Foundry has been developing creative software for the Digital Design, Media and Entertainment industries for 25 years. Its software has been integral to the making of every visual effects Oscar-winning film for more than a decade. It employs over 300 people, is headquartered in London and has a footprint in the US, China, Japan, Australia and Europe.
Foundry clients and partners include major feature film studios and post-production houses such as Pixar, ILM, MPC, Walt Disney Animation, as well as automotive, footwear, apparel and technology companies such as Mercedes, New Balance, Adidas and Google.
Jessica Barlow joined Foundry in 2016 as an HR Business Partner, before becoming Chief People Officer at the company in 2022.
Challenge: Lack of ‘safe space’ for employee feedback
Despite its success, like many technology companies, Foundry was finding that it had high levels of attrition, particularly across its engineering teams.
While the company had some understanding of the factors impacting employee turnover through exit interview data, further context was needed to be able to reverse the trend.
“We had a People strategy in place, but it was based more on gut-feel and ad-hoc employee feedback than anything else,” says Jessica. “There was no structure in place to provide a ‘safe space’ for employees to provide anonymous feedback. Instead, the actions we were taking were based on our best guess of how employees were feeling and why. Any feedback we did gather was provided by a small number of people who were prepared to speak up and we couldn’t be sure that this was representative of the sentiment across the rest of the business. We knew we had to delve deeper in order to understand what we could do to improve the employee experience for our team and in turn, reduce attrition.”
Foundry looked at several employee engagement platforms to help solve this problem and felt that Culture Amp offered the best structure to support the process of listening to its employees, analysing what is being said and delivering actions to address these.
In March 2020, Foundry embarked on its first-ever employment engagement survey using Culture Amp.
To encourage participation, Foundry undertook a considerable amount of internal communications ahead of the survey going live. This included a comprehensive and thoughtfully put together FAQ document, reassurance that the feedback would be confidential and clarity on how the data would be used and shared within the organisation. This ground-work paid off, with Foundry seeing a staggering 91% participation rate on its initial survey.
The results showed that learning and development was one of the biggest areas of concern among employees. For example, just over half of those questioned (54%) agreed that there were good career opportunities for them at Foundry while only 55% said that they had access to the learning and development needed to do their jobs well.
Solution: Understanding employee concerns
Armed with the insight of knowing where to focus their energy, Jessica and her team launched a number of new initiatives which targeted learning, growth and career opportunities. These include:
- A revamped internal movement policy meant that any new job position is advertised internally. Where there are multiple candidates with similar skill sets and experience levels, a fair application process ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity in applying for the role. Unsuccessful candidates can then work with their manager on a robust development plan to prepare them for future opportunities.
- Development calibration sessions to bring leaders and managers of similar teams together to identify any synergies, prioritise development needs and come up with ideas that could be delivered as internal programmes supported by internal Subject Matter Experts.
- A hugely popular mentoring scheme that grew from an initial 20 pairings to 50 within the space of 12 months and the creation of Foundry Guilds - knowledge sharing groups that bring people with similar interests together to talk about best practices and challenges.
Foundry has also extended its use of Culture Amp to support performance at the organisation.
“Connecting people to both personal and team goals has really created a sense of purpose,” she adds. “They can see how their role fits into the bigger picture of what we are trying to achieve as a business and how this couldn’t be done without everyone’s individual contributions.”
Results: Impactful change and reduced attrition
Thanks to these new initiatives, in the space of a year, Foundry has already seen 15 internal moves, keeping much-valued experience and knowledge within the organisation.
However, the biggest indication that the new initiatives are having a positive impact can be seen through the data gathered when Foundry repeated the Culture Amp survey in April 2021.
Foundry’s overall engagement score increased by 11% between the March 2020 and April 2021 surveys.
The repeat data also found that the number of employees who agreed that there were good career opportunities for them at the organisation leaped by 12% and the number of people with access to the learning and development needed to do their jobs well rocketed by 20%.
Other notable findings include:
- Foundry is a great company for me to make a contribution to my development - a 14% increase from 2020 to 2021. My manager (or someone in management) has shown a genuine interest in my career aspirations (a 13% increase)
- I am given opportunities to develop skills relevant to my role (a 15% increase)
Most importantly, attrition rates at Foundry have reduced considerably. While Foundry acknowledges that the Covid crisis will have impacted attrition rates to some extent, the company firmly believes that it is the new learning and development changes that have had the greater impact in retaining people.
Subsequent surveys looking at, for example, Foundry’s response to Covid and working from home, wellbeing and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), have proved equally successful, with a minimum 85% participation rate.
Moving forward, Foundry plans to concentrate on continuing its work to further progress its learning and development offering, as well as building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture where employees feel psychologically safe and empowered to fulfil their potential. Employee engagement has now become one of Foundry’s core strategic objectives, with each senior leader expected to contribute at least one team initiative to support this.
“Changes don’t happen overnight,” adds Jessica. “Through Culture Amp, our people are telling us that they are feeling listened to, supported and that change is underway - creating a stronger feedback culture and sense of trust that action is being prioritised within the company. We now know a lot more about what is actually important to our people, not what we think is important and employee engagement is no longer seen as a People team issue but is owned by the entire business. Collectively, we are all making a meaningful difference.”