Happy workers make for more productive workers. It’s well known today that employers who invest in the wellbeing and happiness of their workforce reap the benefits. But what makes them some of the best places to work?
Senay Boztas talks about the findings of The Sunday Times Best Places to Work in 2023 results. PA Life is delighted to be able to share them here together with the online list of this year’s winners. The listing showcases the best small, medium, big and very big organisations. It also ranks best workplaces for women, LGBTQ+ community, disabled employees, ethnic minorities, younger and older workers, and also for wellbeing.
Are you happy at work?
Findings from a total of 36,000 organisations in 106 countries by the career development platform WorkL show firms that make their people feel content perform better too. Unhappy employees are costing Britain millions of pounds, according to Lord Mark Price, the former trade minister and managing director of Waitrose.
It is a state of affairs that WorkL, which he founded in 2017, has been beavering away to put right. Lord Price is uniquely able to bring 34 years’ experience working at the John Lewis Partnership to the data gleaned from WorkL’s widespread study. “We’ve been able to figure out, from a qualitative and a quantitative point of view, what the real benefits are of having a happier and more engaged workforce,” he says, recalling one financial institution that had below-average engagement scores. “We calculated that the cost of their sick absence and staff turnover and loss of productivity was £2.5 million a year.”
Upping its staff engagement figures to the average rate would save £1m, WorkL found. “So although people think of this as being quite fluffy, it’s hard-nosed,” says Lord Price. Employees who aren’t happy represent a measurable “flight risk”, WorkL’s research indicates. Men aged between 25 and 44 are particularly prone to leaving their jobs, representing wasted investment in training and possibly a costly recruitment process.
Six elements needed to make it in The Best Places to Work in the UK
He identifies the six elements that drive a happy workplace below – attributes that abound among the employers featured in The Sunday Times Best Places to Work. Some top firms are generous with compensation. A performance bonus and uncapped commission at recruitment agency Carrington West, for instance, average salaries of above £45,000 at Big Bite Creative or a share scheme at NextWave Consulting are great examples.
It takes more than financial recognition
But reward and recognition are not just financial. Saying “thank you” can also make an impact. “On average in the UK, we say ‘thank you’ and congratulate people on a job well done every two months,” says Lord Price. “It matters to people to feel they are doing something that’s been recognised as worthwhile.
”Sharing information is important to ensure staff understand why business choices are made and their own role. Employees at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust are encouraged to “ask Ify” – the chief executive Dr Ify Okocha – their questions directly. Empowerment means trusting people to do their jobs. “We don’t wallow in mistakes,” as the podcast and radio production agency, Fresh Air Production, puts it. “There are no witch hunts.” At the7stars media agency, employees can work from anywhere worldwide for four weeks a year.
At Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, one of the top ten very big organisations, employees such as this nurse are encouraged to contact the chief executive directly with any questions they may have.
Learning is part of job satisfaction
Job satisfaction is also driven by career development or the sense of learning within a job, plus the direct relationship with your manager. “This is pretty critical to whether you are happy or not at work,” says Lord Price.
At London interior design studio Albion Nord, staff are encouraged to visit exhibitions “to benefit growth”; Britain’s top employers typically invest in professional management training rather than employing managers as if by accident.
Wellbeing falls into three areas, notes Lord Price: mental, physical and financial. “The physical one is straightforward. If, say, you work in a factory or an area where health and safety is a big issue, is that being taken care of? If you are disabled, is the organisation managing that disability with you?” With increasing numbers of people identifying with mental illness, “is the organisation aware of that? Are you able to manage the mental struggles you may be having?”
And then it’s financial: “Does the organisation help you if you have financial difficulty? If it does, how?” Staff wellbeing is an area where great companies get inventive. Hamilton Barnes Associates, the recruiter, brings in a barber or eyelash technician once a month; the marketing platform Awin runs rural retreats. Several firms offer hardship loans to their employees.
And finally, pride is key: the thing that makes you feel a company is yours and you share its success. “The anecdote that I tell most often is when President Kennedy went to visit Nasa before it put a man on the moon,” says Lord Price. “He said to the janitor, ‘What do you do?’ The janitor replied: ‘I’m putting a man on the moon.’ He had a huge amount of pride in his job because he saw its place within what everybody there was trying to achieve.”
If you did not enter this year, entries for the 2024 awards are now open!, please visit here for more information on how to enter.
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