How Reach Kept Employees Engaged During An Organizational Restructure

Ross Brooks
How Reach Kept Employees Engaged During An Organizational Restructure

Reach is the largest commercial news publisher in the UK. Their portfolio of publications across print and digital, including the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and OK! Magazine, form an essential part of everyday life for millions of people across the country.

The media landscape is always changing, with publishers having to adapt to changing consumer behaviour and the increasing rise of digital. Reach has needed to respond to these changes both in terms of its business model and its approach as an employer.

As part of their new strategy, the group acquired the Express & Star for £200 million, which resulted in large scale restructuring and a complete rebrand of the organization. This raised questions about how to maintain the company’s culture and keep people engaged during times of uncertainty.

Bryony Duff, Head of Employee Engagement at Reach, shares her story. She has been working closely with managers and senior executives to ensure the successful integration of the two brands, and has been able to use the insights provided by Peakon to introduce new initiatives across the business.

Asking for feedback during times of uncertainty

We’ve been using Peakon since 2016, when we were still known as Trinity Mirror. It’s something that I took a personal interest in when it first launched, and has helped to create more awareness about employee engagement across the business.

The media industry is already in a state of constant change, but in 2018 we made the decision to acquire the Express & Star, which left employees with many questions. Many staff wanted to know what the acquisition meant for their future, and the future of the business.

Prior to announcing the acquisition we did a lot of work to analyse the results from our Peakon survey – which was already running monthly – to assess which areas of the business to prioritize. We wanted to show people that we were using their feedback to inform strategic business decisions and address their concerns in real time.

Peakon allowed us to clearly see the positive results of areas where we spent effort and attention, and equally, to see that areas with less attention failed to improve.

By the time the acquisition was complete, we were already starting to see improvements in our Peakon scores for growth, strategy and organizational fit – despite the fact there were still a lot of unanswered questions. This helped to provide a solid foundation for the restructure, and gave us an opportunity to get more buy-in from senior executives.

Bringing the employee voice into the boardroom

Shortly after we acquired the Express & Star, Simon Fuller, our current CFO, joined the business. He was passionate about employee engagement, and wanted to make sure that employee feedback was a central part of how strategic decisions were being made.

This also coincided with recent changes to the UK Corporate Governance Code, which requires the directors’ reports of all UK companies and corporate groups with more than 250 UK employees to enhance the presence of the employee voice in the Boardroom.

As a result, one of the board members nominated herself to take ownership of engagement, which sent a clear message to the business.

We now share a summary of our engagement results with the board on a quarterly basis, which are discussed as part of their meeting, and gives us a lot more support for new initiatives.

Having the support of senior executives has created more accountability around employee engagement and ensured that it is ingrained across all levels of the business – which is really powerful.

Creating new growth opportunities across the business

Now that we’ve successfully integrated the two businesses, we want to look towards the future, which relies on keeping people engaged and retaining our best talent. In particular, we wanted to create more opportunities for people to progress within the organization, and equip all of our employees with the skills to succeed throughout their career.

This was something that was very clear in our Peakon scores. Alongside strategy and organizational fit, we were able to identify growth as a current priority. It’s also the area where we’ve seen the most improvement since our restructure.

For more experienced employees, our Learning and Development team have introduced our Leaders of the Future programme, which is aimed at people that want to move into more senior positions. It runs over two years and gives managers an opportunity to work to develop skills and expertise in different departments. We’re aware that not everyone can progress within Reach, so we also provide support to people who might be looking for their next role in another organization.

During the assessment process for the Leaders of the Future programme, we identified a group of five females through our talent assessment process who all had similar development needs. Their needs weren’t being met by the Springboard programme, but they weren’t senior enough for the Leaders of the Future programme. In order to fill that gap, our Learning and Development team created the Bridge, which was designed specifically for them.

Keeping People Engaged For The Next 100 Years

Since we first started using Peakon, it has become a guiding light for how our people are feeling. Even during a restructure, in an organization that’s being turned on its head, we’ve been able to strengthen our culture and identify ways to improve engagement.

For the board in particular, it’s become an important point of discussion during their meetings. It signals to the organisation that engagement matters at the highest level, which means people can feel confident their feedback is being acknowledged and actioned.

We want to be around for another 100 years, and we’re confident that if we put our people first, we’ll be able to succeed as an organization, regardless of how the industry changes.