Creating a great workplace

The Structure Group, a management consultancy specialising in energy and finance, was recently named the second best place to work in the UK by the Great Places to Work Institute. Senior director Jim Hayward explains why the company won the accolade.

Our people are our greatest asset. How many times have you heard someone trot out this worn-out cliché? Undervalued through overuse, it’s a glib platitude that too often has no basis in fact at the companies who use it most. However, when organisations can say it and mean it, they have a powerful message that has a noticeable impact on their bottom line.

There are hundreds of ideas and initiatives that can help make an organisation a great place to work, but they all ultimately boil down to two things: trust and respect.

Although trust is a hard concept to tie down, there are simple ways to foster it. Managers need to tell staff what is going on in the company in a transparent and honest fashion. This results in employees feeling not only informed of but included in the decision-making process. The alternative is almost certainly rumour, counter-rumour and Chinese whispers.

A flat structure helps too, avoiding unnecessary hierarchy, and a free flow of information, whether through regular socialising or a regular news bulletin, is essential. Above all, the commitment to integrity – to following words by action – is the keystone of building trust in management.

It’s not enough for staff to trust management though. In order to develop a sense of pride in their work, employees must also feel respected.

Company policy and guidelines are essential to help create a level playing field for all your staff, but individuals are individuals. Careers progress at different paces and family commitments, trans-continental relationships, or simple wanderlust should not end careers. It’s important to offer individualised training programmes, personalised incentives and flexible career paths that fit round your people, rather than expecting them to bend to a single company identity.

Creating a great place to work is often dismissed as ‘soft’, but it does have a noticeable impact across the business, not least on your recruitment strategy. Engaged and fulfilled employees will naturally act as positive ambassadors for your company when networking or catching up with old industry contacts. This is worth more than any marketing campaign, leading to well-targeted applications.

Being a great place to work can have wider ramifications for recruitment. Displaying the Investors in People logo or being able to shout about your success in the Great Places to Work Awards will act as an incentive to the most astute candidates by marking you out as an employer of choice.

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.