From chocolate-making to gospel choirs: not your normal workplace

Michelle Taylor at Sky Betting & Gaming says the company’s creative and compassionate approach has helped her through the pandemic.

Chocolate

Waves on the surface of the chocolate. 3d render

Michelle Taylor [pictured below] is Senior Solutions Architect at Sky Betting & Gaming [SBG] and started at the company in December 2019. She says she was immediately struck by its approach to employee engagement – an approach which won it this year’s workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Award for Employee Engagement.

In December, SBG operates a rewards scheme which involves hitting a range of easily achievable targets. As you hit each one your reward gets bigger. Michelle recalls hitting one target and the team being rewarded with a session of chocolate making with an expert. Another gift was a group meal and another involved a gospel choir coming to serenade the team in the office. “They are not big things in their own right, but they showed me that this was not your normal workplace,” says Michelle.

The company has managed to adapt this innovative approach to Covid. Michelle describes herself as a people person and has missed being with people, but she says SBG recognised this and the fact that people have responded to lockdown in different ways. Not only have there been regular check-ins, but also fun events such as quizzes – twice a week to begin with. Colleagues have taken to checking in each day on Slack to say good morning. That way colleagues can see if someone is perhaps having a difficult time and they can reach out to them.

The senior leadership sent out regular updates too which Michelle says were “like a breath of fresh air”. “I thought this can’t be real, for instance, they said if you have children and need to home school them don’t worry. Work can wait. Family comes first. They said if you need to have a break and get out, take a walk. No-one is checking up on you. They accepted that we are all individuals and that we are coping in different ways with the pandemic,” says Michelle.

Switching off

From November the company introduced a 30-minute slot [outside the lunch hour] where everyone could switch off and do something different whether that was reading a book, learning to roller skate or watching tv.

But, for Michelle, the best engagement initiative was the Wheel of Fortune game, an idea adapted from This Morning. “It brings everyone together,” she says. Special versions were held for children at Halloween and Christmas and Michelle’s great nephews, aged 11 and seven, took part with her via FaceTime and won a spin. “After that, they said can we come and work for you”, says Michelle.

She hopes that some of the positives from Covid will remain as restrictions ease. Having time to switch off has been something that has really helped her as she works with teams in different time zones. “It’s the simple things, though, that I think will last, like the camaraderie, like being nice to each other and feeling free to be yourself; that empathy that comes from accepting that everyone is different,” says Michelle.

Empathy

She has really benefited from that empathetic culture during Covid. Her brother is disabled and clinically vulnerable. He had to go into hospital during Covid and his family weren’t able to visit him and were very worried he might get Covid. Around the same time Michelle’s wife’s aunt died of Covid and her uncle died of cancer. The couple couldn’t attend the funerals. “It was an emotional rollercoaster,” says Michelle.

However, SBG made it much easier by telling her to do what she needed to do. “They said we were living through extreme circumstances. That level of trust allowed me to come out on the other side of that emotional rollercoaster. Ian was in hospital for two weeks. I kept working, but I could break off for family conferences.”

She adds: “I am very proud of where I work. I feel valued as a person rather than treated just as a job role. I feel I am valued just for being me.  It is amazing how much that has helped. It’s something that is not quantifiable.”

*This case study appears in the workingmums.co.uk’s Best Practice Report 2021. You can download it for free. More information here.



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