Thought leadership event

Unlocking the potential for growth in our employees

Stephanie Hasenbos-Case, people and client experience leader and Jenn Barnett, head of people experience discuss how we are boosting the performance and potential of our employees.

Today’s business environment is less predictable than ever. People often feel powerless and stressed in the face of change, yet change is a constant. To unlock the potential for growth in people, organisations must help them cope with the complexity it brings.

Help from the top

You can start by taking a fresh view of leadership and management. Organisations should design new working relationships and habits that enable their people to thrive. They should nurture leaders who can be agile, responsive and guide people in different ways. When it comes to creating these new cultures, ‘tone from the top’ is the secret – leaders have to set the pace, demonstrate the behaviours they are promoting, and  stay consistent with the message.

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Diversity drives performance

We’ve found inclusivity is crucial to unlocking the performance of our people and our business. So making diversity part of our culture is important. Our shared enterprise programme encourages independence, initiative and crucially diverse inputs. We want every voice to be heard. The programme creates a framework for suggesting and progressing ideas – even trainees can lead ground-breaking work. If we want innovation, we need a variety of perspectives. And we make better decisions when we listen to diverse views.

Agile and flexible working unlocks initiative

One way to unlock people’s performance is through flexible working. This boosts diversity by helping people with different backgrounds and circumstances to continue to work and to excel. The government’s own Workplace Employment Relations Study shows a correlation between flexibility and performance. People who are given a choice about where and even when they work are more willing to give more back and use their own initiative to carry out tasks not usually required of them.

When the law made flexible working available to women and carers, we made it available to all our people – both men and women. Our family policy was recognised with the Working Families Allen & Overy Innovation award. We don’t view it simply as a female issue. We want to empower and enable all our employees. Our policy allows parents to choose how they take parental leave, and to determine how their salary is paced over their leave. In doing this, we signalled the importance of family and of flexible working to our firm.

We also introduced agile working in our physical spaces and invested in the technology to support it. In 2015, we opened our first collaborative working space in St Albans, with informal meeting booths, work benches, a lounge, and presentation rooms among the facilities on offer. The site is paperless, without landlines and uses a variety of spaces for flexible needs. We’ve found that agile working in this way helps people to break down silos, trust colleagues, collaborate more and deliver innovative results.

Creating a culture of empowerment

People want to be heard and trusted. It’s also key to give them the space and opportunity to improve. Attracting great talent in the first place is key, but it’s also important to create a place where those people can develop and improve. It’s particularly important given the increasingly transient nature of the workforce and the growth of a contracting mindset – it makes you a more attractive potential employer.

Four tips for unlocking the potential for growth in your people

Define your organisation’s purpose

Our purpose of shaping a vibrant economy is one of our greatest assets. By following our purpose – in the work that we do, the people we work with and what we choose to speak out on – and clearly communicating it, we’re attracting and engaging great talent and we’re making more connections with like-minded businesses in the marketplace.

Help your leaders to manage remote teams

We’ve focused on new workplaces and technology to make flexible working easier. We’ve found it works best when leaders support it and encourage people to think independently. Trust is the key. Our priority this year is supporting people managers in leading dispersed teams more effectively. We want to create a context that supports management by outcome and deliverable, rather than management based on location.   

Share the responsibility and rewards of growth with your people

Our shared enterprise programme was introduced in 2015 to drive performance by sharing the responsibility for results – and the rewards. Firstly, we have a culture of shared ideas from every level. Secondly, we empower people to use their initiative and share responsibility and accountability for their results. Finally, we share the financial rewards among our people.

Encourage diversity

Our business should reflect the diversity of our clients and offer them a broad perspective. To achieve this we are addressing some of the root causes of low social mobility and gender imbalance. To achieve this we have taken the time to first understand the systemic cultural barriers to progression and then work to remove them. We recently announced our 2020 pledge to tackle gender imbalance and build a more inclusive and diverse workforce.  We are currently ranked number one in the Social Mobility Foundation’s ‘Employer Social Mobility Index’.  Our progress in social mobility stems from a number of new policies that were introduced to widen access and inclusion.  These measures include the removal of the requirement for a 2:1 degree at trainee level and a successful School Leavers apprenticeship programme. These new policies are designed to attract people from a broader range of backgrounds to join our firm. We are also a founding signatory of Access Accounting, which aims to broaden access to the profession.

Find out more about our leadership people and culture services.

Find out more about our Cranfield event series, held in conjunction with Cranfield School of Management.  

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