· 2 min read · News

HR Excellence Awards 2012 – Outstanding Employee Engagement Strategy: AmicusHorizon


In a fiercely contested category that received the most entries of all, picking a winner was always going to be tough. But AmicusHorizon’s story – what it described as going from ‘woe to wow’ – gripped the judging panel and gained it the top prize.

Taking a housing association in the grip of a financial crisis, with the consequent poor morale, poor performance and hugely cynical employees, and persuading said staff there was not only a future, but also a successful future, was a tall order. But AmicusHorizon CEO Steve Walker (pictured above, addressing the troops) and his crack strategic executive team did the two things so few senior managers genuinely do: they asked employees what they thought the barriers to doing a good job were and how they would define 'great'. And they listened.

Each member of the staff was involved in shaping the future of the business. And the strategy was developed by harnessing staff commitment: a perfect circle that created trust and openness, motivated staff and created a culture of respect and accountability.

This was a comprehensive engagement strategy, not a one-off programme. It engaged staff through investment in skills and world-class training, showing AmicusHorizon valued and appreciated them. The charity invested more than £1,000 per employee, utilising everything from professional actors to Mary Gober and her language of customer service. L&D engagement groups were established.

An adversarial union group turned into the Partnership Forum, engaged in putting things right. Niggling inconsistencies were aired and dealt with positively.

People engagement groups (PEGs) were also set up, the first ones reviewing HR policies, benchmarking and benefits. All four senior executives led from the front. Staff satisfaction improved, people felt committed and optimistic, they understood the values and believed leaders were performing. All the metrics showed a huge leap in engagement.

The judges loved the accessible language being used, the story-telling approach and how the executive team had put engagement right at the heart of the business. The impact has been impressive, on staff, customers and the business overall: satisfaction in handling complaints is up from 57% to 92%, empty homes are let twice as fast as they were before, rent arrears are down and days lost to staff absence are down, from 7.07 to 5.16.

But this is not the end of the story. AmicusHorizon's staff are now shaping the three-year strategic plan and setting the next round of Big Hairy Goals.

Highly Commended


Parcel delivery company DPD employs 4,500 people in the UK and delivers one million parcels a week. With a turnover of £327 million, its aim is to be number one in the domestic express parcel market by 2015. In 2011, DPD took a big step towards this by winning £50 million of new business (64% up on 2010), increasing turnover and profits in a depressed market. DPD puts this down to its biggest-ever employee engagement programme, resulting in a 5% rise in employee satisfaction, efficiency gains of £10 million, driver retention up from 65% to 75% and productivity up 7% year on year. Judges said DPD was a "standout" in its market.


• Arriva UK

• Hastings Direct

• Merlin Entertainments

• Red Door Communications

• Sainsbury's

Sponsored by Mercer