Emma Govus and team, AVEVA Group

Emma Govus, Aveva
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AVEVA’s business might be technology-focused, but when faced with a global pandemic its team distilled the business’ core concern to one thing: people. By creating a more human-centred working environment and developing a culture of trust and openness, the company created something that will outlive Covid-19.


Innovation and creativity are key to success in the digital technology sector, but it's well documented that stress stifles both of these things. How, then, can a business founded on these two tenets survive one of the most stressful events of modern times? UK-based global industrial software business AVEVA decided that a human-centric approach was the key. 

“One of AVEVA’s biggest assets is its people, so when the pandemic struck we were faced with the challenge of how to best support them in these very different circumstances, whilst making sure that they continued to live our values, still feel part of a team and were able to manage their work/life balance in this unusual situation,” explains Emma Govus, the organisation’s Global Benefits Manager.

What evolved over these months of re-adjustment was a new culture of transparency and empathy. A so-called ‘tiger team’ focused on employee wellbeing roared into action, and colleagues were encouraged to air their concerns and support each other.

Global teams, separated by physical distance and all experiencing differing stages of the pandemic, were able to come together virtually, receiving individualised support, whilst also feeling the familial ties of being under the AVEVA umbrella

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AVEVA’s core cultural themes

When examining the new culture that Emma and the team helped shape, four key themes emerge...

1. Communication

The company was quick to identify employees’ key issues and concerns and was able to address them in simple, accessible terms. By bringing together employees from all levels of the business, including senior leadership, its mental wellbeing initiative encouraged open and honest communication from the outset and provided employees with a ‘safe space’ to talk.

2. Inclusion

The ‘whole family’ approach of the company’s wellbeing scheme made sure that regardless of their individual situation, all employees were able to bring their ‘whole self’ to work. By thinking globally as well as locally, the business was able to offer personalised support to employees in each region, making everyone feel equally cared for.

3. Recognition

Recognition not only engenders employee loyalty, but it also boosts morale and further promotes the values the company is seeking to embed. AVEVA’s recognition platform has provided an outlet for this, and a space for employees to convene and celebrate each other’s achievements.  

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When Covid-19 arrived employee wellbeing and mental health became a core concern for the business…

When the pandemic struck, AVEVA’s global workforce was quickly transitioned to being home-based, but remote working presented a number of challenges beyond the logistical ones. 

“We received anecdotal accounts from employees early on that people were feeling lonely, isolated and disconnected, and also that people needed help navigating the work/life balance in lockdown,” said Emma.

It soon became clear that employees were suffering with various mental health issues, including isolation, depression and bereavement. Some of these were already present (but worsened during lockdown) and some were a direct product of lockdown.

How did the company approach this issue?

Employee wellbeing moved up on the company’s agenda, with a ‘tiger team’ being established to review and implement some key corporate initiatives. The company also set up regular all hands calls with its CEO and leadership team, providing remote updates and Q&A sessions to all employees across the organisation.

The company launched an ‘its ok to not be ok’ campaign globally, which included sharing 60+ images of employees from all levels of the organisation holding up signs of support for mental health issues.

The tiger team also reached out to colleagues and asked them to share their stories and concerns around mental health, publishing a range of real-life employee articles on a specially created wellbeing hub, covering topics such as dementia, parenting through lockdown, living with anxiety and bereavement. The hub was promoted via weekly email newsletters sent to employees.

Practical support was also offered to employees, as the company’s employee assistance programme was extended globally. “It was important to us that, whilst this was a global initiative, the solution was local,” explained Emma.

Every employee received notification of the scheme, with an e-leaflet in their local language, containing local telephone numbers for them to contact for support. Additionally the scheme covered all family members, and not just the employee.

As the pandemic developed, AVEVA also monitored which countries were most impacted by Covid-19 and where there might be gaps in insurance coverage. In Italy, Russia, France and India it implemented short-term, immediate additional medical insurance to support employees in case of a Covid-19 diagnosis. The message to employees was simple – ‘we will support you though this pandemic, try not to worry’.

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What was the reaction from employees?

Whilst overall there were a lot of challenges to overcome, the experience has brought AVEVA employees closer together, explained Emma.

“Zoom calls now frequently include family members, hobbies and interests are more openly discussed, and everyone takes a moment to check in on colleagues on a regular basis. We have developed into one big AVEVA family,” said Emma.

“One of the biggest messages we wanted to send our employees was that everyone has a different personal battle throughout the pandemic, and that we need to look after each other and be mindful of others' needs”.

Feedback was a critical element of the company’s wellbeing strategy. In response to employees’ concerns in one survey that there was not enough recognition of their work efforts, the company implemented a global recognition platform where informal peer-to-peer messages of thanks could be shared

“This initiative was a great way for managers and employees to thank and recognise each other for a job well done, and it’s also been a fantastic morale booster, driving home the values and behaviours we want to share as a business”.

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What was the impact of the company’s wellbeing interventions?

Usage of the company’s EAP solution increased nearly 2% globally in Q3, and the reaction to the intranet campaign continues to receive positive feedback from colleagues, with many likes/comments and messages of support from colleagues across the world. 

During the first wave of the pandemic in Italy, one colleague in procurement said:

When a lot of companies here are firing or laying off staff, you gave us further insurance to look after us. That means a lot to me.

The recognition platform has also received enthusiastic take-up from colleagues, with employees posting 571 recognitions and more than 2,000 interactions taking place in the first month alone.

One colleague publicly thanked their manager for their support during lockdown, stating, “I asked my line manager for help adapting my hours to be more flexible around my family requirements and they did. It shows just how understanding and supportive our amazing AVEVA family is”.

Looking to the future

While AVEVA took significant steps forward in their wellbeing offering in 2020, they’ve only scratched the surface of their ambition in this area. 

In early 2021, the company will launch a new financial wellbeing questionnaire to help remove the stigma attached to talking about money. This will be tested in the UK before being rolled out globally. It is hoped that the results will help the business to create a targeted action plan of suggested improvements and support employees to combat the stress that money worries can bring. 

Employee recognition efforts will also step up a gear next year, with the launch of a global loyalty and dedication policy that will offer employees a blended reward to recognise their years of service. Values based quarterly and annual awards will also be given to celebrate the company’s most recognised colleagues with gift vouchers and certificates. 

What did our Culture Pioneers ambassadors think?

Culture Pioneers Ambassadors

Our ambassadors all agreed that AVEVA’s culture of clear communication was the key to its success.

“I admired their openness about early interventions and mobilisation of existing services to meet a new need around isolation and connectedness. They listened, adapted and enhanced inclusion and input via tiger teams and the advocacy of senior leaders made it more relevant and obvious,” said Perry Timms, Founder and Chief Energy Officer of People & Transformational HR.

Blaire Palmer, CEO of That People Thing, was particularly impressed by AVEVA’s ‘whole family’ approach to employees. “They truly recognised that it isn’t just the employee who is impacted but their family, too. AVEVA’s response to the pandemic was grounded in their values and presented in simple, accessible terms: ‘we will support you, try not to worry’. That’s powerful”.

“AVEVA also took a global view. They offered tailored support to staff working in different countries. This meant that depending on how each region was dealing with the virus, they could offer personalised, local support. Using recognition to keep employees connected and positive was also a great decision and the data speaks for itself,” added Gethin Nadin, one of the world’s Top 100 Employee Engagement Influencers.

Enjoyed reading this story? Discover how our other Culture Pioneers reshaped their culture during the pandemic.