With a Best Company title under their belt three years running, Creditsafe’s CEO Cato Syversen talks to Katie Richard about their hugely popular company boxing matches, and shares how they plan to retain their heavyweight championship when it comes to employee engagement.
You’ve recently been named a Sunday Times Best Company to Work For. Why is this important to the business? What makes Creditsafe a great place to work?
Being placed in the top 100 for the third year in a row is a real boost to everyone across the business. It shows that we have a very high level of satisfaction among the team, who enjoy coming to work while feeling that they are contributing to the rapid growth of the group.
As well as making staff enjoyment a priority, there is a real chance to grow professionally at Creditsafe, as shown by the fact that 70% of our senior managers have been promoted internally.
A good example is UK managing director Chris Robertson, who joined the business as a telesales executive in 2003 and now successfully heads up the group’s best performing business.
How does your HR department support your business objective of having engaged employees? How do you work with HR on your engagement strategies?
Employee engagement is at the heart of what we do and runs through every area of the business. Creditsafe uses informal and formal surveys and checks on staff engagement levels to get feedback on their working lives.
It is our goal to provide a creative, challenging, different and fair environment and we can’t do that without getting input from all our staff.
You recently held your annual boxing match. How did this tradition start and how does it work?
This was our second boxing event, which built on last summer’s successful evening organised by the Cardiff and Caerphilly offices. The excitement around it spread across our international offices and amateur boxers put themselves forward to make it a Creditsafe group-wide competition.
There were 12 fights on the night, with staff from our Cardiff and Caerphilly offices taking on their counterparts from around Europe. Match-ups were carefully selected by weight and ability to keep everything safe and fair, and each fighter undertook months of training in the lead-up to the evening.
The event, at Cardiff Oceana, was a sell-out, with every boxer enthusiastically supported through each of their three-round matches by colleagues from their offices.
As well as the training and support, the commitment to the competition is perhaps best shown by supporters from our office in France, whose fighters drove all the way from Lille to Cardiff and back to make the day.
How does this event inspire staff engagement?
Any company can hold a golf day or sponsored run, but an evening of boxing is a truly ‘Creditsafe’ experience.
In their professional careers, not many people get the chance to challenge themselves in front of hundreds of cheering supporters.
With the whole evening organised on the suggestion of the staff themselves, we made sure that the competitors were given the time and support they needed to be ready for the big night.
By making it clear that these kinds of activities are a significant part of the job at Creditsafe, participants develop a sense of loyalty as they are uniquely rewarded, while others see they have the chance to have their dream fulfilled.
What feedback have you had from your employees on this event? How does the community service angle affect reactions from your staff?
We’ve heard from even more staff across the group who are keen to take part next year, hoping to make it even bigger and better.
People were able to unite behind their office’s boxers, which fits into the friendly rivalry that runs through everything we do – especially on the sales floor.
We were all proud that, while enjoying ourselves, we managed to raise over £5,000 for LATCH Wales, a local charity; and Arthur’s Gym, a community boxing centre.
Now that you’ve been on the Best Companies to Work For list, what plans do you have to maintain your position?
Planning is already under way for the first ever Creditsafe music festival next year. Across all our offices we have a number of bands and performers who are keen to get on the stage, so we want to give them that opportunity.
We offer regular incentives and rewards for staff, particularly for our telesales teams which are at the heart of our business. Otherwise, we encourage any ideas our staff can think of, so our next activity is only limited by our imaginations.
As a business leader, what impact have engaged employees made to the bottom line?
Creditsafe is going through a period of substantial growth, with new offices recently opening in the US and Italy. The numbers of staff and customers are increasing year on year, along with group revenue. These are measurable endorsements that our style of work culture is driving and we aim to replicate this and our business model in every new operation that we open.
Revenue grew from €62 million in 2012 to €78 million in 2013, with operating profits up from €13.7 million in 2012 to €17.7 million.
What advice can you offer to other business leaders to inspire employee engagement?
The most important thing that has emerged from our years of activities is that they should never be a simple add-on to the job. Whether it’s daily sales target rewards or taking the whole company on holiday to Majorca, employees need fun and incentives knitted into their work in order to perform at their best. And above all you need to be true to yourself and true to your culture – people soon spot something phoney or just “led from the top” and won’t want to be part of it. On the other hand, with everyone on board things just grow and get better each time.
The Creditsafe Group is the world’s most used supplier of online company credit reports, with 10 of these downloaded every second. Creditsafe was launched in Norway in 1997 and now operates in nine European countries and the US. It employs over 800 people and has more than 70,000 subscription customers across the group.