Bright Horizons Family Solutions recognises the need for a flexible workforce to deal with the kind of flexible schedules its customers – parents – are working these days.
“We could not do what we do without being flexible,” says Sharon Williams, the company’s director of HR. “We recognise the fact that people’s needs change during their time with us and that being flexible means we can support our customers better because they are no longer looking solely for 8am-6pm care.”
The childcare company offers flexible working to all staff and tries to accommodate all requests where possible. Flexible working is just one strand in a package of benefits the company offers to staff which have just been recognised with a national workplace award.
Its flexible working policy is part of the organisation’s overall focus on staff well being. Last year it conducted a well being survey and it is working on many of the points raised, for example, providing a back-up care programme for staff which is not just for childcare emergencies, but also for elder care needs. “Elder care is becoming a significant issue,” says Sharon. “If staff don’t get support at work they could leave or be so stressed they cannot focus. We need to understand the issues staff are facing which is why we conducted the survey.”
Bright Horizons is also working in partnership with Employers for Carers for Carers Week and has teamed up with Working Families for Work Life Week. “One of the key things for us is to partner with like-minded organisations,” says Sharon.
Other benefits of working for Bright Horizons [www.brighthorizons.co.uk] include childcare discounts and an inclusive learning portal. The learning portal is open to all staff, including part timers, and supports staff at all levels. “We recognise that we are all learners,” adds Sharon.
The company also has a culture of recognition, and holds a system of awards recognising staff who have gone beyond the call of duty. The awards are, says Sharon, “a key part of our organisation’s culture”.
Colleagues, parents, clients and sometimes children can nominate staff for their Awards of Excellence programme. Awards celebrations are held both regionally and nationally and recognise staff from across the business. The awards recognise aspects such as parent partnership, leading with heart, diversity and inclusion, environmental championship.
“The culture that we are creating is that everyone is part of a family. We want people to feel and stay connected to each other and to our mission and values. That’s what makes us special. My children are now 18 and 16 and they still talk about their time at a Bright Horizons nursery. It had a big impact on them,” says Sharon, “and having that nursery support enabled me to do my job”.
“World class” welcome
Bright Horizons was recently recognised by the Great Place to Work Institute as one of the best large workplaces in the UK. The organisation, which employs over 4,000 people, was particularly praised for its “World Class Welcome” video.
The video aims to give new staff a thorough overview of their role and how they contribute to the overall success of the organisation. It was created by and includes contributions from everyone from children, nursery nurses, cooks and senior managers who say how they feel about what they do and what it feels like to work for Bright Horizons. “We are not a top down organisation,” says Sharon. “It’s all about people working collaboratively and the videos make what we do come alive. You can read policy after policy, but hearing about what we do from the children we care for makes it more meaningful.”
Another way that the organisation makes being part of Bright Horizons more meaningful is through its Bright Horizons Foundation for Children. This year staff around the country are taking part in the Four Peaks Challenge and sponsored walks. They hope to raise £100,000 which will be used to create ‘Bright Spaces’ such as playrooms in women’s refuges.
“We have received letters from the children who have benefited," says Sharon. "It is good to give something back and it means that working at Bright Horizons is more than just a job.”