How to engage a segmented workforce
The Parks Trust in Milton Keynes shows that even the most segmented workforce can be inspired to love where they work.
Would you find it more challenging to make your colleagues feel engaged if they only worked part time? What if some of them worked miles from your main office, or worked seasonally, or were employed by a separate subsidiary company?
How about all of the above?
Now you have an idea of the employee engagement challenges faced by The Parks Trust, the charity that looks after Milton Keynes’ parks, lakes and woodland.
Uniting a segmented workforce
Some of the Trust’s 75 permanent members of staff are office-based, while others work across the city’s 6,000 acres of green space. An additional 90 people work for subsidiary company Whitecap Leisure, primarily during the busy summer months. Then there’s the Trust’s volunteers – 200 in total – all of whom need to be kept informed and motivated.
It may sound like a textbook example of a segmented workforce, but The Parks Trust has (to use a horticultural pun) grasped the nettle with a proactive approach to employee engagement. Strategies include:
Onboarding – every employee undergoes a three-week induction programme, spending time with colleagues in every department and meeting face-to-face with CEO David Foster.
Communication – regular team meetings ensure information is shared properly. The Trust’s open-plan offices and preference for face-to-face communication over email creates a culture where people feel comfortable speaking to managers and senior leaders directly.
Ongoing development – all permanent employees are encouraged to keep learning and developing – most attend seminars, trade shows and training courses in their particular field and several have gained professional qualifications with the help of the Trust. A Landscape and Forestry training programme provides on-the- job training for people wanting to break into a career in landscape or forestry.
Having fun – the Trust’s social committee organises quizzes, days out, team lunches and family days for the workforce.
Different needs; a common approach
Despite its diverse workforce, the Trust says they don’t have to engage different people in different ways. Its employee engagement strategies are applied to all roles and functions, from park rangers to receptionists, biodiversity officers and IT experts.
Jennifer Harris, HR Manager, explained: “We don’t find that we have to ‘work harder’ to engage people who work primarily in the parks.
“To us, engagement is about everybody feeling involved. There are always challenges. No organisation is ever perfect, but in my experience of working here, we do acknowledge and respond to things rather than brushing issues under the carpet.”
Does it work?
According to The Parks Trust’s employees, yes.
Joanna Jervis, Community Ranger, said: “I consider myself extremely lucky to work in a great place for a great company! I really feel like I can express myself at the Trust and work with a diverse and interesting team of people.”
And the evidence isn’t only anecdotal. The Trust carries out annual surveys to check whether its employees love where they work. Its most recent survey found that 67% of respondents found working for the Trust to be extremely or very fulfilling, while 26% said they were moderately fulfilled (an improvement from the previous survey).
David Foster, CEO, said: “People here have a lot of pride in what we do.
“We’re here to improve the quality of people’s lives. That includes the people who work here.”