The UK’s Most Engaged Organisation?

Like most employee engagement consultants, I’m often asked by clients and potential clients for examples of businesses who are doing ‘it’ well.

US company Zappos is often hailed as the poster-boy of an organisation with a strong culture and one whose employees are front and centre of the business. I’ve never worked with them but from what I’ve read it seems pretty inspirational and I’m always on the hunt for examples this side of the Atlantic.

I first came across Propellernet a few years ago when they were looking for freelance communications support. Since the few days I spent with them, I have watched how they have grown and matured with interest.

For me, their approach and commitment to employee engagement and internal communications is pretty exceptional – and one which I regard as an example of how it could be. I wanted to share their story as inspiration to other businesses and those working within the sector.

Thank you to the team at Propellernet for sharing their approach with us.


Propellernet: Making Life Better

Propellernet is a marketing agency based in Brighton. They help their clients to be found online.

Their purpose is simple: To make life better for clients, their customers, their team and community. As part of this mantra, they’re focused on building the best environment in the world for their people to enable them to do world-class work.

Their definition of a great place to work is an environment that cultivates growth and connection, one with a sense of pride and a culture to shout about, a place that recognises that their employees are all human.


How they make employees lives better

Their values sit at the heart of the business and they are woven into all aspects of the employee journey. Some of the ways in which this is demonstrated are as follows.

Engagement sits at the heart of the business

The business plan is focused on making their people’s dreams come true. Everyone is encouraged to share what their dream is, with intent to find ways of weaving these into the business. These dreams, with the support of the business are then pursued; some have become spin off businesses in their own right or have seen people leave but in pursuit of their dream that they helped to realise.

Recruit for values, not just for skills

People are recruited based on their values to help ensure that those who come on-board are engaged with the business’ culture and are willing to help take the business forward.

To help keep workloads manageable, no more than 70% of their time is billed to clients. The remaining time is allocated for agency connection, innovation, personal growth and development.


Propellernet Academy

As part of this, employees are expected and provided with the support to manage their own career development. The Propellernet Academy enables everyone, regardless of their role, to take one day a month to ‘propel themselves forward’ on a Propel Day. This time away from the business enables people to innovate, create, invent and learn.

The Academy encourages creativity and curiosity. It encourages people to go out on company time and money to do things they wouldn’t normally consider they could or should do at work. This can be anything from learning a new skill, language, instrument or even to drive!


The Dreamball Machine!

Perhaps one of Propellernet’s most notorious approaches to engagement, as you enter their offices you are unable to miss the giant, old-fashioned sweet dispenser placed in reception.  The machine is full of capsules, or rather, Dreamballs. Each Dreamball holds the name of one of the team.

Whenever they hit a target, win an award or just because they feel like it, a Dreamball is released and whoever’s name is called, their dream will come true. They’ve sent colleagues to the World Cup in Rio, motor biking across Africa, and off to Japan for a cherry blossom season.

Clearly, Dreamballs couldn’t happen in the way they do without the lifeblood of a successful business.  It works because everyone has a collective sense of responsibility in seeing the business succeed and in doing so, their dreams can come true.

Maslows hierarchy of needs is used as a blueprint (below) to help make sure that they are meeting all the desired needs of their people. In return, they believe that they boost the economy, attract and retain top talent and do world class work.

Measuring making life better

The Propellernet approach has been a recipe for success. An annual survey, in partnership with Then Somehow, helps to ensure that the company and its people is operating at its best. Their most recent results found that 90% of their team are engaged.

A survey also identifies areas for improvement. In their 2015 survey, the results found that 60% of the team ‘felt good about the ways we contribute to the community’.

With this feedback, they have since been working with two charities, the Trust for Developing Communities and the Brighton Housing Trust. The relationship has been managed by one of their consultants who felt passionately about the rising homelessness in Brighton and he wanted to do something about it.  Within a year, the company helped to raise £30,000 and the results of the latest survey have recorded a leap to 94% of employees now feeling good about their community contribution.

The Great Places to Work scheme also provides external feedback. The company has been listed as one of the UK’s top places to work for the last five years and 98% of the team would recommend working there to others.

Staff turnover is significantly lower than the industry average – 7% compared to an industry average of 30% and unplanned absences (sick days) less than five times the national average (1.1 days compared to 5.7 days).

Clients also see the benefit. Their ability to build an environment that encourages innovation, creativity, adventure, fun and well being for our people translates into award-winning work for our clients. Propellernet is hard nosed proof that being human pays off.


Thank you Propellernet for sharing your approach with us. We work with businesses across all industries and sizes. If you want to find out how we can help you, contact us today for a no obligation 30-minute consultation. 

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