Motivating and engaging employees for better business
A Virgin Media case study

Page 3: Taylor's scientific management

Virgin Media 18 Image 7In the early 19th century Frederick W Taylor’s book The Principles of Scientific Management was published which changed the way organisations, in particular manufacturing organisations, worked. Taylor believed that work activities could be broken down into tasks by using a scientific method to find the most efficient way of performing a job. He advocated that work should be reduced to a series of routine, predictable and standardised tasks. Taylor assumed that workers were motivated by money so he introduced payment on a piecework basis, as an incentive which would increase productivity. The phrase ‘a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’ was used by Taylor to motivate workers to work harder.

Although we can still find evidence of Taylor’s scientific management, his approach was widely criticised for discounting the human element and behaviour in the workplace. Although money is still an influencing factor in motivating people at work, individual differences mean that we are motivated by other factors in the workplace as well as money.

Virgin Media 18 Image 2Although recognised as not a key driver of engagement, Virgin Media recognises that reward is one of many motivating factors for a lot of its people and offers competitive salaries. It also offers bonus schemes, such as its ASPIRE field pay and reward scheme. The scheme rewards every Net Promoter® score (NPS) of 9 or 10 with £10. However, as a forward thinking business it understands the importance of different motivational factors. It offers additional benefits including private health care, life assurance, company pension scheme and staff saving schemes. The opportunity to progress within the company is also an important factor, for example, Benjamin joined Virgin Media in 2011 and went from apprentice to service technician and then network engineer in just 18 months. As he says:

‘Six months after gaining my apprenticeship I moved up to a new role. I think this shows how the company is supporting my ambitions.’

Elton Mayo

In this way, Virgin Media’s approach to engaging with its employees is more in line with the human relations theorists who had opposing views to that of Taylor. One theorist whose studies became influential is Elton Mayo who carried out research at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric company in Chicago in the 1930s. The research was intended to find the optimum level of lighting needed at the plant to maximise productivity. However, Mayo found that productivity increased amongst the workers whether the lighting was increased or decreased. He realised that it was the attention the workers were receiving during the research that was affecting their performance. Mayo’s research concluded that motivating factors include recognition, a sense of belonging and involvement, as well as social aspects of the workplace.

Virgin Media 18 Image 3Virgin Media use a variety of strategies to recognise the achievements of its employees. One method used is its NPS Hero Championship scheme where employees receive a personalised letter congratulating them on a perfect 10 score. Virgin Media’s successful online peer to peer recognition scheme, SHOUT, provides a simple way by which individuals right across the business can be thanked for living the Virgin Media values in their work. The employee forum VOICE is another way the company engages with its employees.

‘Within a large organisation it is important to create a culture where everyone feels they can be heard, not just about the big things but about the everyday things that make the working environment a great place to be.’

In 2009 Virgin Media introduced a fleet of fun, movie themed super-vans. The new vans were inspired by vehicles used in films including Thunderbirds, Disney’s Herbie and The A-Team. The vans were specially designed for the company’s top performing engineers as a reward for consistently delivering exceptional customer service.

Virgin Media | Motivating and engaging employees for better business

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