Image: CREDIT Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

The Survey Initiative assists the evolution of the Natural History Museum’s employee engagement

The Natural History Museum has a unique place in the landscape of the United Kingdom’s heritage, as guardian of many historically significant collections. Many of these have survived many decades, if not centuries, and will continue to survive long after the present team has passed on its custodianship to future generations. It takes a highly dedicated and focused team to curate and preserve these collections, so employee engagement is of the utmost importance.

The Natural History Museum has a workforce in the region of 1000 employees, mostly based in London, with a smaller team at its second base at Tring in Hertfordshire. The majority are directly employed, but the team also comprises a small number of contractors, some agency workers, and a loyal team of volunteers. Some of the team carry out highly specialist work and opportunities for new posts can be rare. Levels of engagement are routinely high, as employees are, understandably, drawn to the fascinating and absorbing work of the Museum. However, the management team does not take this for granted and has been diligent in consulting its people by means of regular employee engagement surveys. The Survey Initiative has been the Museum’s partner for measuring employee engagement for more than ten years.

Laura Popazzi, Head of Diversity and Talent for the Natural History Museum, explained, “The Survey Initiative properly go the extra mile in supporting us, and it is a true partnership rather than a standard client/supplier relationship. They have remained totally flexible as we have added layers of complexity or changed time frames to meet our needs. They have been genuinely responsive and supportive throughout, often delivering their services with a very quick turnaround; we see them very much as a partner in collaboration.”

The Natural History Museum’s workforce fulfil a wide range of roles; in some areas, only a handful of experts worldwide can offer the invaluable specialist knowledge needed to curate highly prized specimens or artifacts. This may mean that some career opportunities are limited in scope as openings are necessarily few. In every role, the Museum team is keen to understand what engages their people. Although the workforce is historically highly engaged, monitoring any changes requires achieving a consistently high response rate to employee engagement surveys and effective analysis of the results. The Survey Initiative has helped the management team to maintain high levels of response rates over the ten years of the partnership, not only looking at the Museum’s own results but providing a benchmark against similar organisations, as well as those in other sectors.

Says Laura Popazzi, “The Survey Initiative’s ability to provide a context of the external landscape across our own and other sectors has been extremely valuable and informative. They have been able to highlight areas that we could address and, on occasion, shown us that we are actually doing better than we had anticipated when compared with other organisations, both in our own sector and in others. Their understanding of how a particular issue, or even a small change, may impact other areas of working life is also essential to us.

“The Survey Initiative represents a confidential external facility for the Museum, which is completely trusted by the management team and all the employees. The high response rates achieved by their carefully crafted questionnaires mean that we can be completely confident in the reliability of the results, which show a very highly engaged workforce.”

Gary Cattermole, Director of The Survey Initiative said, “This is a partnership that we hugely enjoy. There has been a lot of reorganisation and restructuring at the Natural History Museum over the years that we have worked with them, and it has made this a really interesting, evolving project. The team there has also changed from time to time and we have enjoyed getting to know new team members, all of whom have been great to work with. They have been exceptionally open to advice based on our experience and we have been able to forge a truly collaborative partnership. This is undoubtedly one of our most rewarding working relationships.”

The strength of this is borne out by Laura Popazzi, who concludes, “The Survey Initiative have always been great to work with, and we greatly appreciate their advice and guidance. They have been unusually keen to understand exactly what we need, never proscriptive or process driven; remaining focused on our agenda rather than their own, staying exceptionally flexible, and always giving great advice. We really enjoy working with them; they bring a level of nuance and professionalism that makes our relationship a true and trusted partnership.”