< Regulars | 08.03.2018

Constructive criticism

Constructive criticism

Debbie Mawer discusses how listening to staff criticism and learning from feedback can help your business to grow stronger.

The CEO of Claims Consortium Group, Jeremy Hyams, recounts his reaction to the results of the first official staff survey we did back in 2014. He and his fellow board directors were dismayed to learn that staff were not totally happy. They said they were not listened to, they did not fully understand their purpose, and they felt their path of progression within the company was limited.

We were successful – business was strong and staff were performing, statistically-speaking.

But that first survey was really painful. Mr Hyams loves chatting to staff and when we were a smaller business, he knew everyone personally. Through the years, as the company grew, he says the saddest day was realising he did not know everyone by name. We all took the results of the survey a little personally, that is for sure. But we reminded ourselves that we are not scared of failure and that we should use this as an opportunity to put things right. After all, why ask if you are not going to listen?


Fast forward to 2017. We have achieved Investors in People Gold, won a major industry award for ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ and we were ranked 46 in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For – an accolade indeed, given that the staff are the ones who influence this as they take part in anonymous surveys and questionnaires.

So what did we do right? We listened. We learned. And we responded.

Staff had told us they were not listened to, so we gave them a voice. Mr Hyams started coffee mornings – informal chats with small groups of staff. Our operations director Connie Beasley started what she calls ‘corridor chats’. She’ll stop and ask people: How are you doing? Are you okay? Is there anything you need?

We launched Evolve, our model for enabling people to follow the career path they want, instead of forcing them to move into management roles to progress.

And we launched ‘What really matters’, a set of values that define who we are and what we believe in. So now we have a common purpose and these values are truly instilled in us all.

We have done the survey again year on year and we have seen an amazing improvement. Staff are engaged and happy. But there is always more we can do. Criticism, like praise, is a form of communication. Enabling staff to give feedback can motivate them to perform better.

I think that having a voice is like a release. Like: ‘There I’ve said it now, so I can get on with my work’. It releases creativity and frees the person’s brain. Criticism for us is a tool for continued learning, and I honestly believe it is making our business stronger.

Debbie Mawer is director of people and culture at Claims Consortium Group


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