Creating great places to work


Fancy working for a company that offers staff a weekly massage and allows staff to clock off at 3.30pm on a Friday?

Financial recruiter Goodman Masson is gaining a reputation for the strong business case it has made for employee engagement, including work life balance.

The firm has just featured again on the Best Workplaces 2016 list for larger SMEs and is launching a campaign to make London a great place to work.

Guy Hayward [pictured] became the company’s CEO around eight years ago. He had been managing director of a major corporate before that, working 8am to 8pm regularly, and says he had felt “disconnected” from what he was doing in the two years before he left because it seemed to be all about profit margins and never about the people who worked for the company. “I wanted to work for an SME and to prove that there is a correlation between loving coming to work and performance,” he says. From the start he had high ambitions for the company and has indeed seen it grow from 60 employees to 160. He did that by focusing on what employees want from their employer to do their job well, based in part on his own experience.

He decided that there are four things: the tools and infrastructure to enable them to work to the best of their ability; to have their career managed and their skillset constantly developed; rewards and benefits which truly help them [and are not necessarily linked to salary]; to be able to have some fun at work.

That was the foundation for the company’s approach to work which has since evolved.  “When I first joined it was just an ideology. When we started to implement it we began increasing our client base. We created a structure to our training programme. All our employees receive coaching every six months and a skills assessment to identify any skills gaps that need to be closed. There is constant career development. We also offer loans to those looking to buy a house. When you start drip feeding these things into the workplace you start to see change,” says Hayward.

The Experience

Around five years ago, once it had some momentum, the company decided the approach needed a name. They talked about it being called the employee experience, but Hayward thought that sounded too much like employee engagement.  They went for The Experience and that became a registered trademark two years ago. Hayward says it was the first trademark related to employee engagement and celebrated “the uniqueness of our approach”.

Three years ago, Hayward introduced the 3.30pm finish on a Friday. He had noticed that performance levels were down on a Friday afternoon and suggested to the board that they trial an early closure on Friday over the summer and measure the impact. There was no impact on performance and employees were happier so the company decided to keep the early closure. An email is sent around every week to tell people to log off – just to make sure they go home. “Otherwise, they might feel guilty about leaving,” says Hayward.

He adds that the business benefits of The Experience are clear: the company has gone from breaking even to turned an annual profit of £2m; retention is up; and absence and sickness levels are down.

Goodman Masson monitors its own engagement regularly, for instance, through the Great Places to Work survey. Their score three years ago was 96% and has risen to 97% this year. They were ranked number one for larger SMEs in the Great Workplaces survey last year and were number three this year. Hayward says all the different awards the company has won help with talent attraction and with promoting the brand, although it is hard to measure the commercial benefits they bring.

The company has also spread the message to its clients. As a result, Hayward reckons the firm has meetings with around 20 clients a year to present how The Experience works. Just a few weeks ago he did a presentation to 40 charities.


Goodman Masson is also keen to promote diversity and has a Women in Leadership programme which is chaired by senior female leaders who talk about the different challenges. Three of the 10 senior leaders in the firm are women [up from no women on the senior management team four years ago] and Hayward says he is keen to promote more women, although he is not in favour of positive discrimination. He says: “Women bring a different perspective, for instance, on how to position the brand. Men and women think differently.”

In addition to flexible working [Hayward himself comes in late every second Wednesday so he can take his kids to school], Goodman Masson also offers a range of benefits to parents. Its New Parent Loan was introduced three years ago. Like many other benefits offered by the company it is linked to pinch points in employees’ lives. The Loan recognises that becoming a parent is expensive. Under the scheme, the company loans money to parents to pay for things like buggies and that money is deducted from their salary over a period of 12-18 months. Employees do not pay any interest. Similarly, Goodman Masson has a mortgage fund which offers loans for employees looking to buy houses in London.

Hayward is so passionate about Goodman Masson’s work model that he is keen to promote it to other employers in London and has been developing the My London Works brand over the last six months.

The company has just launched the campaign on social media and will promote it to its clients and social media followers. Hayward hopes it will be a forum for sharing ideas and good practice and will allow the ideas behind The Experience to gain momentum. He says: “The more we can share and influence the wider community the better. My philosophy is wouldn’t it be amazing if people woke up excited about going to work.”

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