What makes a great place to work?
This week I was filled with pride as we collected our (extremely heavy!) award for achieving 2nd place in the 2012 UK’s Best Workplaces programme - our highest ranking yet in The Top 25 Small, Medium and Large organisations.
I’m always keen to share best practice, but rather than come up with yet another list of generic hints and tips for creating a Great Place to Work, I thought it would be good to focus on some less obvious, more quirky ways to create an award winning culture.
The Great Place to Work Awards are assessed on a combination of employee questionnaires and a Culture Audit, which looks at 9 key areas of practice from Hiring and Welcoming to Listening, Caring and Developing. From each area, I’ve picked out a few of the key things we do here at Impact – focusing on those which are a little bit different, are easily replicable and don’t cost a fortune to implement. In the spirit of sharing best practice, I’d love to hear from you too – please take a minute or two to post in the comments section below letting us know what innovative, unusual practices there are in your organisation when it comes to employee engagement and culture building.
Work takes up such a huge proportion of our lives, it’s absolutely vital to get it right and to make it enjoyable, fulfilling and inspiring. At Impact we aim for work-life weave rather than balance. We try not to separate the two but to make it a fun and happy place to be so that both work and life can be integrated into an enjoyable and fulfilling package.
Of course the examples below are just some of the many actions we fulfill under these headings. We are always happy to have an informal chat with anyone who would like to know more about becoming a Great Place to Work. Please tiree [dot] dawson [at] impactinternational [dot] com (subject: GPTW%20blog%20enquiry) (contact us).
In what distinctive ways does your company help employees balance their work lives with their personal and/or family lives?
Employee wellbeing is at the heart of our values. Our people work incredibly hard and frequently travel, so having a good life/work weave is crucial to keeping our team well and our culture alive.
Impact received the ‘Best for Wellbeing’ award from Best Companies in 2010 and 2011. Having looked at everything we do internally as an organisation and externally in our services to clients we decided to host a free ‘All Being Well’ Conference in June 2011 for clients, contacts and our employees. These events create new initiatives for our people to engage with and participate in and help us to share our best practice with an external group of clients.
How do you encourage fun and camaraderie among your employees?
Due to the nature of our business many of our people work away from home. To balance this, wherever possible we extend social event invitations to partners and families. All of our social events are organised by our employees, and time for organising (and attending daytime events) is given during work hours. The range of events on offer is as diverse in nature as our team of people – an End of Year Financial Lunch, Family Fun Days, an annual Quadrathlon, Kids’ Christmas Parties, craft fairs – we try to make sure there is something for everyone!
How does your company help employees discover and develop their talents, challenge themselves professionally, manage their careers, and/or enhance their personal growth?
We take the development of our staff very seriously and focus an enormous amount of time and energy in this area. Personally, I like to nurture and grow my own leaders, rather than recruit them in from elsewhere.
Last year we launched our first internal Future Leaders Programme – a new initiative which draws on our 32 years’ experience of designing and delivering leadership development programmes. Aimed at our full-time employees, the main business drivers for this programme are to identify future leaders, retain key talent and put into practice what we provide to our clients on a daily basis. Module one took place last November in New York and the next module begins early next month in Beijing. We have three cohorts planned for the next three years and we are oversubscribed!
Hiring & Welcoming
Hiring & Welcoming
How does your hiring process ensure that a job candidate will fit into your culture?
We rely heavily on our networks. If any employee in any role in the business spots someone they are impressed by we will meet the person with a view to employment. We will bring people in on a trial basis on a secondment or short-term contract to see how they fit in and if they like us.
When recruiting people who have come to us from outside these networks, we now ask candidates to send us a short video application to introduce themselves. This allows them to show us their personality and style before we invite them to one of our selection events. These selection events last 24-hours and are highly experiential - candidates may be asked to facilitate a learning session or deliver a sales pitch to a group of other candidates and Impact people.
How does your company inspire employees to feel that their work has more meaning than being just a job?
Storytelling is an important feature of our culture. We use a variety of functional and cross-functional meetings to improve communication, working practices and efficiency. These forums give us the chance to share stories with each other that reinforce our sense of pride in the company we work for and the work that we do. It also gives us the opportunity to hear about the results we are delivering for our clients. This is an important way of acknowledging and appreciating the hard work that is carried out by our colleagues and for us to see the direct link this has on business performance.
What are the ways in which employees can ask questions, provide feedback, or otherwise communicate with managers?
Impact has always adopted open and honest dialogue about all aspects of the business internally and we now do this even more than ever. We run open-invite dialogue sessions on a weekly basis, to encourage people to understand the direction the business is taking – and most importantly to feed in their ideas, comments and suggestions. Senior leaders are always clear that Impact is a collegiate organisation and that we all have responsibility for driving success.
How does your company promote a sense of fairness within the organisation?
We keep things simple and transparent to promote fairness across the business. Each individual’s salary relates to a job ladder, and everyone receives the same amount of holiday, 27 days regardless of experience or role and all receive a 5% pension contribution. In addition we provide extensive training and development opportunities at all levels.
All of our people benefit from a number of opportunities including reduced rates at a local gym, generously reduced rates at our hotels (many of our staff have been married at our hotels), stays at the Impact London flat, access to equipment and instruction in most outdoor pursuits, discounts on clothing and equipment, a travel and venues department offering advice and often the odd cheap ticket or night away. We use our networks and connections to leverage benefits for our people wherever possible, and nearly always with mutual benefit.
I’ve listed just a few examples of some of the things we do to create an enjoyable and meaningful working environment at Impact. We have always believed that happy people makes for good business and our priority at all times is to inspire, support and enable our people achieve their full potential. We’re not just interested in being a “Great Place To Work” more a “Great Place To Be”
What are the distinctive ways in which managers share information with employees and foster a culture of transparency?
Open and honest dialogue is a cornerstone of our success. At Impact there are rarely opportunities for ‘Speaking’ that are not also relevant as a ‘Listening’ opportunity too – we offer a range of forums (both real and virtual) for employees to ask questions and share feedback and opinions.
Each December we hold One Impact Week – a five-day internal conference that brings the global business together. The week has an agenda to share best practice, debate new methodologies and trial innovative projects. We also include virtual sessions and a buddy system, to enable our overseas offices to participate without having to travel to be with us. We are becoming increasingly effective at operating within the virtual space, both internally and with our client work, and this is presenting us with many new opportunities to connect.
How does your company show appreciation and/or recognition for employees’ good work and extra effort, or other achievements?
We regularly acknowledge great performance through formal and informal recognition. Achievements are recognised in a number of ways both financial and non-financial. Perhaps most famous, however, is our Silver Screw Award – awarded for the most conspicuous mistake of the year. We close the office at 11am on the last working day before Christmas and spend the rest of the day together as a company. We have lunch and drinks, before enjoying a presentation hosted by the current Silver Screw holder to share and celebrate any 'cock ups' that have been made during the year. The winner (the most conspicuous) receives the 'Silver Screw' award. The award was created over 25 years ago after a consultant broke the propeller of a boat. This established the name and design of the award. Celebrating mistakes in this humorous manner is great fun, but it is also pays testimony to our innovative culture – being creative involves taking risks, and accepting that things don’t always work out!