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Blog : Power of the people


Power of the people

By Jon Reed - Head of Operations

Last month I read in The Independent that 126 year old company, Yellow Pages, is leaping into the digital age by rebranding itself to HIBU (pronounced “high boo”). Whilst their household brands such as the Yellow Pages, will not change their identities (for the moment...), its digital offerings such as Yell.com and eMarketplace will fall under the new moniker.

The reason for the change? Annual losses of £1.4bn and debts of £2.2bn presumably have something to do with it. You’ve got to admire the management team for taking the bull by the horns and attempting to address this poor performance by making a significant change; but is a new brand name really going to achieve the success needed? Whilst considering previous examples; Norwich Union became Aviva; Royal Mail changed to Consigna and then went back again; Air Miles became Avios; Marathon is now Snickers, there is certainly no guarantee for success.

The name ‘HIBU’ in itself is an interesting one. CEO, Mike Pocock, admits that the word means nothing yet has justified it by stating “Yahoo and Google came from nowhere, and they are now big brands”. I’m not entirely convinced that using unfamiliar words in a brand name is always a recipe for success; especially for an organisation which has a significant historical legacy.

Moving onto the visual side of HIBU, I was especially interested to read that the logo has been designed to emphasise that people play a significant part in the success of the brand too. This got me thinking; how involved  were HIBU employees in choosing the new name or  were they even consulted for their creative energy. In my experience, many decisions taken at board level rarely include discussion with the guys on the ground.

It’s those at the coal face, however, who really know what the customer wants and needs and so play a vital role in the decision making process – whether that’s for a rebrand or the some other business critical decision. Involving your people from the off also ensures that when the time comes, they’re more likely to be behind the initiative; supporting and encouraging it to succeed.

Sourcing the opinion of the workforce isn’t and shouldn’t be a complex matter. In small businesses a simple brainstorming lunch, where ideas are presented and feedback collected, can reap rewards. For larger organisations, providing a number of workshops, or offering ideas at a company-wide meeting with a clear way to provide thoughts (perhaps a dedicated email address) can ensure your people get their say. Online opinion surveys are also a useful tool. Whatever method chosen, just remember to listen and take into account what is being said – it could save a lot of money in the long run.

When sourcing opinion there are some hard and fast rules:

  • Keep it simple– avoid long, boring surveys or meetings which are hard to understand and / or complete.
  • If using a survey, make it attractive– use pictures, keep the language simple and contemporary, ensure it’s on brand by using your set colours and fonts.
  • Offer an incentive– sometimes people are reluctant to offer opinion openly, especially if in the past they’ve worked for organisations which culturally do not welcome ‘employee voices’. Encourage people to come to your feedback session by offering lunch or snacks. If using a survey, take a leaf out of Pizza Express’ book – they achieve completion rates of 70% (much higher than the average of 30%) by offering an exclusive video of their CEO and Operations Director playing ‘air guitar’; allowing people to vote for who did it best.
  • Promote trust and openness– make sure people know that no suggestion is ‘stupid’ meaning they’ll be more confident to say what they really think, and most importantly, what the customers will really think.
  • Listen and take action– lots of organisations are great at asking their people for feedback on ideas, unfortunately few are good at putting action plans into place. Draw up a clear plan following the feedback, letting people know what the top-line outcomes were, which will be taken forward, which won’t and very importantly, why. Next identify the quick wins and make some happen as this will show you value their opinion and win you some engagement points along the way.
  •  Keep them involved– after sourcing opinion, especially when it comes to rebrands or new product ideas, some people go back to the development teams and the next the workforce knows the new concept is about to be rolled out... Keep them updated regularly; explaining at what stage the process is at, even asking them again to offer suggestions before launch.


  • Celebrate success together– after all, their feedback ensured the idea was a success!

 Do you involve your people in decision making? How often do you source opinion and how?

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