Sammons Financial Group Transforms Employee Engagement Strategy 

Employee Engagement Program Case Study

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Industry

Finance/Insurance

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Company Size

1,001-2,500

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Location

United States

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Solutions

Engagement and Pulse Surveys, Exit Surveys, Feedback, Recognition

Among Lowest Voluntary Turnover Rates

in the financial services industry

90+% Participation Rate

on engagement survey for four consecutive years

9 out of 10 SFG Employees

recommend the organization as a great place to work

The OverviewBronze-TM-Award-2021-01

In this employee engagement program case study, Sammons Financial Group transforms its engagement strategy, resulting in improved participation, ownership, and turnover.

The Company

A subsidiary of Sammons Enterprises, Sammons Financial Group (SFG) is a group of financial companies, including some of the most enduring and stable businesses in the industry.

The Company is dedicated to helping its customers enjoy life’s moments today, knowing that they’re financially prepared for the future because of SFG’s reliable life insurance, annuity, and retirement planning products.

As a privately held company, SFG’s leadership is consistently focused on long-term growth, making decisions that allow the company to deliver on its commitments to customers, distribution partners, communities, and employees.

As part of its commitment to employees, SFG strives to create an environment where employees not only want to come to work, but can grow professionally and personally for years to come.

The Background

SFG is heavily focused on establishing a “workforce of the future” and best-in-class workplace culture. The Company feels both are necessary to retain top talent in a competitive market. To support its efforts, the Company utilizes employee listening as part of its talent management strategy.

 

“Sammons Financial Group sees the annual engagement survey as a critical tool to help drive individual, team, and business success,” said HR Consultant, Jodi Beehler. “The company believes the more engaged employees are, the better outcomes they will achieve.”

 

SFG’s employee engagement initiatives began nearly a decade ago with the deployment of its first-ever engagement survey, using Quantum Workplace’s software. However, survey implementations were infrequent, happening only every two to three years. The HR team reviewed and shared the data, but there was little intentional commitment to action and individual ownership to drive engagement and strengthen culture.

Years later, when Beehler became the program leader, she said there was one big question:

 

“What are we actually doing to understand the employee voice?”

 

To better achieve this understanding, the Company realized employee voices needed to be captured more frequently to achieve a more accurate, timely view of employee sentiment. So, leadership agreed to shorten the cadence of the engagement survey to every 18 months.

SFG’s employee engagement efforts started gaining momentum. The Company saw an increase in engagement and stronger commitment to action. The progress led leadership to buy into an annual engagement survey. They understood that the current process still wasn’t perfect or as impactful as it could be. With an annual survey, the Company would gain a true year-over-year understanding of employee voices, and they could design annual commitments around this timing to better align with the opportunities uncovered in the survey data.

This movement to an annual engagement survey is supported by Quantum Workplace research that shows that more continuous listening strategies equate to higher engagement than those that survey less than one time per year. Plus, employees perceive more action and communication with continuous listening strategies1.

1. This Quantum Workplace Research Brief is derived from the panel study titled: Employee Surveys at Work (n = 1,406 employees; March 2021). The Quantum Workplace Research Panel is a national opt-in sample derived from the Best Places to Work contest.

The Goals

1) Participation

“For SFG, more participation in the annual engagement survey equates to more voices influencing how the company moves forward,” said Beehler. “High participation also helps ensure that the company is focusing on what matters most to its workforce.”

 

Because of this, one of the first goals the Company set out to achieve when the survey became an annual initiative was hitting a participation rate of 85%.

To help support this effort and enforce the importance of the employee voice, the Company branded its survey as The Voice of SFG. The Company created a logo, promotional material, and an entire communications plan to support the engagement program and messaging:

  • Share it – Employees are encouraged to share their feedback because it matters.
  • Own it – Employees have a part in owning engagement and finding solutions.
  • Act on it – The company doesn’t just implement the survey to collect data. Everyone commits to action based on the insights uncovered.

2.) Empower Ownership

As outlined in the survey branding effort, SFG really wants its entire organization to feel ownership over engagement initiatives and to be motivated to take intentional action based on the data. To support this, the Company develops areas of focus each year. These focus areas are goals/commitments that help align employee, team, and organizational priorities, and drive efforts to help increase employee engagement.

One year, the areas of focus developed from survey findings were:

1. Accountability for greater awareness

- Ask for and respond to feedback around organizational messaging
- Be accountable for what you want to know and who to ask or where to go
- Purposefully provide context and confirm understanding
 
2. Invest in yourself and others
- Development focused conversations in all directions
- Providing more regular feedback across the organization
 
3.Feeling valued
- Ongoing recognition efforts
- Purposeful connections between leaders and employees
 
“These areas of focus become ingrained in everything the organization does each year,” Beehler said. “They are integrated into goals, promoted in day-to-day communication, and are even considered when evaluating performance.”

 

 

To help with the decentralization of engagement from the HR function, SFG also partnered with its Culture Counsels – groups created at each SFG location comprised of full-time employees who offer front-line “counsel” to the company. The goal of this partnership is to:

  • Focus on building a strong culture across the organization across all physical locations
  • Build out initiatives that align back to the company’s overall engagement goals
  • Explore how employees keep shared values alive
  • Determine if and how employees feel valued
  • Assess how employees are connecting with one another

3.) Strategically Utilize the Survey Data

Prior to moving to an annual survey cadence, one of the challenges SFG faced was understanding how to best utilize the data. The Company realized there was potential to activate real change that mattered, so SFG made it a priority to ensure leaders received the data they needed on a more frequent basis and understood how to easily act on it.

Using the data more strategically also supported SFG’s heavy focus on establishing a “workforce of the future.” The company is always assessing whether it is moving in a direction that will provide a competitive edge in the years to come.

As part of this focus, the company assesses if employees are prepared to move along with its vision. Some of this vision alignment is evaluated through data in the engagement survey – looking at whether employees are highly engaged, feeling valued, and how performance is impacted. Like many of Quantum Workplace’s customers, this helps SFG drive employee, team, and business success. In fact, nine out of 10 customers report that Quantum Workplace contributes to its organization’s success2.

The survey data is also used to help the Company understand how it should pivot or where it needs to invest time and energy in the coming year. Data from the survey has helped inform strategies and programs in areas such as: employee development, recognition efforts, mentorships, and communication across the organization.

2. This statement is derived from Quantum Workplace’s 2021 Customer Experience Survey.

The Solution

To drive employee engagement to support employee and business success, Sammons Financial Group uses Quantum Workplace to:

  • Help the company build a competitive company culture
  • Easily uncover the areas of opportunity in which SFG can drive engagement
  • Empower employees to take ownership over engagement
  • Seamlessly provide leaders with people analytics they wouldn’t otherwise have to help them make informed decisions

 

 
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The engagement survey is a critical tool and not just an annual “to-do” task. Rather, engagement is a vehicle to drive organizational progress—it is embedded in everything the company does and at every level of the organization. It is a consistent and vital piece of Sammons Financial Group’s healthy, high-performing culture.

Jodi Beehler
HR Consultant
Sammons Financial Group

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