Wave is an award-winning national water retailer that helps more than 300,000 businesses navigate the open water market in England. To achieve its business goals, facilitate employee feedback, and create a culture that drives continuous performance, Wave turned to Culture Amp.
Wave offers water and wastewater services to small- and medium-sized businesses across the UK. Founded as a joint venture between two experienced water retailers in 2017, the company now employs 359 full-time employees who are committed to influencing change in the market.
Mandy Rutherford, the Learning & Development Manager at Wave, is responsible for aligning the company’s employee training programs with its overarching goals, values, and vision. Since joining Wave in 2017, she leverages her experience as a coach and mentor to put a personal touch on employee development. But in July 2022, Mandy and her team realized that creating a culture of transparency, feedback, recognition, and continuous performance would require merging high personalization with a technology-forward approach.
Challenge: Clearly communicating company goals and systematizing feedback to enhance employee performance, achieve business objectives, and sustain success.
Prior to implementing Culture Amp, Wave was issuing paper forms to collect feedback from employees as part of their annual performance review.
When it came time to complete the form, employees who recorded their challenges and achievements throughout the year often misplaced their notes, leaving them with few insights to add. Others tried to remember the year’s major milestones but simply couldn’t. While managers and employees often exchanged praise, Wave didn’t have a systematic way to track it, which meant it was typically forgotten about. As a result, managers sometimes struggled to conduct fully informed performance reviews with their employees.
“There was no easy way to audit an employee’s performance or look at common themes,” Mandy said. “Things got missed and lost. The manual process was slow and inconsistent, preventing us from comparing performances across functions in a timely fashion.”
The challenges of Wave’s performance process also came into play when employees were tasked with reviewing their supervisors.
“Offering feedback to someone who has a more senior position than you is already difficult. Offering constructive feedback is even harder. We wanted to replace that fear and confusion with trust and confidence,” said Mandy.
At the time, only 30 to 50% of employees submitted employee feedback forms for their performance reviews. Despite a well-established culture of thoughtful and dedicated employees, the lack of communication was derailing meaningful opportunities to drive performance and employee growth.
In short, Wave needed a new, seamless solution to systematize feedback, open the lines of communication, and further inspire its workforce.
Solution: Launch Culture Amp to develop a culture of continuous performance through feedback and recognition
Wave understood that facilitating meaningful feedback was not only in sync with its core values, it was critical to creating a culture of performance that would move the company forward. With the right system in place, employees could engage in behavior-changing discourse with managers, find purpose in their positions, and succeed professionally alongside the company.
Of course, adopting a new solution needed to integrate with the company’s existing culture and processes, too. That’s when Wave replaced its paper-based process with Culture Amp.
To get started, Wave used Culture Amp’s Goal Management feature to set objectives for the performance year, offering transparency to employees, managers, and leadership teams.
“Now, everyone knows what the focus and direction is for the company,” Mandy explained. “We can make sure that our corporate goals align with our employees’ goals, so they can understand that what they’re delivering works in tandem with what we’re doing at the leadership level.”
With access to Culture Amp’s performance management tools, Mandy and her team also found a more practical approach to conducting 1-on-1s. Instead of collecting paper-based feedback once a year, managers began using Culture Amp to schedule regular meetings with employees, track their goals and key results, analyze their wellbeing on a sliding scale, invite them to offer continuous feedback, and engage them in more personalized conversations. In turn, managers had more data and a stronger process in place to prescribe specific solutions for each employee, help employees course correct in real time as needed, and drive meaningful change across teams.
“If I see an employee’s sliders move up or down, I can tell they have a problem or health issue that is affecting their performance, which helps me ask the right questions,” Mandy said. “This helps our employees feel more comfortable, so a performance review is less like a to-do list and more like a safe space. The 1-on-1s have been the biggest hit with everybody.”
Wave employees also use Culture Amp’s agenda-setting function to set the framework for their 1-on-1 conversations with managers. Now motivated by a strong sense of ownership, employees are able to lead conversations that help them address their needs, recognize their manager’s expectations, and overcome challenges.
“It doesn’t feel like the manager is running the meeting. It feels like they both have equal input to the conversation, plus it’s confidential,” Mandy said.
To accurately and fairly assess performance, Wave also implemented Culture Amp’s Calibrations feature, allowing managers to:
- Customize a timeline for the company’s financial year from April to the end of March.
- See how employees measure up against the company’s corporate values.
- Analyze these values/results across the entire company.
- Use the results to recommend employees for a performance-based bonus.
“The Calibration feature has been amazing. I know my colleagues in HR and payroll have a much easier time making critical business decisions because they’re based on fairness and transparency.”
Results: Time savings, a more effective and highly personalized 1-on-1 process, behavior-changing conversations, and close alignment between company and employee goals
According to Mandy, implementing a culture of continuous performance with Culture Amp has made a significant impact on Wave employees’ ability to speak up, establish desired outcomes, and reassert themselves as top performers.
The extent to which Wave employees have embraced the company’s new performance culture is evident in the numbers: more than three-quarters of employees actively use Culture Amp on a weekly basis to do something meaningful to contribute to its advancement and success.
It’s also impacting employees on an individual level. Mandy remembers one employee who – through thoughtful 1-on-1s and continuous feedback – made both a major personal and professional breakthrough.
“There was an employee who showed up every day and matched our values completely, but they had some issues with confidence and anxiety. We were able to have a conversation, offer specific feedback, and pinpoint areas of development – and now they’ve been promoted. That is a success,” Mandy said.
Mandy and Wave’s leadership team still meet every two weeks to discuss the corporate goals they track through Culture Amp and determine whether the company is on track to achieve them.
“We’ve set our performance goals in Culture Amp, so we know where we’re going. And we know the way to get there is by creating more open, transparent, and honest feedback. Culture Amp is helping us do that,” Mandy said.
One year after implementing Culture Amp, Wave has not only transformed its culture, it saved time with performance management tools that eliminate manual admin work and drive positive employee behavior with actionable feedback.
Before Culture Amp, Wave was only able to collect meaningful performance feedback for 30 to 50% of employees. After replacing its paper-based system with Culture Amp, 100% of employees were accounted for – a 233% increase. Meanwhile, Wave reduced performance review completion times from 30 days to just two.
As the company continues to grow, it looks forward to building on the benefits of a culture that empowers its employees.
“After using Culture Amp for one year, we’ve started to develop a culture of continuous feedback and performance. Now we have a clearer picture of what we need to do next and how we need to do it,” Mandy said.