Accredited GBC organisation, Leek Building Society, provides an excellent example of how people can be truly championed, and employee wellbeing put at the heart of a business. Pre 2019, the Director of HR did not have a position on the Executive Committee which therefore meant work around employees was not always prioritised. This was rectified in 2019 when the new CEO, himself a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, welcomed the HR Director onto the Executive Committee and placed strategic HR in the centre of the organisation’s corporate agenda.
This led to an Employee Support Programme which was perfectly placed to guide them through the Covid-19 pandemic. Its five pillars were:
- In-house support: Policies covering all aspects of health and wellbeing were put in place and augmented with internal resources, such as well-trained and supported mental health first aiders and domestic abuse support champions. Other initiatives, such as regular health and wellbeing weeks, promoting healthy eating and a positive lifestyle were made available to employees.
- Third-party support: Togetherall’s digital mental health support platform (‘a safe, online community where people support each other anonymously to improve mental health and wellbeing’) was launched and continues to be available to employees 24/7. The platform allows individuals with mild to moderate mental health challenges to speak anonymously with peers and to share feelings and experiences openly in a supportive and uplifting environment. Professionally trained clinicians monitor the community to ensure the safety and anonymity of all members. To support physical wellbeing, the Society provides all staff with free Bupa health screenings.
- Line manager training: The Society views good line management as a crucial link in the employee wellbeing chain. It’s committed to ensuring that all managers understand their role and are confident and capable in this area. Training was rolled out to all managers to help them identify and support team members with their welfare needs and issues.
- Executive promotion: The Society’s leaders, including the CEO, regularly promote the Society’s health and wellbeing provision via video and written addresses. Many have openly shared their own experience and that of their family members, which has had a profound impact on creating a more inclusive and open culture around mental health.
- Pandemic-specific support and communications: A special ‘COVID-19 Support Committee’, led by the CEO, operated throughout the pandemic. This involved very regular communications to all staff dealing with updates on the pandemic, key business messages and staff safety updates, both in the office and at home. This meant that the sudden shift to homeworking, which involved more than half the workforce in 2020, was essentially seamless, leaving all colleagues feeling that they weren’t isolated despite being away from the office.
With the pandemic largely behind us, the focus has moved to the cost-of-living crisis that is impacting so many. Leek Building Society, with such a strong focus on their employees, has maintained its focus on health and wellbeing but has also augmented financial support, including the following:
- a workplace savings scheme to encourage savings behaviour by employees who can save as little or as much as they like every month from their net pay
- commitment to a fair and equitable pay system, such as signing up to the Living Wage Foundation and a generous cost-of-living increase to salaries, weighted towards lower-paid staff and backdated one year to provide a welcome lump sum for everyone at Christmas
- effective pensions and retirement planning, including an uplift in the employer contribution to the occupational pension plan from 6% to 7.5%, without requiring an increase in the contributions from staff
- a supportive occupational sick pay scheme, with full pay for six months for individuals with significant health conditions
- a review of maternity, paternity and adoption pay, resulting in two weeks’ full pay for paternity leave in addition to two weeks’ statutory, along with a considerable uplift in maternity and adoption pay.
These measures show an overlap between our first three commitments – to real living wage, fairer hours and contracts, and employee wellbeing – which collectively make an enormous difference to workers in how they approach work, and also how they manage the other challenges of life. As our founder, Julian Richer, says ‘it’s all about the people’ and Leek Building Society has taken clear actions to show that they fully agree with this mantra and are passionate about ensuring people feel cared for and supported. A great example for others to follow.
And if you remain unconvinced, here are some of the outcomes Leek Building Society has seen:
- Employee engagement levels have been transformed and are now well ahead of industry benchmarks for banks and building societies.
- Absence rates have reduced over the past year.
- Staff loyalty and retention rates have increased dramatically, and the Society has experienced very low voluntary turnover levels compared with many others in the sector.
- In a recent survey 97% of staff said that they were proud to work for the Society and 95% would recommend the Society as an employer of choice to friends and family.
- The organisation’s culture was independently audited in 2021 and received the highest possible grading, with a hugely positive overall assessment.
So caring for your people isn’t just the right thing to do. It brings tangible benefits to your organisation. Investment is required – whether that is uplifting salaries or investing in attractive benefits for employees – but the companies who champion their workers are without a doubt the ones better able to weather the storms, serve customers well and thrive as a business.