How Bristow & Sutor tune into their employee voice

Megan Thompson · March 29, 2021


Bristow & Sutor, based in Redditch, Worcestershire, is an enforcement agency with over 42 years experience in the collection of Council Tax, Non-Domestic Rates and Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) on behalf of local authorities and Government departments across England and Wales.

The company is at the forefront of technological innovation, utilising behavioural science and integrated real-time software, including an award-winning Debtor Portal and routing technology, to optimise results and reduce carbon footprint.

The Bristow & Sutor Group, comprising Bristow & Sutor, Debt Recovery Plus (DRP) and Credit Style provides an ethical, compliance-focused and high-quality service to the public and private sectors. The business lives its core values of accountability, transparency, respectfulness and integrity.

Kim Parsons, Group Employee Experience Manager, acts as a custodian of the employee experience across the B&S Group. She aims to establish an employer brand that instils pride and advocacy and establishes the Group as an employer of choice.
Her passion is embedding an engaging culture that supports the health, wellbeing and personal development of all employees, whilst driving high performance standards – all underpinned by an effective employee communication strategy.

A key part of this role is to develop and deliver an engagement proposition that measures, actions and monitors the employee experience across the Group, making it a great place to work. WeThrive is a big part of this and the data provided offers invaluable insight into how B&S’s employees are feeling so that they can quickly act to improve their work experience wherever possible.

Over to Kim …

At Bristow & Sutor, we understand how important it is for all employees to have a voice. Like many businesses, we want to shout about the things that are working well across our Group but also address areas where there is room for improvement. Two-way communication is really important and we are always looking for innovative ways to foster conversations and encourage employees to make their opinions known.

We have made strides across our business in recent years to be more data-driven and this also applies to HR, where modern and forward-thinking models of best-practice aim to equip managers with the type of insight and tools needed to act quickly and efficiently. This is the next step in the ongoing evolution of our commitment to a happy and healthy work environment.

Sophisticated technology and thinking

Last year we began a partnership with WeThrive, who are very much aligned with our own ethos, who use software and their 4C model to drive conversations around the human elements of working life. We are then able to use these findings throughout the organisation to make positive changes, safeguard employee wellbeing, improve productivity and continuously improve the experience of our employees at work.

We have recently launched an anonymous WeThrive survey that will remain available until the middle of March and will provide us with valuable insight into how Bristow & Sutor Group employees feel. This will influence what we can do to improve work experiences individually but also recognise where things are working well, so we can celebrate success and share best practice for future reference.

Once our survey closes, the anonymous results will be reviewed by managers and HR and action plans will be developed. The results will allow us to focus action where it’s needed most, whether that’s communication, skills development, team bonding or any other aspect of working life. The survey results will also allow us to focus health and wellbeing support where it’s needed most. We understand that implementing a successful change operation is about more than just listening, it is about acting.

We genuinely want to understand how our employees are feeling within our business so we can use that honest information to tailor future initiatives at the earliest opportunity. We may not be able to address every issue that is raised right away, but these are positive steps towards our ambitions and goals.

What have we already learned?

We have previously run surveys on topics such as health and wellbeing before expanding this into our current initiative, which is now designed to provide a snapshot of all aspects of working life. The results from these previous communications were encouraging and as well as looking to build on areas where we scored highly, we ensured we looked at the lower scoring areas to see where we can make improvements too. One outcome of this was the return of our suggestion box, which we are delighted to say is regularly engaged with and we hope will continue to provide useful and unique suggestions.

We ran a Health & Wellbeing survey last June as we wanted to understand what we could do to better support our employees during the pandemic. Many of us were feeling the effects of lockdown and we wanted to be able to pinpoint exactly where we could provide support quickly. We expected some challenges to come out of the results but we were also pleased to see that staff felt that the response to the pandemic was being handled well and that Leadership were making decisions in the best interests of all employees. We responded to feelings of isolation with more frequent catch-ups, informal ‘drop-in’ sessions and 121s organised across the group. This included more use of MS TEAMS and RingCentral where available, regular group comms to all employees including The Buzz (fortnightly and ‘takeover’ editions) and a Social Team being set up. We have continued regular communications from the Group Leadership team and remained as transparent as possible with communications at all times.

Beyond coronavirus responses, access to health and wellbeing support has been made more prominent recently, including a new Employee Assistance Programme being rolled out across the Group, a wellbeing app and resources made available to all staff and the number of Mental Health First Aiders increased. Mental Health was high on the agenda of many survey responders, so we ensured e-learning on the topic was available for all employees and training was provided for Line Managers specifically on managing mental health and supporting their teams.

Leadership and Partnership

Before my time at Bristow & Sutor, I saw many positive results achieved for the benefit of staff at companies who similarly committed to making employees heard. In every instance where this has been the case, change has been implemented soon after the thoughts of staff have been shared. We are taking employee voices seriously and looking for ways to improve relationships by gaining feedback then acting on it in a fast, responsive and user-friendly way. Wherever possible, we also want to involve staff in suggesting ways to address any issues through the use of focus groups and team sessions. Our latest survey should only take around ten minutes to complete, but will influence our processes for months and years to come.

Bristow & Sutor have been delighted with the partnership with WeThrive so far and continues striving to provide the best service possible while committing to its ethos of Cool, Calm and Collected.

Kim Parsons, Bristow & Sutor Group Employee Experience Manager says:

“I am delighted to say that these efforts have the full backing of the Bristow & Sutor Group leadership team, who have made it clear they value and want involvement in these initiatives at every level. This is a partnership opportunity that must be contributed to by all if it is to lead to the most useful and successful outcomes possible.”

Kim Parsons
Group Employee Experience Manager