CASE STUDY
Witherslack group

THE CHALLENGE

Witherslack Group provides schools and children’s homes for children with special educational needs. Following private equity investment, the group wanted to roll out a scalable model that would see it develop over time into the UK’s leading specialist education and care provider.

A key part of this expansion strategy was to create a people strategy that enabled them to attract, retain and motivate great people whilst maintaining their culture.

“Our people are central to everything we do. They are dedicated and passionate teaching, care and therapeutic professionals who combine to create a unique and inspirational environment for every child.”  – Jayne Carter, HR Director

THE SOLUTION

  • Witherslack Group understood that if they wanted to grow and scale their business in a sustainable way, they needed to listen to their people, and make the changes needed to ensure they could thrive.
  • They choose to work with The Happiness Index to design a programme of regular engagement surveys that measured and visualised their culture.
  • “The Happiness Index is just the right size and just the right organisation for our group. They are big enough that we get real intelligence, real data, real benchmarking that adds value to the organisation and helps us to plan what we do next. But they are small enough that they can flex and grow with us. And not everything has to be off the shelf, we can customise as we go!” – Jayne Carter, HR Director
“As CEO of the group it’s really important for me to access – at any point in time – how engaged our staff team are.” – Phil Jones, Chief Executive:

THE RESULTS

The group has grown significantly, both in terms of geographic coverage and the number of young people cared for (up to 52 establishments), and employees (up to c1,500 people), whilst making sustained improvements to their culture and maintaining their shared vision. The increase in engagement scores has been largely driven by:

  • Improvements in how fairly people feel they are treated.
  • How clear people are on what is expected of them, and how likely people are to recommend Witherslack Group to a friend or relative (eNPS score).
  • The latter has increased by 23 points to +35 making them a top-performing organisation and well above their sector benchmark of +8.
  • As a result of allowing employees to freely voice their views, Witherslack Group was also able to understand the sentiment of their people and understand what they needed to change moving forward. For example, people felt that Directors were not as visible as they would like them to be in the organisation, so the group changed how they feedback their results.
  • Now every main board director visits an individual school or children’s home and shares the results with employees, together with the Chief Executive sharing the results via video.


“It’s really gratifying to see that our top-performing question is ‘Improving outcomes for young people is a top priority at my place of work’ – where scores have risen from 7.2 to 8.9.”


Phil Jones | Chief Executive

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