What gives a company a competitive edge these days? For Madgex, a technology company based in Brighton which has three times as many technology companies as anywhere else in the UK, that edge comes from a flexible culture and a big emphasis on staff development.
Competition for the best employees is fierce in the digital sector in Brighton and Madgex says its recruitment and retention policies are crucial. The company has just been recognised for these at Workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Awards, where it won the Award for larger SMEs.
The company’s ethos was set from the start. It was founded in 2001 by five people, two of whom left shortly afterwards. “The three remaining founders wanted to create a good place for people to work so they could attract the best people. They felt it was really important to behave with integrity and to invest in their employees. That is still true today,” says HR director Hanna Smith. “All our practices are built around that ethos.”
Hanna has been at Madgex for nine years and when she joined there were just under 30 employees and no HR policies in place.
She put contracts and policies in place after researching what other companies did to see if she could “Madgexify” and improve on it. For instance, on maternity pay policy she wanted to see what others in the sector were offering and go one better. Madgex offers either 10 weeks at full pay, followed by the statutory rate or six weeks at full pay and eight weeks at half pay followed by the statutory rate.
The company’s paternity leave policy developed ad hoc. Senior managers wanted to offer more than the statutory minimum and decided on a month on full pay for those who have been at the company for more than two years when their first employees became dads. That policy has stuck. Dads who have been at the company for less than two years get two weeks off on full pay and two weeks on statutory pay. All dads can choose to split their leave.
Hanna, who has two children aged 10 and five, says the company’s commitment to employee wellbeing is part of everything the company does. That extends to its flexible working culture. “We employ adults and we make sure they know what is expected of them,” she adds. “We are not bothered about how they do it. Output is more important than working 9-5.30.”
No member of staff has ever had a flexible working request turned down and 30% work regularly from home.
Hanna says the company’s main demographic is people in their mid 30s, many of whom are first-time parents. Indeed a quarter of employees fit their work around childcare responsibilities. Flexible working is not only important for recruitment purposes but has enabled a more equal senior management team than most of the company’s rivals in the technology sector.
Half of the senior management team are women and 70% work flexibly. Some 85% have been promoted internally – half of these are working mums who work flexibly – showing a healthy female pipeline to senior positions. Madgex’s Chief Operating Officer is a mum, as is the head of UX and the company’s creative team lead was promoted on coming back from maternity leave.
Another reason for the strong female pipeline is Madgex’s emphasis on career development and on collaboration. Talent is spotted and developed and the company offers coaching and mentors people externally. Hanna herself has an external mentor since hers is a standalone role.
The company has won an Investors in People Gold award for its work and is not resting on its laurels. It seeks regular feedback from employees and acts on the ideas it receives. “We are always progressing. We don’t want to stand still,” says Hanna.
Overall 28% of staff are female. Hanna knows there are areas where more work needs to be done, for instance, only 20% of the technical team are women. Proof of its commitment on gender equality is its recent commitment to becoming gender neutral by 2021.
Women in digital
The emphasis on greater equality can be seen in its work to encourage more women in digital. For instance, it recently sponsored Spring Forward, a month-long series of events promoting women in the digital sector. Madgex’s approach is to support and sponsor local and smaller initiatives, offering office space for free for those organisations that need it. They include Codebar, which promotes digital skills to women and those from the LGBT community. It has also funded social events for She Codes which shares best practice in coding for women.
Hanna says the company offers other benefits, including free fruit and subsidised gym membership and adds that there is an emphasis on the importance of having fun at work. To that end it has a health and happiness team [the ha ha team] made up of staff representatives from every part of the business which meets monthly and feeds back to Hanna. This is just one of many measures, including surveys, it has in place to ensure policies and practice are continually evaluated and assessed. The company also organises social events with a family theme, such as a children’s Christmas party.
Retention is high – a number of members of staff have been with the company for eight or nine years and the turnover rate in 2015 was just 3.7% – and absence rates are low.
“We look after the whole person. You don’t bring your work self to work; you bring your whole self,” says Hanna.
*Workingmums.co.uk will be publishing a Best Practice Report based on the winners of the Top Employer Awards in the spring.