What makes the difference from a good place to work to the best?
DMW Group is an IT consultancy firm which last week scooped both the Best Workplaces in the UK award for small companies and for learning and development for the second year running. It was praised for its staff engagement and overall work culture.
Its annual staff survey shows high levels of satisfaction with DMW as a whole, with work life balance figuring high on the list of reasons for working there.
The company has also had a big emphasis on diversity this year and is launching several initiatives to encourage more women to consider working in IT consultancy.
“We work in IT which has fewer female professionals than male and consulting is similar. If you put the two together there is nowhere near equality in terms of the number of female IT consultants on the market,” says Recruitment Manager Sam Newell. “We recognise that having a diverse workforce adds value to our business and clients alike.”
Managing consultant Kate Shaw adds: “We are looking to grow and the aim of that is to have a diversity of roles and skill sets. The only way to do that is through having a diversity of talent. Diversity is really important to the success of the company and gender is the biggest area where there is a lack of equality in this industry.”
For the first time in its 25 years of existence, the company – which has five female staff members out of a total of 40 – has a recruitment target of 20% for the number of female consultants it plans to hire this year.
This will not mean positive discrimination – the company is still keen to hire the best person for the job – but it will do all it can to ensure that it attracts the best talent, whether male or female.
As part of the process of attracting more women, DMW has looked at its entire process of attraction, from where they advertise jobs to the language they use in recruitment. Women candidates will also have access to female consultants during the recruitment process. “We want to ensure we do everything we can to hire the best consultants in the market,” says Kate.
DMW is also setting up a women returners programme for those who have been on maternity leave or taken a longer career break.
The programme, which will launch later in the year, will include refresher training which Kate says is important given how fast the tech industry evolves. “It’s about bringing people up to speed so they feel more confident about going back to work,” she says.
The programme is flexible and will adapt to the individual needs of those who apply to join it. One of the reasons DMW was praised in the Best Workplaces Awards was for the flexibility of its training and development programme.
DMW is also taking part in existing women in technology groups to find out what works best and is looking to hold its own women in technology networking event.
One of the big issues for consultants is the long hours culture. Kate has previously worked at bigger consultancies and says one of the reasons she left was due to the lack of work life balance. “This is the first place I have found where there genuinely is work life balance,” she says.
DMW is unusual as a consulting firm because its clients are mainly based within London/the M25. DMW consults its employees (and their families) on roles outside that area and they can choose whether or not to take the role.
Moreover, whenever possible DMW supports career progression alongside flexible working, for example, working from home when not at a client site or alternating weeks between a client site and London. Larger firms tend to give consultants very short notice about being posted many miles from their homes.
“We cannot say people will never be asked to work outside this region because that would be unfair in a company of 40 consultants, but we do take people’s personal circumstances into consideration,” says Sam.
Benefits for new parents are also good – maternity pay is two weeks at 100% of employee’s salary, followed by 12 weeks at 90% of employee’s salary and 25 weeks at the statutory rate. Paternity leave is two weeks at full pay plus additional unpaid leave of four weeks in any one year and a total of 13 weeks in the first five years.
Such policies have not had a negative impact on its ability to attract work – the firm grew by 20% last year and has similar plans this year.
In addition to its work life balance policies, the company operates a flat non-hierarchical structure.
Indeed, in the last year it has removed another staff grade, leaving just three in total. Moreover, career progression is important from day one – every staff member is given a mentor upon joining, as well as their own choice of IT equipment so they can work flexibly.
DMW Group places a big emphasis on corporate social responsibility – all employees get up to two days off work a year to spend on CSR/charity work. Kate says it is keen to encourage people who have a life outside work and places an emphasis on staff who have an outside interest in its recruitment process.
It also provides several fora for listening to staff views, including bi-annual Strategy Days. For the most recent one in April, all staff were involved in planning events and were invited to bring their ideas so they could be fed into the company’s five-year strategy.
The April Strategy Day takes place on a Friday and is followed by a fun day of activities such as country-walks and spa treatments. A few weeks later, in recognition that people have been taken away from their families, there is a Family Day. Recent years have seen trips to the zoo combined with face painting and activities for children.
Kate emphasises that family was at the heart of DMW’s business culture when it started up. “We want to maintain that culture as we grow,” she says. That includes working mums.
Kate adds: “DMW is excited to be recruiting from the disappointingly untapped market of working mothers. Bringing greater balance to its diversity is yet another way that it helps its clients with their most difficult and challenging problems.”