How Ruia Group improved culture in a dispersed workforce
Ruia Group are an award-winning supplier and distributor of household textiles. They work with some of the UK’s most prestigious retailers and hospitality organisations.
They’re a family run organisation who live and breathe values that any family will recognise – trust, honesty, and open communication. Putting their people and customers at the heart of everything they do, the key to the group’s success lies in their focus on their own values – aligning their staff and values by enhancing the employee voice and creating a great culture in a dispersed workforce
Ruia Group have been with Stribe for over three years. Initially launching to 100 staff within one of their businesses, Belledorm. Stribe was used to strengthen the employee voice and enhance their employee experience. After a successful first year Ruia Group decided to roll out Stribe to their full 300+ staff base and have been with Stribe ever since!
What’s the main purpose of Stribe within Ruia Group?
We wanted to open another channel of communication. We realised that it’s easy to say ‘everyone can speak to their line manager’ or ‘send an email if you want to talk’ but for us Stribe is, for the first time, something that is truly accessible to everyone. It allows for that open communication which we’ve never had before.
We’ve had to do some work around giving confidence that Stribe is truly anonymous and can be trusted. We always took the view that having something – even if it wasn’t used by everyone right away – was better than nothing. We found a great deal of benefit in just telling people about Stribe. It showed employees, teams, and colleagues that we were taking an active role in finding different ways to talk to each other. They like the fact that we have invested in this, and it’s given employees comfort that there is a channel there for them when they need it.
How have you found tech to use?
Stribe feels really easy to use. We’ve found setting up pulse surveys clear and concise, and the functionality of everything is really intuitive. I also like all the help points and how-to manuals within the tool. All of that information allows us to learn as we use the tool which is great! It is a lot easier to access since you launched magic link logins too which I really like. I think they’re really clever. I don’t always remember my password to things but can always get into my emails!
For us Stribe is, for the first time, something that is truly accessible to everyone. It allows for that open communication which we’ve never had before.Sam Shek
How does Stribe contribute to the bigger picture at Ruia Group?
If we’re talking about contribution, then we need to talk about the values of the Ruia Group first. It’s an organisation that’s been built by brothers and cousins. The culture of the business is of family values and of close relationships. Many people have worked here 5, 10, 15, 35 years, so it has always felt like one big family. We love Stribe because it helps us strengthen those values even further in the Ruia Group. It’s a means of bringing everyone into the open, inclusive family culture that we’ve built here. Stribe is another way of showing our employees that if they need someone to talk to, or they need a little bit of help, we want to hear what they have to say and they can use Stribe for that.
Now we’re emerging from the pandemic, how are you adapting the business using the feedback you’ve received from Stribe?
The pulse surveys have been really helpful for us, especially over the last few years during such a period of change. We’ve used them to ask staff everything from whether they were feeling safe and comfortable in work, how we could improve their working environment, and what we could change about our culture.
The responses back have been great. We’ve had lots of staff giving suggestions that have really helped us improve things for them, we’ve also heard about important worries we wouldn’t have otherwise heard about. Many of our staff are very geographically distant and dispersed, so it is difficult for us to understand what they’re thinking and feeling without something like Stribe. For example, part of the business works within concessions units that are based in larger shops throughout the UK. As retail began to reopen, we used Stribe to send concessions staff a few pulse questions focused on how they were feeling about returning to work. What we heard from those pulses was that some staff at store level were uncomfortable with customers coming in without masks on. Whilst the enforcement of those policies was outwith our control, we were able to give our employees extra cleaning equipment and branded masks to help them feel safer. The branded masks helped give them a closer connection with the business and really indicated to those colleagues that ‘you’re one of us and we want to help you’. We also used their feedback to communicate with the store they were based in and let them know how our staff felt so that they could do their own review too. Even though we couldn’t completely solve the issue, we did go a long way to alleviating the worries. That’s when we realised the value of Stribe, we really liked that we heard about something we may not have otherwise heard about, and staff could use Stribe to tell us about those things and alleviate their worries.
Another great example we had from a recent pulse survey was when one of our staff questioned why information meetings were always held on a Friday. The simple reason was that we had always found that it was easier to get people together towards the end of the week. What we didn’t realise was that many of our staff don’t work on a Friday. Because of this, that person – and others who hadn’t spoken up – didn’t feel involved in the company and always felt they were the last to know key updates. Based on the feedback from Stribe we have moved those meetings to a different day when more people are in. It feels like a small change, but it’s made a big difference for a lot of our staff.
Armed with insights from Stribe… what’s next for Ruia Group?
We’re really keen to keep sending pulse surveys and also try to use other features, like shout-outs, to improve employee engagement even more. We’ve seen that once our employees have used one part of Stribe, they’re more comfortable using other features. The tool has created a culture where many staff are now more confident to speak up and be heard. Even for colleagues who don’t often use Stribe, we are finding that they are more prepared to speak-up. Some are starting conversations with ‘I could’ve told you by Stribe…’, by introducing Stribe we have really shown we’re prepared to hear what our staff are saying, and as a result they are feeling much safer and more confident to talk, which is great.
What we liked is that the Stribe team worked with us to really understand our staff and help us build a unique approach that would work for us at Ruia Group.Sam Shek
How have you found working with the team at Stribe?
I’ve been doing this for nearly 16 years. Especially these days, almost everything is done online. For certain software services this means I can I end up dealing with up to eight different people about eight different things!
What we like about Stribe is that everything is centralised. If we need to speak to anyone, whether it is for advice, technical help, or guidance on the tool, it all comes through one person. It gives us a lot of comfort that, when I’m coming to speak with you, I just know it’ll be an easy conversation because you know us so well and are there to work with us and help us get the best out of Stribe. It really is a testament to Stribe. We can see that Stribe believe that customer success is so important.
The way the team have worked with us has helped to shape Stribe into something that has really helped the Ruia Group. Stribe was a new initiative for us, and it was stepping on ground that many people were unsure of. We really didn’t know if it was going to be useful or not, or how it would help us improve the culture in a dispersed workforce.
What we liked is that the Stribe team worked with us to really understand our staff and help us build a unique approach that would work for us at Ruia Group. We knew that we would have slow traction and uptake of the app. But you didn’t sit back and say ‘Well that’s just what your staff and culture are like, your organisation is just not built to talk like that.’ You and the team understood that we couldn’t go in all guns blazing and you took the time to find a different way of launching the app that really resonated with our staff. You listened to how we did things here, gave ideas about ways other businesses have introduced Stribe and you listened to us when we gave you feedback too.
We took a gradual approach, launching employee voice first followed by pulse surveys a few months later. Introducing the pulse surveys alongside employee voice was a huge thing for us – it helped us move to a really proactive form of engagement, one where we were seeking out feedback from staff rather than waiting for them to message us.
The journey you have taken us on is quite impressive, it’s not easy, but it’s achieved a lot. Engagement and responses are growing, and every single response is beneficial. Even if we received just one response to a pulse survey. It means we can make a difference to just one person’s day, week, month, career… which makes all of this was worthwhile. Because isn’t that really what our job is? To get bedding out of the door and make sure all our staff are happy.
How has Stribe helped Ruia Group?
For me one of the most important aspects of having Stribe is that it signals we have an open, talking culture. Just having it there enhances our talking culture, not only from people using the tool but staff feeling more confident to come to talk to us when they need to. The pulse surveys allow us to be really proactive with our employee engagement and get answers to things we might not otherwise hear about.
We have a dispersed workforce, many of the staff who respond to our surveys aren’t based in our main office. Everyone in our main office building sees each other most days and have the opportunity to give their feedback, views or talk to management. The barriers to hearing the views and capturing the voice of our dispersed workforce is something we had never really thought about before. Stribe has meant that even people who are based hundreds of miles away, who maybe only see us once every few years, suddenly feel more a part of the business. Even more than this, we have seen their engagement increase. Suddenly, staff in dispersed locations such as Newcastle are feeling part of something, they want to be involved and they want to give their feedback.
We have realised that these staff – who are so geographically distant – didn’t feel part of the family in the same way colleagues at head office did, they missed that connection. It’s something we were always so focused on talking about here, but they didn’t feel that the business was making an effort making them part of family there. That insight was used as part of the renewal conversation I had with my director. It was clear to me that we were making our colleagues outside of the walls of our main office feel so much more part of the team, and isn’t that the idea?
What do you think is the key to a happy team?
You need to have a lot of trust in each other, and that trust is only going to come from communication and understanding each other. Also – you’re only strong as your weakest link. You could have ten of your highest-performing, entrepreneurial people but if they don’t trust each other then you’re not going to see the results you need for a happy team.
What would you say to someone who is on the fence about taking on Stribe?
Do you believe that your current communication channels are so good that you can accurately predict how everyone is feeling at this moment in time? Unless your company is made up of just five people, you physically can’t. I look after 25 people in my direct team, and I can never know how every person is thinking and feeling week on week. Stribe gives me a chance to do that.
I also think you have to be really confident that everything is perfect. And, unless you already do rigorous employee engagement audits then you just won’t know. Even then, if don’t get full marks in every category you need to be truthful with yourself that your current systems aren’t working. And the answer is not ‘we can use more emails’ or ‘we have monthly meetings’. That’s a lazy way of thinking about things. You need to be thinking about how else you can hear your staff and talk these things through together, so that you can make the right changes to improve things for them.
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