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Phoenix Colleague Representation Forum - Representing Colleagues in the Modern Workplace

5 minute read

Internal and external factors are driving changes in the workplace, often at pace. Engaging colleagues and representing their views is critical to the success of any organisation, particularly during times of change and decision making.

Today’s colleagues expect to have a say, at the earliest stages of decision making, when their working environment is impacted by change.  So, how do we engage colleagues, and view their ideas and feedback as solutions?  And why is it important for colleagues to recognise the direct link between their role and the strategic objectives of their organisation? 

Phoenix Group believe the solution is to create effective partnerships between colleagues and the business, co-ordinated by an effective colleague representation forum. 

Susan Reilly, Head of the Phoenix Colleague Representation Forum, and Emma Hughes, Communication and Engagement Consultant, shared their journey to creating and embedding an industry leading colleague representation forum within the Phoenix Group. 

1. Before we start, can we see how the Phoenix Colleague Representation Forum represent Phoenix Colleagues?


2. You won the engage award for ‘Best Use of Innovation in Employee Engagement’ for the creation of your employee forum. Can you tell us a bit about what lead you to create the forum and what were the drivers for change?

Due to acquisitions, Phoenix Group had three different colleague representation entities all offering distinct propositions.   Phoenix wanted to offer a consistent representation model that reflected their ambition to be the best place colleagues had ever worked, giving colleagues a real say in the topics that matter most to them.

Our ambition to modernise representation in the workplace links the employee voice to the organisation’s strategic narrative.  Today’s business is continually evolving as employers change is regular and at pace, keeping the colleague voice at the heart of informed decision making is critical in supporting positive change and culture shifts.

Employees expect to have a voice on topics that impact them (we see this in generational and societal shifts) and now more than ever, change is part of their working lives. 

3. What did you want to achieve and how did that influence the way you structured the forum?

We wanted to have an autonomous,  in-house colleague representation model where Reps are elected by colleagues to represent them on all topics that impact their working life.  To do this we created a Partnership Agreement with Phoenix to outline how we would work together, engaging colleague views and suggestions to help inform decisions.

Working in partnership created a trusted relationship between colleagues, their reps and the business, resulting in early discussions on change or strategic initiatives and meaningful conversations about the impact to the business and colleagues. 

Our representation model is fit for future, ensuring we represent colleagues in all aspects of their working lives, gaining valuable insight into the colleague experience and expectation. 

Working together in partnership at all levels of the organisation was a key objective and helped shape our structure with reps working at local, functional and a strategic level.  Our model is scalable, and we align our structure and PCRF strategy to Phoenix’s business model and strategic direction which means we have discussions at the right time about topics that impact colleagues today and in the future.

4. What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?

The design and proposal stages were during 2020 and the Pandemic, we were a small team working on a proposition for c8000 colleagues whilst working fully remotely for the first time. There was also no opportunity to benchmark on our proposed model and proposition as there was no other organisations offering this approach to representation. 

It was a new way of doing things, and people can be resistant to change, so it was important to manage regular pulse checks with colleagues, Reps, and leadership to embed the new way of working into the Phoenix culture. 

We invested in upskilling Reps and promoting the benefits of our model, particularly during the early months after launch where we worked hard to embed our model. 

5. Why is engaging colleagues and finding innovative ways to capturing their voice so important?

Working in partnership creates a dialogue between employees and the business, employees feel heard and engaged with the business and the business can make well informed decisions through diverse thinking.

Leaders have told us they feel connected to the employee voice, colleagues feel more engaged and things that are important to them, like well-being initiatives, are addressed early to support targeted needs. 

We use a range of channels to collect colleague views and these views are discussed regularly.  Colleagues can see their collective views reflected in activity and communication.

6. What are the benefits to the employer and the colleague?

Informed decisions are made with employee insight and the business objectives in mind, alternative options are explored in the early stages of planning and there’s an increased awareness of generational and societal drivers.

When the colleague voice influences decisions and are discussed regularly, communications hit the right tone, land well and addresses employee expectations.  Colleagues understand how strategic narrative links to their role and are less resistant to change and change can happen quicker. Essentially everyone moves through the change curve quicker.

7. How does your partnership philosophy contribute to your organisations culture?

When colleagues feel informed and inspired to share their views and suggestions this creates a culture of belonging and colleagues feel their contribution is valued. 

Working in partnership with both colleagues and the business in mind form trusted relationships, which creates open conversations, leading to well informed decisions and activity on the topics that matter to colleagues.

8. What’s next for your colleague forum?

We’ll continue to be agile and flexible, adapting to the ever-evolving needs of colleagues and our business. 

We’d like to promote the partnership philosophy, our model and the benefits of partnership across various industries.  And, support employers to create a partnership agreement and colleague forum within their organisation. 

If you’d like to speak to Susan or Emma about implementing partnership in your organisation, please reach out via Engage or find them on LinkedIn.


By Emma Hughes, Communication and Engagement of Colleague Representation Forum & Susan Reilly, Head of Colleague Representation Forum at Phoenix Group

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