Expert help to measure employee experience with an agile listening strategy.


Revealing key signal areas from surveys and offering expert guidance on actions.


Challenge: Working with their people to achieve their mission

For CRUK, its people plan centres on sustainability – of finding optimal ways of working as part of a sustainable operating model and being recognised as a great place to work. The organisation’s aim is to create an environment where people feel they belong, where they can connect to the mission, develop skills and fulfil career aspirations. And listening to its employees – via an engagement survey – is key to being able to gauge how its performing against these aims.

Rebecca Minter, Director of Talent and Experience at CRUK, said:

“At Cancer Research UK, we want to accelerate progress and seeing 3 in 4 people surviving their cancer by 2034. Our employees are key to making that a reality, so listening to our people and understanding what they need in order to do their jobs well is essential. We’re also committed to building a diverse and inclusive culture for all our people, and we couldn’t do that without vital insights and feedback.”

Solution: Creating an agile listening strategy

ETS first started working with CRUK running employee surveys from 2018 but, as with so many organisations, people plans had to be radically adjusted when the pandemic arrived.

With shops closed, large numbers of employees furloughed and a significant loss of fundraising income, CRUK decided to pivot swiftly to using more regular pulse check surveys with a much narrower focus. The question sets focused solely on areas such as wellbeing, job security and remote working. This turbulent period also meant a number of L&D initiatives and policy development needed had to be paused.

Following some restructuring CRUK returned to a ‘full census’ survey in 2022. With the revised listening strategy to incorporate a more agile approach that supplemented a full survey with periodic pulses, ETS worked closely with CRUK’s employee experience team to arrive at the right questions. The 2022 full survey exercise encompassed a revised design that was based on three key elements – engagement, enablement and empowerment.

Steven Arbuckle, Head of Diagnostics at ETS:

“CRUK recognised the land shift and wanted to ensure their survey would be action-focused, so the wording of questions was really important and something collectively we spent a lot of time on. Enablement was an area they were particularly keen to get a deep understanding of, amid changing working practices and employee expectations.”

A further addition to the re-launched survey programme was some demographic data capture, giving CRUK an unprecedented clarity over how different groups of people experience working there. This was particularly valuable given that equality, diversity & inclusion is such a major focus for CRUK.


What’s great about ETS is their commitment to working in close collaboration, attending stakeholder sessions and bringing in that crucial external perspective. Their ability to demonstrate what ‘good’ looks like with benchmarks and anecdotal evidence, and to guide us on the statistically key areas for us to focus on continues to be invaluable.

Rebecca Minter, Director of Talent and Experience

Survey outcomes

The most recent survey in 2022 and subsequent key driver analysis carried out by ETS revealed three ‘signal’ areas of focus for CRUK – enablement, reward and career aspirations. The ETS and CRUK teams worked closely on the playback of key findings and delivery of recommendations to the executive board.

In addition to this organisation-wide review of results, ETS supported directors with one-to-one sessions to analyse their own results and identify any different or additional areas to prioritise for action.

Meanwhile, at a local level, line managers could access the interactive dashboard to understand results for their team, while being encouraged to focus on three manager questions and take action, where needed, to address the scores.


Business Impact

A mark of the progress made by CRUK as an organisation, and the role played by the survey insights, is that two key areas from its previous 2021 survey exercise – leadership and inclusion – both saw significant score increases in 2022.
Rebecca Minter, said: “The latest survey results have provided evidence to support our people plans. ETS has helped to guide us on those key signals and the employee comments have supplemented the findings, providing rich insight.”
“It has been reassuring that the results have validated some existing things we knew intuitively we want to improve. It has also been useful to pinpoint where drivers of the employee experience differ across our various demographic groups.”