How to keep staff engaged talks to Business Environment about the policies that place them ahead of their competition.

What makes for a great place to work? Business Environment have been in the Sunday Times Top 100 Best Small Employers To Work For for seven years so have more than an inkling of what works.

It operates workspace across the UK and London, particularly serviced offices which are located in their business centres around the country, and believes part of its good practice is due to a flexible work pattern and the diversity of their staff.

BE has 12 business centres in the City of London and the south east. Although just one woman – the HR director – is on the board, the next level down is dominated by female managers. Nine of the company’s business centres are run by women and all the assistant centre managers are women. BE is an umbrella group and the director of one of its subsidiary companies is also a woman, who has yet to join the board, but is increasing revenues dramatically.

Many of these women have children and all the board members do and a family friendly approach permeates the organisation. Several members of staff work flexibly, including three members of the marketing team.  “It is never an issue,” says PR & Marketing Officer Julie Tucker, a mum of four who works three days a week, comes in later after the school run and leaves early. Another member of the team was on an internship for a year and has just started university so is coming back part time to fit around her tutorials. “If we find someone who is good at their job we work around them,” says Julie.

A big benefit of working at BE is that all staff get three days a year fully paid to do voluntary work. Julie is an ambassador for the Meningitis Research Foundation and for Cancer Research UK and raises money for various other charities. “When an employer trusts their employees to get their job done within a certain time they work more productively. It’s beneficial all round,” she says, adding that the company’s managing director has always been supportive of any charitable activity. He sponsors a two-week voluntary project abroad every year. Two members of staff – a centre manager and an assistant centre manager – have just left to work in an orphanage in Nepal, fully funded by BE.  All staff were able to apply for the project. “So many people wanted to go,” says Julie.

Other benefits provided by BE are a paid day off for birthdays. There is also an internal awards scheme on the intranet and staff can award ‘smarties’ to those who have done good work. These have a monetary value which can be exchanged for gift vouchers.

Such benefits create a virtuous circle because by winning the company external recognition and praise they help to increase employee engagement.

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