If you’re a large company and feeling out of touch with your employees, you’re not alone. It’s tricky for any company, let alone those with hundreds of collaborators, to truly gauge levels of employee engagement, both at an individual and team level.


Increased visibility
on engagement at all levels
Autonomy for managers
to successfully govern their teams

As companies grow, it’s not uncommon for managers to lose proximate contact with their teams. With a need to focus on external growth, managers often neglect internal development, left to wonder if their workforce is remaining engaged and motivated, but not actually doing anything about it. The reasons for this can be numerous (lack of time, resources, money), but the output is often the same: low visibility on levels of employee engagement.

So, how can a leader of a large company, with hundreds of employees and dozens of teams, juggle their managerial responsibilities whilst also understanding individual needs, gauging team performance, and taking corrective measures to ensure high levels of motivation and productivity?

For EDF, it was during a seminar that this topic arose. Questions like “are we listening to our employees?” and “are we taking their opinions into consideration?” dominated the discussion. When companies find themselves asking these types of questions, it’s usually because the answer is no.

Led by Julien Gazel, Contract Manager at EDF, the French electricity giant embarked on a journey to provide their employees a means to express themselves, and off the back of that, a means for managers to listen. Situated at the crossroads of several subjects, the project went one step further: on the employee side: holistically improving engagement, and for managers: insights and autonomy.

EDF had a specific pre-requisite when looking for an employee engagement solution: accessibility diversity. Some EDF employees are field-based and as a result, do not have regular access to a computer or a professional email. Therefore, it was mandatory for EDF that Zest was accessible for every user, no matter their location. Gazel explains; “We chose Zest for two reasons: firstly, the simplicity and diversity of the features. Secondly: accessibility. Zest can be accessed both on desktop and on a mobile application, and this connection diversity is really important to us.”

We chose Zest for two reasons: firstly, the simplicity and diversity of the features. Secondly: accessibility. Zest can be accessed both on desktop and on a mobile application, and this connection diversity is really important to us.
Julien Gazel
Contract Manager, EDF

Building a management style around listening

With a newfound focus on understanding how their employees are feeling, managers at EDF embarked on their employee engagement journey with Zest. But a new question quickly arose: how can they boost employee engagement if they don’t know what the underlying issues for low engagement are?

This lack of information is the first obstacle to efficient and productive teams. To combat it, managers need to actively listen to their employees, then take action based on the results. To begin their engagement project, EDF launched Zest’s Mood module on a regular basis. On a scale of 0 to 5, employees can rate their Mood, giving EDF managers their first insight into levels of happiness and satisfaction, and the ability to track Mood evolution over time. Often used as a front-line indicator of how employees are feeling, the Mood module enables managers to listen to their teams and gauge a high-level view of engagement.

Then they hit a (common) hurdle: employee resistance. A reluctance to participate by employees is one reason companies fear adopting an engagement solution. Often viewed as a ‘surface project’, insincere or a quick fix, careful planning of the implementation phase is crucial to success. This can be achieved with clear company-wide communication of the reason behind, and benefits of, using an employee engagement solution, ensuring all levels of management are on-board, and actively analyzing and taking action on gathered insights (all of which our dedicated Customer Success team are here to help with).

Beyond the Mood module, EDF also use Zest’s Poll module to listen to their teams in a personalized way. This informal approach creates a sincere bond between the manager and the employee. In many cases, the development of hierarchical structures, whilst fundamental to running large companies, creates a communication chasm between managers and their teams. The Poll module is the occasion to breakdown these hierarchical divides, strengthen trust and improve communication. And it’s with frequent, transparent surveying that managers can know what corrective actions to implement – a virtuous circle!

Efforts to improve communication and take corrective measures reassures employees of the company’s commitment to the engagement project. For EDF, this meant creating new habits based around their use of Zest. For example, following a Poll, managers will transparently share the results with their workforce, both verbally and by email. This strengthens collective spirit by showing collaborators that their opinions have been received and analyzed, and by vowing to take action.

Another example of managers at EDF striving for seamless communication are in their actions when the Mood level is considered too low. Managers will promptly arrange see the individual concerned, striving to understand what is wrong and what action they can take to fix it. Once a month, department managers will gather to discuss the team-wide Mood level. As Gazel explains, these meetings “enable us to measure the evolution of the social climate within our department, which is very important for us.” 

A team-specific management approach

Another engagement avenue for EDF was to reinvent their approach to annual performance reviews. Beyond mere modernization (more frequent, easier execution, faster analysis), EDF wanted to empower their managers with more autonomy in their scope of work. Following a current top trend in management transformation, this idea abolishes the traditional approaches of a single ‘one size fits all’ strategy, decided at the top and imposed down company wide. It’s now proven that giving managers freedom to adapt a management approach tailored to their teams’ needs is a far better solution.

This profound change in EDF’s HR and Management approach was implemented by way of replacing their traditional annual performance reviews with Zest’s Check-in module. Completed monthly by both manager and employee, it prompts employees to share and reflect on professional wellbeing, work-life balance, recent achievements and disappointments, goal setting and skill development. Managers are then able to review, respond and react, gaining invaluable insight into true levels of employee engagement at both an individual and team-wide level, and empowering them to adapt their management approach to the needs of their teams.

Feedback for team success

Effective teamwork was the primary driver in EDF’s employee engagement strategy. Large companies, like EDF, by definition have many employees. To manage, these large numbers of employees are often broken down into smaller sections, which can quickly lead to the emergence of silos and collaborators feeling isolated, even though they are part of a team.

Creating cohesion within specific – and across multiple – teams is essential. Benefits of strong teams include improved quality of work, smoother collaboration, faster skill development, better internal communication, and a supportive working culture.

It’s following this logic that EDF started to use Zest’s Feedback and Idea modules. Asking employees’ opinions, and then taking no action, has no purpose except to potentially disengage employees even further.

Nothing is more frustrating than taking the time to give constructive feedback, only for it to fall into oblivion. With this in mind, EDF set out to enable employees to express themselves regularly, and to put that collected feedback to use. As explained by Gazel; “On a daily basis, Zest enables us to collect information and ideas from our employees and to take them into account”. Using Zest’s Idea module, the French electricity company regularly organizes a ‘call for ideas’ to gather as much insight as they can, whether it is about the evolution of the organization or new things employees would like to see implemented. Once gathered, managers and employees alike work together to find a solution.

On a daily basis, Zest enables us to collect information and ideas from our employees and to take them into account.
Julien Gazel
Contract Manager, EDF

Creating a company with high employee engagement hinges on many things. Ultimately it comes down to managers knowing where to take action. To put employees back at the center of business success, EDF made the decision to involve them more, primarily by listening to their opinions. Zest assists EDF in this quest by transforming employee feedback into actionable results. This approach, based on continuous feedback, is central to an effective working environment, where every employee can benefit from the management style he needs to thrive. There are as many management styles as there are managers, and as many guidance expectations as there are employees. The key is to create a continuous flow of feedback and alignment within – and across – teams.

EDF + Zest: spark still burning strong

One year on, and EDF’s desire to adapt their management strategies to better listen to their employees is an ongoing success. Increased engagement can be attributed to managers’ access to insights on mood levels, opinions, and their ability to take action based on real-time, hard data, tailored to the individual needs of employees and the teams they work in.

EDF’s working culture has evolved for the better, and team performance and satisfaction has increased. The investment of EDF’s management teams in this project is the primary reason for its success: by actively listening to employees, managers can make better decisions on actions to take, and team performance will improve.

After just a few months of improved employee engagement with Zest, EDF expanded their use of the solution into three locations in France, further proof of its success. Accompanying this comes a strong endorsement: “We definitely recommend Zest! Both internally, and to anyone external who is interested in this topic, we will happily recommend every feature of the solution”.

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