City & Guilds Group

Inspiring employees to innovate and excel using actionable insights into engagement from employee surveys

Founded in 1878 and headquartered in London, England, the City & Guilds Group is a leading skills development organization. Employing more than 1,200 people, the group provides services to training providers, employers, and trainees across a variety of sectors to meet the needs of today’s workplace.

“IBM Kenexa solutions are enabling us to gain valuable, actionable insights into employee engagement.”
Derek Seume HR Data and Systems Manager City & Guilds Group

Business challenge

Growing fast in the UK and abroad, the City & Guilds Group aims to continuously improve the quality of its services. To achieve the goal, it looked for a way to measure and boost employee engagement.


The City & Guilds Group is using IBM® Kenexa® solutions to create inspiring working environments for its employees—increasing engagement by seven percentage points above the national average.

Business benefits:

10% increase in employee engagement across City & Guilds Group

21% increase in belief that action is taken as a result of the survey

8% boost in career development satisfaction

Improving insight into employee engagement

For more than a century, City & Guilds Group has helped people and organizations around the world to obtain the skills they need to achieve personal and economic growth. To support this goal, the group has made a number of acquisitions in recent years, including Kineo—a provider of e-learning platforms—and The Oxford Group, which provides management and leadership training and development and executive coaching.

As the City & Guilds Group grew, its senior leadership team wanted to understand how each part of the business aligned with its core values, as well as each employee’s engagement with their roles and responsibilities.

“We had run engagement surveys in the past, but our previous approach made

it difficult to get the depth of insight we needed into what really engaged our employees. We looked for a way to distil our questions down to smaller and more focused item sets—enabling greater polarization of opinion, reduced ambiguity and greater relevance to our values.”

“Collaborating with IBM to design our first survey was an instructive experience, and the IBM team was always ready to provide guidance on best practices when we needed their advice.” Derek Seume, HR Data and Systems Manager, City & Guilds Group

Joining forces with IBM

After evaluating proposals from a number of vendors, City & Guilds Group selected IBM to deliver a fresh employee engagement survey, supported by IBM® Kenexa® Survey Enterprise.

Derek Seume comments: “Of all the vendors we considered, we were most impressed with IBM. We felt that the IBM team was best able to articulate the correlations between employee engagement and business performance, and offer a robust platform to drive the new survey process from end to end.”

As a first step, IBM performed in-depth stakeholder interviews with the group’s senior management team, and captured the key business drivers for the initial employee engagement survey. Throughout the process, the City & Guilds Group worked with IBM to determine the optimal questions, set benchmarks and design the presentations and reports for the ultimate analysis of the results.

“Collaborating with IBM to design our first survey was an instructive experience, and the IBM team was always ready to provide guidance on best practices when we needed their advice,” recalls Derek Seume. “Because our engagement survey covered multiple geographies, securing buy-in from the leaders of our international businesses was essential—and IBM provided the proof-points we needed to communicate the value of the engagement survey worldwide.”

Shaping a comprehensive survey

Working with IBM, City & Guilds Group successfully launched the new engagement survey. The survey includes a total of 57 items, inviting both quantitative and qualitative feedback from employees across the group. By delivering the results to senior managers via online analytics dashboards, City & Guilds Group can help its leadership to create action plans to drive greater engagement, lift performance and encourage innovation.

Emma Nicholls, Brand Engagement Manager at City & Guilds Group, says: “The most important part of our surveys is the action we take after we see the results—and we appointed ‘engagement champions’ across the business to encourage people to contribute to the process. As a consequence, our survey response rate was high, and  we gathered valuable feedback from teams working around the world. Using this data, we were able to measure our performance against key indicators such as engagement, confidence in senior leadership and career development satisfaction.”

Building a better working environment

With IBM Kenexa solutions driving its new employee engagement survey, City & Guilds Group is achieving its goal of creating more inclusive, engaging and inspiring working environments for its employees.

“The results of our first survey were extremely positive, and we performed well against our benchmark for engagement—but the story didn’t end there,” says Derek Seume. “By digging deeper into our data, we were able to identify items on the survey that correlated with overall engagement scores, and we discovered that career development was an extremely significant factor.

“Based on that result, we decided to make career development a theme across the group, and we asked elected employee representatives from across the business to help us to lead five work streams aimed at helping our employees to identify, pursue and realize their career development goals. As our analysis had predicted, our work in this area had a positive impact on the results of the following engagement survey.

“In fact, we saw an eight percent increase in employee scores for career development, and a ten percent increase in employee engagement—taking us significantly above the UK average.

Derek Seume adds: “Our IBM Kenexa solutions are enabling us to gain valuable, actionable insights into employee engagement, and we are now considering more regular pulse surveys throughout the year to increase the granularity further still.”

“We are consistently growing year-on-year—and we know that a productive, happy workforce is a big part of that success."
Emma Nicholls, Brand Engagement Manager,  City & Guilds Group

Boosting engagement to drive growth

By nurturing a culture of greater employee participation, the City & Guilds Group is supporting its growth objective and driving continuous improvement in the quality of its offering.

“The more people understand your business goals, where their work fits into those goals and the positive effect that their contribution has on the overall success of the business, the more likely they are to find their work rewarding and perform at their best,” concludes Emma Nicholls.

“For example, we have the ability to compare engagement scores between all of our teams and identify those that feel most strongly that they are listening to customer feedback and trying new things. We are consistently growing year-on-year—and we know that a productive, happy workforce is a big part of that success.”

Take the next step

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