By Padley, Malcolm; Coley-Smith, Helen
Communication World , Vol. 28, No. 2
Rentokil Initial (RI) is one of the largest business services companies in the world, with revenues of more than 2.2 billion [pounds sterling]. It employs more than 78,000 people in 52 countries, providing a range of support services to customers through six divisions, including pest control, courier services, interior landscaping, catering and cleaning products.
The company had grown rapidly through a sales-led approach, but in 2008, the poor integration of acquired companies and a general lack of investment led to a weak financial base and lack of infrastructure to sustain its success. RI issued four profit warnings within seven months, and its share price fell to a 10-year low. A new leadership team was brought in to turn performance around. The incoming chief executive, Alan Brown, working with leaders of the company's six divisions and the central communication team, set out to institute a new strategic plan to transform the business over three to five years.
RI's management team felt strongly that ingraining the right values and behaviors in the business could help transform performance, and decided to use values and behaviors to unify everyone behind the company's new strategic direction and focus on customer service. But first, it needed to identify what those values and supporting behaviors should be, and second, it needed to communicate and embed them throughout the business.
Goals and objectives
The strategic plan focused on improvement in five key areas: customer service, capability, operational excellence, cost control and growth. Each of the values and behaviors relates to one or more of these areas.
The overall goal of the research phase was to define a set of values that would guide all employees in support of the strategic plan. The objectives were to:
1. Explore the values and behaviors that employees believe are appropriate for RI's businesses.
2. Assess current awareness and understanding of any existing values systems.
3. Look for significant bias in values preferences among businesses, location or language.
In phase two (communication, alignment and measurement of the values and behaviors), RI's goals were to:
1. Communicate the values and behaviors clearly and consistently across the business.
2. Segment internal audiences and produce tailored activities and materials for each key audience.
3. Encourage dialogue, support supervisors, increase leadership visibility and role modeling, and ensure ongoing communication.
4. Ensure that SO percent of employees have a good understanding of the values in year one, 75 percent do in year two, and 100 percent do by year three.
5. Make sure appropriate mechanisms are in place to measure the impact of communication activities relating to the values and behaviors.
Achievement of these goals was measured three times in 2009 by the executive board and through a new, groupwide employee engagement survey called Your Voice Counts (structured around the values), an interim progress report, feedback from local team meetings and road shows, and focus groups.
Solution and implementation
Phase one: Research
RI commissioned ColeySmith Consulting, an employee engagement consultancy, to run 21 two-hour focus groups in local languages around the world, with employees and supervisors in a wide variety of roles: sales, service, administration, drivers, etc. The communication team developed a set of templates for the groups and a facilitator's guide so that the results could be collated and analyzed consistently. The materials allowed groups to explore current company values, keep what they felt was relevant and develop a new set of values, if needed. Several of the focus groups were filmed, and each participant received a personal invitation and thanks, translated into the local language, from CEO Alan Brown. …