Our Journey to being a Good Employer
– and why your business should do the same

Marc Drew

Marc Drew

Managing Director

The push / pull factors of starting a new business still remain with me.

As well as the vision to improve recruitment and HR consultancy available to businesses, was the end-of-the-road of me reaching the end of working for someone else.

I was tired of what I saw as the misalignment between what customers said they wanted versus the strategy set by the top of the organisation I worked for.

But it was mostly the ways of working and seeing promotion and development handed to those who were present, but not always performing which frustrated me and others less visible.

All of this served as a catalyst for my desire to create a business that gave everyone an equal opportunity to succeed.

But how to do it better?

How could we create a work environment which better balanced the business needs, and all that comes with establishing and maintaining a business, with the desire for a great employee experience?

Since 2014, I have learned from many mistakes in trying to establish a culture that rewards hard work and success.

Adopting a nurturing approach to those who needed it most, by staying patient, playing the long game and waiting for their potential to be realised was not always the right thing.

Some employees have left before they really “got” what it meant to work here, particularly the remote workers during Covid.

Some of our superstar employees have moved on to pursue new opportunities elsewhere, with so much more to give, and we hope they will return when we, and they, are even more experienced.

After 9 years of stumbling our way, we started to find our groove, employees were developing, becoming more independent and effective in their daily activities, and getting promoted.

But I felt we needed some structure. Some clear goals to focus on and a framework, to keep improving what it means to work at Cogito.

That’s why earlier this year we set ourselves the goal of becoming a Good Employment Charter Member, I hope our reasons for doing so resonate with you and might inspire you to do the same.

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Why the Good Employment Charter?

As a Small business, we have 25 employees, with less resource available than many other companies, we wanted to understand how we could improve our employee experience and employment practices in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

Becoming a Supporter was our initial step to aid us in:

  • Understanding and implement best practice
  • Ensuring our employees have the best experience at work at all stages of the employee lifecycle
  • Gaining support and resources to support changes
  • Guiding our people approach through set standards and a user friendly framework
  • To become an Employer of Choice in the South West

The Charter did not recommend any costly actions and it gave us great guidance on the implementation of some new initiatives.  We were buoyed by the things we had already done and were ready to take the next step – Member!

Good Employment Charter

But were we ready?

My first question to our HR Advisor was:

“how much time and resource will it take to apply?”

Despite the clear focus and our good intentions, our team is always busy! Thankfully, having a driven HR Advisor meant help was at hand and it was straightforward and not too admin heavy.

We signed up to be a Supporter.  Anyone can be a Supporter, and this allows you to review and measure your organisation against the 7 Charter Characteristics:

 

  1. Secure Work
  2. Flexible Work
  3. Real Living Wage
  4. Engagement and Voice
  5. Recruitment
  6. Developing People
  7. Health and Wellbeing

We pledged to make improvements and set ourselves six months to implement these.

We accessed support and resources through the Charter which helped us to make the changes needed to complete our pledges.

This helped us to implement engagement initiatives such as a Pulse Survey – which has seen our employee Net Promoter Score increase throughout the year! – and a monthly Recognition Award where our standout employees were nominated by their colleagues; helping to generate a sense of championing others success and team work.

We adapted and streamlined our Performance Review process and documentation, conducted In-House Manager Training on HR policies and procedures, and rolled out Mental Health Training to ALL Employees.

 

Ensuring that our employees are more competent, foster mutual support and develop strong bonds with each other.

 

And in a collaborative effort, our team created the Cogito Principles. These principles embody our current and future cultural aspirations.

Becoming a Fully Accredited Member

Good Employment Charter

After completing the first phase, we set our sights on obtaining full membership.

Within 7 months since applying, we were happy that we had implemented positive changes to our employee experience and employment practices. We believed that we had a strong application to go forward for the full membership, here are the key steps we took:

  1. We found out when the next panel was meeting to review the applications and started filling in the application form – it did need dedicated time to ensure that the narrative answering each element was of quality and demonstrated that characteristic of Good Employment. So, I would ensure you have time set aside or perhaps complete this as a pair/group to lighten the workload.
  2. We collected all the relevant evidence we needed, with a focus on showcasing the positive impact of our initiatives on our employees. The evidence we needed was readily available so this was not something that took too long however I would recommend collecting evidence along the way when you are developing against the characteristics so that it is easy to access and pull together when applying.
  3. We submitted the application and related evidence via email and highlighted areas where we may have been unsure or unclear.
  4. We received tailored feedback on our application and a request for some further evidence where it was required.
  5. We became accredited as a member of the Good Employment Charter and attended The Good Employment Summit to recognise our membership, talk about the application process and network with likeminded people. We were proud to receive our Good Employment Charter plaque, which now sits in our team meeting room as a reminder of the commitments we’ve made.

My Reflections and Why You Might Consider It Too

  1. Working through the application adds so much value to your business and how you operate as an employer in a structured way; I was surprised by the level of support and resources you could access from signing up.
  2. The Supporter role offers great flexibility in terms of the number of characteristics you can pledge to at once, and the duration of your pledge, whether it be a few months or two years.
  3. Especially if you are a Small-Medium Sized business, the Charter’s guidance and framework can really guide your people approach and is user friendly so anyone can use it to make improvements and changes. It would also be a great group exercise for the wider team to get involved in – it could be a great business improvement project!
  4. There are so many great in-person networking opportunities and talks on key topics on offer and being associated with The Charter has given us the chance to connect with other employers, share experiences and explore partnership or business opportunities.
  5. If you have an HR person in your business, I would suggest working with them and co-Owning it. If you don’t get some help from someone who understands HR it will be more difficult, so some expertise is useful if you have it / can find it.
  6. Lastly, The Charter is free, which is a bonus for small businesses on a tight budget.

 

What Is Next For Us?

For a small business, we are proud of the feedback we received.

We go above and beyond when it comes to Mental Health education and support, something we feel strongly about and support other businesses with every day through our external training. This was something that was highlighted in our application feedback along with the standard of our employment policies and our in-house Learning & Development.

Since, then we have:

  • Created clear Career Pathways for EVERY employee, so we can create personal development plans.
  • Introduced a Future Leaders Programme to help develop our most high potential employees to take on leadership roles in 2 years.
  • Kicked off a review of our benefits with a plan to introduce a new and improved range in 2024

We cannot standstill.

The needs of the working population are ever changing. What employees want from employers evolves.  Our journey continues and we are ready to further improve what it means to work for Cogito.

 

If you are thinking of gaining similar membership status and want to understand more about the process from the employer’s side, please feel free to drop me a message.  I’d love to tell you more over coffee!

Just get in touch

Marc Drew, Managing Director, Cogito

Email: marcdrew@cogitohr.com

 

 What is the Good Employment Charter?

The Good Employment Charter sets employment standards best practices for Businesses operating in the Southwest of all sizes. The standards set are based on 7 Characteristics of Good Employment including Secure Work, Flexible Work, Real Living Wage, Engagement and Voice, Recruitment, Developing People, Health and Wellbeing. Within these characteristics there are a number of areas you can measure your business against. It’s a great framework to understand where you can make changes and improvements to your people offering and where you are already meeting or exceeding best practice recommendations.   Find out more: The West of England Good Employment Charter | Home

Cogito is now one of the founding members of the Charter, and we want to help other businesses achieve the same.  You can find out more about Cogito by visiting www.cogitohr.com

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