Scout24 is a publicly traded operator of digital marketplaces specializing in the real estate and automotive sectors in Germany and other selected European countries. It was founded in 1998 and has 1200 employees based in Munich (Headquarter) and Berlin, Germany as well as in Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. In June 2018, Scout24 was listed in the MDAX (a Stock index that lists German companies).
Change in company ownership drove operational, management and cultural change
In 2013, a private equity company took over the majority stake in Scout24 from Deutsche Telekom. This change brought in a new management team, company culture, and operational model. The company went through a rapid transition- from a group subsidiary to an agile digital organization- in a short period of time. Two years later, Scout24 went public and was listed on SDAX (a stock market index composed of 50 small and medium-sized companies in Germany). All these changes caused friction, dissatisfaction, and insecurity, but there was no measurement in place to identify what really caused the symptoms. Without any data point, the HR, the senior executives, and the employees couldn’t hold objective conversations about these issues.
Selecting and implementing a solution
Choosing a SaaS employee engagement solution vs hiring consultants
Jesko Schaefermann, Scout24’s VP of People and Culture says, “We were driving our own digital transformation initiative and we felt there must be a better way in collecting employee engagement data than the patchwork process of designing surveys in isolation, sending out one-off surveys and waiting 6 months to define potential actions. We wanted a solution that gave us quick access to our data as well as other relevant benchmarks.”
The on-demand and collective intelligence features of Culture Amp platform were important in Scout24’s decision, but there was one more reason that guided them. Jesko explains, “An HR consultancy has the toolkit to execute an engagement survey for you, but, it’s normally not the topic they get most passionate about. With Culture Amp, it’s different: The folks there are really living this engagement topic and love it. They match that passion with a product that’s grounded in people science; I think this is what caught the attention of our management as well as at the People Team.”
Building a sense of urgency by promptly sharing the survey results
Jesko says “Everyone understood the need for data around employee engagement and was really eager that something should come … even the first time we ran the survey, we didn’t need a ton of reminders for employees to complete it. Our first participation rate was around 75% and the next one increased to 86%”. Jesko believes that encouraging employees to participate in the first survey was part of the initiative, but the important task was maintaining the momentum by shortening the time between sending the survey and communicating the results. This approach made people see the value right away and feel the company’s sense of urgency around areas of improvement. The first time, it took them around 8 weeks to bring the results to the staff, because they had to decide how they should share the data. Next round, it took them significantly less time. “We closed the survey on a Friday and the next Monday, we presented the high-level results to the executive leadership team. We prepped the managers in a week or so and it took another week before holding a meeting with all the staff”, Jesko says.
Preparing the managers for their employees’ engagement results
After the first survey, every manager with a large team (10 or more people) went through prep workshops. The People Team walked them through what the data meant, but made sure they didn’t feel they were left alone in dealing with the results. Next, the People Team focused on potential actions for each manager and gave a framework of questions to discuss with their teams.
“Having managers present their own results versus HR, makes a lot of difference. We do that by giving the managers access to the right tools and empowering them to do the right thing,” says Jesko Schaefermann, VP of People and Culture at Scout24.
By sharing the data transparently and giving the managers the right tools to work with their teams, Scout24 helped them show leadership which was well received by the teams and as a result, strengthened the role of the managers.
Building stakeholder trust around engagement surveys data security and confidentiality
The People Team at Scout24 built a communication plan around the needs of key stakeholder groups including the workers’ council (In Germany, workers’ councils represent the employees; they must be consulted about specific issues and have the right to make proposals to management). Jesko says “getting them in the process at an early stage gave us the opportunity to respond to the council’s concerns. We anticipated some of the questions- for instance, GDPR compliance – and proactively shared the answers with the workers’ council. Culture Amp’s rigorous approach to confidentiality – guaranteeing no reports are visible unless a predefined minimum number of responses is met – helped to alleviate workers council potential concerns.
L&D and leadership culture got on the company’s executives radar and stayed there
The survey results helped Scout24 identify two focus areas: L&D and leadership culture. Jesko says, “Without the results of the survey, leadership culture and L&D most likely wouldn’t have been included on the agenda of our management board that quickly.”
The survey result created a sense of urgency around driving leadership cultural change. Jesko said that a lot of things they learned were around communication: “How do we communicate with the staff? How do we ask the staff what they want, what they think of? A lot of the communication including video messages by senior leaders, and brown-bag sessions open to all employees were not there before the engagement survey.”
Another area was regular one-on-one feedback between managers and employees. The number of positive answers to this question “Do you have a regular feedback with your direct manager?” were very low. Jesko says, “As a company, we felt that was not acceptable and we needed to change it. We started a whole project around leadership skills, behavior, and culture”. In Germany, where the new Quarterly Dialogue format was first implemented, the favorable score of the feedback question increased by 28 percentage points. “We are definitely heading in the right direction”, Jesko says.
Scout24 channeled the feedback about L&D’s impact on engagement to build a whole initiative around learning and development. They used the Insights reports to uncover important opportunities for learning and development and founded the Scout24Academy to bring all L&D initiatives together. The academy includes a learning and development catalog, which they wove that into the first focus area- leadership culture. Jesko says, “In the next discussion that the employees have with their line managers, they can pick up training from a learning and development catalog.”
As a company- Scout24 learned together that company culture is the responsibility of everyone, not just HR
The prep work with the managers helped them see the benefits of taking ownership of the survey results. Jesko says, “We got 100 percent of the reports opened and viewed by your managers. The managers didn’t say, ‘Hey, it’s not my survey’!’They were involved. They said, ‘Okay, this is the same team who shared positive feedback about other areas, and we need to hear them out when they communicate areas of improvement’. Our first employee feedback survey with Culture Amp helped us rally everyone- managers and employees- around working together to build a better company culture.”
The next 6-12 months focus areas
For Scout24 and the People Team, the focus in the next couple of months is to bring all those courses, classes, and learning activities to life. The other area of focus is on leadership culture. Jesko says, “Right after last year’s survey, we started a whole leadership initiative to bring basic and fundamental leadership skills to everyone, not only to the ones that need it the most but really to everyone.”