Quietly doing brilliant things

Engineering firm Atkins scooped this year’s Workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Awards. These are its award-winning policies and practices.

Atkins is not known for shouting about its achievements. In fact, it has just done some branding work and the experts who conducted it came up with the phrase ‘quietly doing brilliant things’ to encapsulate its approach.

That could also be said about its flexible working policy and practice, something which is unusual in the male-dominated industry it works in – engineering.

It is now ramping up its efforts to raise its profile on diversity and flexible working as it seeks to attract more women.

It may be doing this a little less quietly after the company scooped the Workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Award for Innovation in Flexible Working and its Overall Top Employer Award.

The judges praised Atkins because what it was doing was ambitious and unusual in the sector it worked in.

The flexible working and diversity drive is in part due to its desire to hire the best people for new UK roles and to demand from some of its clients.

It began with the establishment of the Gender Balance Focus Group in late 2011 following Lord Davies’ report on women on boards and the subsequent focus on diversity.

It was originally the idea of the UK HR Director Sue Cooper and Neil Thomas, managing director for Water and Environment Business.

The Gender Balance Focus Group drew up a gender balance improvement plan which outlined a business plan for improving gender balance within the organisation.

There was no problem getting board buy-in. The challenge was further down the organisation where there was some concern from some managers about how flexible working could be incorporated.

To overcome this, Atkins has been focusing on success stories and creating flexible working ambassadors. The idea was that the best way of convincing people was through their peers.

The first stories are just going up on the company’s Youtube Channel as part of a new recruitment strategy.

Flexible working at Atkins embraces everything from job shares and part-time working to some homeworking and term time only working.

Careers initiative

Flexible working and the Youtube case studies are central to the new careers website that Atkins has just launched. The company offers flexible working from day one in a job, even though current legislation people cannot apply for flexible working until they have done six months in their new post.

In addition to flexible working, Atkins has a raft of initiatives in place to grow its female employees and will carefully monitor their success rate.

These include promotion panels which are gender balanced. Historically in a male-dominated industry interview panels have mostly been made up of men which can be daunting for women.

Some women have been through Atkins’ women’s development programme which aims to build confidence and empower women by getting them to think about how they present themselves.

Atkins also has a women’s professional network which links women up in the different regions in which the company operates in the UK as well as a mentoring programme.

Atkins recognises it  is just at the beginning of its journey on flexible working and diversity, but it hopes the Workingmums.co.uk Award shows it is on the right track.

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