Two years ago Foundation SP followed a typical corporate model where business profits took precedence over client satisfaction, with employee happiness coming in third.
The technology solutions provider decided to take a step back. “We wanted our employees to be proud of working for Foundation SP so we switched it around,” says business manager Laura Carey. “We decided to put our employees first, our clients second and the profits third. Our belief is that employee satisfaction brings the best service for our clients which in turn drives profits.”
That switcharound has already brought success to the business, which has offices in the UK and Spain. In the company’s first year of entering the Great Workplaces benchmarking process, they were named top SME.
Everyone in the business was surveyed for the process and gave their views. “We are completely elated, but we feel we deserve it. Everyone is so proud to belong to this organisation. We’ve also had fantastic feedback from our clients. They want to hear our story,” says Laura.
The structure of the Foundation SP is bottom up and “inside out”. There are line managers, but their role is leadership and coaching rather than micromanaging employees. The company, which employs 33 people in the UK, has a strong record on employee engagement. Employees are asked a question every week which could be on any aspect of the business, from leadership to work culture. The feedback is all anonymous and the management team review it weekly and act upon it, for instance, a chill out room was set up on one floor of the office as a result of a suggestion by an employee.
Work life balance was another key part of the company’s winning culture. “We understand the importance of a healthy work life balance and what a massive impact it has on employee happiness,” says Laura. “Our values are family, success and passion. We think it is important to give our employees the ability to operate at their best. They have the option to choose their own hours. We do not have set hours.”
Many of the employees are parents and Foundation SP offers a range of flexible working, including the ability to work from home when necessary. “It is not micromanaged,” says Laura. Last year Foundation SP moved offices and employees can access the office at any time which means they don’t have to stick to traditional office hours. The company doesn’t just do flexible working, though. It advocates for it. Its website hosts blogs and videos emphasising the changing nature of work, the need to rethink work culture and embrace flexible working.
Laura says the flexible approach requires more planning and regular team catch-ups, although no-one is obligated to attend them. “Everyone in my team works part time,” she says, “but people do such a range of flexi hours that there is always someone around for our clients at any time of day.”
Family is integrated into the workplace. Laura says: “We like to consider the whole FSP team as a family unit, supporting each other and caring about their happiness, personal aspirations and development.” The company, which raises money for a local children’s hospice, has an internal personal group on Yammer where employees can post family pictures and pass on personal news. The company’s corporate video features employees’ children and Foundation SP offers family-related benefits, such as discounts on theme parks, cinema trips and the like and discounted childcare schemes. The company also has an employee assistance programme which includes 24/7 phone support for a range of concerns, including bereavement, which is open to family members who are over 16 years old.
The company’s approach is based on being responsive – to a changing world and to changing staff demands. This approach was behind the opening of its Barcelona office – two years ago a member of staff had to move to Barcelona, but instead of losing a valuable employee Foundation SP suggested that he set up an office in Spain. That office now employs seven members of staff. The UK and Barcelona offices are in touch daily via Yammer. “It’s as if they are not in a different country,” says Laura.
“The world of work is changing and businesses need to be responsive,” says Laura. “Traditional business is geared towards predictability and control. Modern business needs to be adaptable, empowering and engaging. The way we work ties in with that need for responsiveness. If businesses aren’t able to adapt, they might get left behind in this new world of working.”