Imagine: a company where teams support and encourage each other on a daily basis. A positive working atmosphere, with a focus on employee engagement, is the most conducive way to improve business performance. But the path to productivity can be rocky, and cultivating the right culture can be tricky, even for fruit growing specialists.

Results

Creation of corporate rituals
based around Zest's solution
Goodbye annuals reviews
and hello to regular performance appraisals
80% employee adoption
even by non-digital natives

T&B Vergers is a company with 30 employees, growing and selling apples and pears into the French market. Striving to achieve a ‘happy culture’, the company wanted to shift from a traditional vertical hierarchy to a flatter structure where employees support each other and autonomy is paramount.

“We want to be here for one another, to actively listen to employees’ needs”, says David Varras, Founder of T&B Vergers. The benefits of a fulfilling working environment are no secret: employees treated with care and respect will in turn be invested in the business’ success. But the gap between wanting to make your company a great place to work and the implementation of concrete solutions can be vast. So, where to begin?

The answer: simply. Initially, T&B Vergers were looking for a solution to guide them in their transition towards a flatter organizational structure. Starting with a focus of benevolent management and an all-inclusive, positive work dynamic, this naturally extended into a wider employee engagement approach as their working culture evolved.

We employed Zest to support and achieve our initial project. Over time, Zest introduced us to other employee engagement measures which we now use daily, and probably wouldn’t have thought of ourselves.
David Varras
Company Manager at T&B Vergers

Built from employee exploration

Initiate a healthy dialogue within your teams: the Mood feature

One of the first actions that comes to mind when wanting to measure employee experience is to simply ask. Asking, and listening to, how a collaborator feels during their work day was the first actions T&B Vergers took when starting their employee engagement project. By submitting a rating between 0 to 5, Zest’s Mood feature is a fun, friendly and unobtrusive way to enable everyone to share their true feelings, daily.

The Mood feature has become the flagship module used daily at T&B Vergers. So much so, that it has become its own ritual. In the past, every employee clocked in when arriving to work, however this was quite opposing to the culture based on trust and freedom that the company wanted to establish. Therefore, T&B Vergers tailored their use of Zest to suit their own needs and established a new habit.

We decided to replace one ritual for another, the other one being Zest. Now, instead of clocking in, we submit our mood as soon as we get to work.
David Varras
Company Manager at T&B Vergers

This new ritual enables T&B Vergers to initiate constructive and informal dialogue with their teams in a light-hearted way. Creating a culture built upon trust has positive benefits on both working atmosphere and company performance.

Simplifying performance reviews: the Check-in feature

When an employee encounters an issue at work, the best thing for them to do is to let their manager know. But if everything was that easy, all teams would work in perfect harmony. In practice, it is often far more intimidating, and many employees are reluctant to tell their manager when something is wrong.

Before using Zest, dialogue at T&B Vergers was only officially initiated once a year via formal performance appraisal reviews. When issues arose, employees had the opportunity to converse with their manager, but only of their own accord. Hence constructive discussions were rare and performance reflection was limited to an annual event.

Since using Zest, T&B Vergers’ approach to performance reviews has rapidly evolved. Implemented every quarter, Zest’s Check-in feature replaces their annual appraisals. A Check-in will prompt employees – in four sections – to share and reflect on their professional wellbeing, work-life balance, recent achievements and disappointments, as well as setting goals and developing new skills.

Once a Check-in is submitted, answers are consolidated and selected employees gather in committees to discuss. The committees are composed of randomly designated individuals. In these meetings, we identify, reflect and discuss common topics, striving to find solutions together,” explains David Varras. By giving employees first-hand responsibility for improving company-wide topics, T&B Vergers are creating a culture built upon transparency, trust and ownership.

The benefits of a frequent, fast and modern approach to performance reviews has proved two-fold for T&B Vergers. Firstly, it better reflects their management style; everyone is heard, valued and able to share their thoughts. Secondly it has created a dynamic of cohesion and shared growth; performance reviews are submitted from an individual, but finding solutions and solving challenges is a collective approach.

Encouraging team work: the Poll module

The adaptability of Zest is evident in the way T&B Vergers tailors the solution to fit their business. The Poll feature, built to gather ideas, share opinions and generate a team consensus, has been established at T&B Vergers as yet another internal ritual.

Achieved via the Poll module, employees at T&B Vergers vote for the ‘Employee of the Month’: one coworker who deserves special recognition. Giving employees the freedom to share their opinions and feel heard is a top way to stimulate performance. Additionally, the mere act of recognizing a monthly top performer goes a long way on the employee engagement scale.

Using the Poll module is a channel for employees at T&B Vergers’ to support and motivate each another, acknowledging hard work, collective dynamics, and ultimately contributing to their culture of team work and shared success.

A solution that works

High-performing and motivated teams are the business dream. If a magic switch existed to instantly boost employee engagement, many companies would flick it without hesitation. But in reality, things are more complex. Engaging collaborators requires a commitment to professional development, an actively listening management team, a focus on teamwork and choosing the right employee engagement solution.

With a usage rate of around 80%, employees at T&B Vergers use the majority of Zest’s features on a daily basis. The team quickly adopted the solution and have even implemented their own business practices around it.

What is really positive is that our team want to use Zest on a daily basis. For example, just today one of our employees submitted a low mood. At T&B Vergers, if a submitted mood is below 2.5, we arrange a mandatory meeting with the concerned person to understand what is wrong and what corrective actions we can take.
David Varras
Company Manager at T&B Vergers

By providing valuable insights into levels of team engagement, managers at T&B Vergers are empowered to take action.

Their frequent use of Zest has nevertheless raised a challenge: even the best solution needs to be reflected in the company’s culture. At T&B Vergers, not everyone is tech-friendly, therefore establishing a training system for using Zest was imperative. David Varras specifies; “We’re very pleased because the solution is perfectly integrated in our working culture and daily management. When we hire someone new, it’s part of their onboarding to learn how to use Zest.”

Three years of adventure with Zest

So, what were the results after using Zest for more than three years? T&B Vergers have achieved the supportive and stimulating work atmosphere they strived for. Contrary to what many companies may fear, giving employees more freedom, autonomy and a work environment that suits them, leads to a virtuous circle of improved productivity and increased engagement.

The secret of this virtuous circle: listening, performing and sharing. Listening, via Mood submission, improving Performance, by implementing modern appraisal approaches, and Sharing through Ideas, Feedback and recognition, comprise as the key to strong, lasting employee engagement.

Constantly evolving with insights from valued customers, such as T&B Vergers, Zest is a solution built from real-world insights.

The solution grows with us: we benefit from every update, new feature or customer success communication. Zest is deeply entwined into our culture and management, and is an indispensable part of our HR approach.
David Varras
Company Manager at T&B Vergers

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Further Reading