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What makes for a family friendly employer? For M&G it’s about focusing on providing the support and culture which enables people to do their job to the best of their ability.
That means providing support and a work culture that backs this up – and it is that holistic support and culture that was recognised by the judges of the Workingmums.co.uk’s Top Employer Award for Family Support.
One of the initiatives that the judges singled out was M&G’s Mind Matters network which focuses on mental health awareness. The network ties in with the Wellbeing at Work programme of events that promotes a healthy lifestyle and sense of wellbeing at work.
For the launch of the network at the beginning of last year an event was organised where Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn gave a powerful talk about their personal experiences of mental illness.
They told the moving story of how they met – Neil spotted Johnny on Waterloo Bridge in January 2008 as he was preparing to throw himself off and through engaging him in conversation, managed to talk him into coming off the side of the bridge to go for a coffee with him.
To highlight the different aims of the Mind Matters network and resources available, bookmarks were distributed to all staff desk. Screensavers have also been designed and updated to highlight various initiatives and promote events such as mental health awareness week.
The mental health initiative fits into the broader culture at M&G and the company has recently been working on a new framework which aims to provide consistency in all that it does.
Victoria Odhams, Resourcing Manager, says: “We want to articulate a strong culture consistently to our staff and customers, a culture based on integrity, creativity and collaboration with the customer at its heart. We don’t want our principles stuck on a poster by the coffee machines. We want everyone to have a grasp of what our culture is and to make it relevant to their circumstances.”
The framework covers everything from how employees meet the needs of their customers to how M&G values diversity of thought.
Managers have been trained to run workshops about the framework and how to embed it in what their teams do. That has meant, for instance, in Recruitment devising a new common language for emails, rewriting the candidate charter and a focus in recruitment on issues such as the employee life cycle and internal mobility. The Company Framework is measured and tracked via the culture dashboard and reported to the executive committee.
M&G has also set up a future of work community which is sponsored by the executive committee but business-based. All levels of the business are represented and Victoria, who also sits on the group, says it is about developing positive change in the way the firm works. One of the catalysts for setting it up was that M&G’s UK headquarters is moving in 2019.
The new office includes a mixture of collaborative and quiet areas, and employee experience and wellness have been vital considerations in the design decisions. The majority of staff will move away from having a fixed desk, which will be a significant change. “It’s about shifting the mindset and the culture towards more agile, activity-based working,” says Victoria. “The future of work community is helping to prepare us for that shift, helping managers understand the benefits, how it helps us operate across different time zones and makes us a more inclusive employer.” The community, which was set up last year, will host events with internal and external speakers and is supporting teams which are trialling agile working. The work it does will increase as M&G gears up to moving its new HQ.
The firm has been explicitly advertising flexible new roles since October 2015 when it launched its returner programme. “We had evidence that people were already being hired on flexible patterns, but also that some candidates were nervous about asking for flexible working,” says Diversity and Inclusion Manager Colette Comerford: ”We felt it was time to overcome that and make it explicit that we are happy to talk about flexible working. That shift has made it easier for everyone to have more open conversations and has helped our performance and engagement as well as our talent attraction, retention and well being.”
The future of work community aims to increase consistency across the company which Colette says is vital for a modern multi-generational workforce, facing wellbeing issues as well as family pressures such as elder care and childcare responsibilities.
M&G has a number of employee networks to offer additional support to employees, including M&G Pride, M&G Mind Matters and M&G CAN (Cultural Awareness Network) all of which are employee run with senior executive sponsors and HR support.
In addition, it hosts an annual Family Fun Day and a Christmas event which colleagues can bring their children to, and sponsors a number of family events, including a 10km Pride run, which includes a children’s run, and the Dive In Festival on diversity.
M&G offers a raft of support to employees which is particularly helpful for those with families. This includes the ability to buy up to 10 days extra holiday, an Employee Assistance Programme as well as support with childcare costs and, in partnership with CityParents, runs webinars and other events which provide support and advice to parents.
In terms of parental leave, M&G offers enhanced maternity, shared parental and adoption pay from the moment an employee starts at the company. That means 100% pay for the first 18 weeks. Thirteen people took SPL last year from all parts of the business and dads are sharing their experiences with others through actively engaging with the internal collaboration tool Yammer which supports more sharing of personal stories.
“We are transforming the business to meet the demands of our clients and our people,” says Colette.