to ensure it was holistic. “We thought about what people would need in the weeks after lockdown and what our response to the crisis would be. People were anxious and uncertain,” says Lucy Brown, Senior Internal Communications Executive at Sky Betting & Gaming. At the time the company was also dealing with having been acquired by Flutter at the time of the first lockdown.
Sky Betting & Gaming broke the pillars down into day to day life activities affecting their relatively young workforce. The average age of employees is 32, but many are parents who have faced childcare and homeschooling issues and some have been onboarded in the pandemic and have never worked in the office.
The pillars built on pre-pandemic initiatives that were in place before the pandemic, such as wellbeing champions, charity champions, linked to the company’s giving back partnership, and diversity and inclusion work streams such as a parents and carers group.
The pillars focus on physical wellbeing; mental wellbeing and social wellbeing [termed good vibes for the tribes]. The next challenge was to ensure people had what they needed and to work out how that fit under the different pillars. “The biggest challenge was keeping people informed,” says Lucy. Regular communications switched from weekly round-ups to daily news and regular newsletters. Managers checked in with staff regularly to find out what equipment and other support people needed.
The Workplace Operations Team led a project collaborating with the Enterprise IT team so employees could order any technical or desk equipment to be sent free of charge to their home. A Health at Home Hub provided information on working from home, including nutritional, physical and mental wellbeing advice and live workouts and meditation run by employees which also enabled employees to connect with each other.
Sky Betting & Gaming already focused on physical wellbeing before the pandemic, but adapted this to remote working, encouraging walking meetings, taking breaks to get fresh air and creating a sense of community. There were also employee-led physical engagement campaign such as ‘Miles for Macmillan’ and ‘Run for Your Mind’, a programme set up by an employee who used running to overcome his OCD, anxiety and depression.
As part of the social wellbeing pillar [good vibes for the tribes] and in connection with the company’s 20th birthday, Lucy was tasked with finding a format for a prize giveaway. She came up with a digital Wheel of Fortune, based on This Morning’s Spin to Win and particularly suitable for Sky Betting & Gaming, given the sector it is in. It has proved very popular. Hosted weekly by the Engagement Team, the computer selects five people to call at random and they spin the wheel. Prizes on offer have included holidays, wellbeing stays and shopping vouchers.
They also hosted a family edition for Halloween where children were invited onto the call to win exciting prizes with their parents. “It’s all about trying out new things,” says Lucy. One employee commented: “I’m not sure who organises Wheel of Fortune, but I’d like to pass on my thanks. I have been shielding from corona since March, and it hasn’t been much fun, but Wheel of Fortune cheers me up every single week!”
To promote social interaction between senior leaders and remote workers, the Leadership Team hosted a live weekly Q&A where employees could ask anything from getting to know them better through to business performance and the company’s Covid response. They also created Slack communities including ‘#SBGCribs’ and ‘#goodnewsonly’ where employees could share their own content.
On mental wellbeing, a wellbeing hub was created to give employees advice and support for them and their family in one place. This included access to the Unmind mental health app for an employee and a friend, to the Employee Assistance Programme and to Time to Talk podcasts which aim to reduce the stigma around mental health. A range of expert speakers spoke on different wellbeing issues and employees shared their own stories on topics such as grief and loss.
The Leadership Team allowed everyone an additional monthly ‘wellbeing day’ if they needed it and implemented ‘no zoom’ afternoons. In September 2020 the company reopened the office in a Covid safe way for cohorts of 40 people for people who needed to return for their own well being. Everyone was given a welcome pack with a mask and hand sanitiser. This lockdown employees were also given the opportunity to return in small numbers.
Lucy says that recognising individual employees’ different mental health issues and signposting to support while also focusing on positive initiatives has been important. She says: “We need to strike the right balance between positivity and realism. We are very positive and innovative as a business and we always put our people first, but we want people to feel comfortable about expressing themselves if they don’t feel positive. For us it’s about doing something that is valuable for our people rather than something tokenistic.”
After Christmas, for instance, recognising people were feeling overwhelmed by lockdown and needed a break, Sky Betting & Gaming blocked out people’s diaries between 12 and 1pm to ensure they could take a lunch break. “That was really successful,” says Lucy. “It meant a lot to people. More than a wellbeing hamper.”
Focusing on community action is also a way to raise spirits and make a difference. Lucy looks after Sky Betting & Gaming’s giving back partnership which was with Macmillan in 2020/21. She organised several virtual events including virtual bake-alongs, coffee mornings and quizzes to raise money during the year in addition to the Miles for Macmillan event, raising £37,000 in total in 2020.
The company also supported other local charities through its ‘virtual volunteering programme’ where employees get 15 hours off to use their skills to work on impactful projects. Throughout Covid, the marketing team have, for instance, built a social media campaign for a local charity and the company’s tech teams have built apps for charities who lack access to technical expertise.
In recognition of some of the small acts of kindness employees had shown in the pandemic the company initiated a Community Heroes campaign where employees could nominate each other, receiving personalised recognition from the company’s CEO.
Lucy says Sky Betting & Gaming has been able to be very agile and adapt to change by putting its people first. By holding back bonuses, the employer was able to ensure that no-one got furloughed or made redundant during the pandemic, meaning everyone was on full pay.
Usually employees receive a £1,000 per-person learning fund to support their personal growth. This had to be paused due to Covid and the Skills and Development Team responded with innovative L&D opportunities, such as an on demand ‘Personal Growth Hub’, live Tech talks and live workshops to support managers with working from home challenges.
The three pillars have also evolved over the course of the pandemic and Lucy says they will remain in place after the pandemic with a focus on ensuring any activities are inclusive for hybrid workers. Work on inclusion has been ramped up during the pandemic. The company has hired a Head of Inclusion and Inclusion Lead who have built and delivered Sky Betting & Gaming’s first Inclusion Strategy. The Leadership Team has also created and signed a Pledge on inclusion and the company has launched an Inclusion Podcast and held live panel events on subjects such as ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ and ‘Virtual Pride’.
Lucy says that keeping in touch is vital for ongoing employee engagement, particularly given that its working group on future ways of working is planning for what happens once Covid eases. The company keeps in touch through OfficeVibe, a weekly plus survey which provides real time feedback and allows the HR team to trial things and tweak policies. It also has a staff forum called the Commentary Box whose 25 representatives from the 16 areas of the business used to meet once a quarter.
During lockdown this provided a two-way feedback forum between leaders and staff so everyone was able to understand what the issues were and what was happening in different parts of the business. “That helped us to shape our approach going forward,” says Lucy.
Throughout the pandemic the company’s overall engagement score has increased – up from 7.4 in January 2020 to 7.7 by the end of the year. Lucy says: “We are incredibly proud to have not only maintained the engagement of our employees, but actually increased it despite all of the challenges we have faced in 2020.”
*This profile and a related case study appear in the workingmums.co.uk’s Best Practice Report 2021, which is published this week. You can download it for free. More information here.