Top overall employer 2023: Lloyds Banking Group

Lloyds Banking Group scooped Best for Older Workers and Best for Flexible Working at the 2023 WM People Top Employer Awards. Here they outline their winning policies and practice.

Office desk with note saying "flexible working"

 

Lloyds Banking Group has been a leader in agile working for many years, but they are by no means complacent. Like many employers they have taken the last three years to adapt to a more hybrid world of work and to ensure that they have used any Covid learning wisely.

Those efforts to constantly improve and adapt to a changing world of work have been recognised. Lloyds Banking Group this year scooped three of the WM People Top Employer Awards – Best for Flexible Working, Best for Older Workers, and Overall Top Employer.

Although Lloyds Banking Group had a very flexible culture before Covid, the pandemic turned everything on its head and all office staff had to work from home. That meant finding different ways to collaborate and support each other and building new roles to ensure that people could work equally well from home or, when lockdowns finished, from the office.  “It was a huge task,” admits Nicky Elford, Agile Working and Life Stages Lead, “and it’s only now that we feel that we are coming out the other side and finding a regular rhythm as a hybrid organisation. It was a real-life experiment for everyone.” 

The bank’s branches changed their opening hours, policies and practices had to be flexible and adaptable to all the government announcements, the business model had to be adapted to ensure there were enough people to support more remote models and roles such as mortgage advisers – moving from face-to-face appointments to a hybrid offering, with more accessibility to services in the evenings. Nicky acknowledges that there is no going back to the pre-Covid days and that the organisation wants to continue to innovate. 

Indeed, it has created a flexible working hub where different ideas can come together and where there is a focus on the bigger picture, including the environment and mental wellbeing. Lloyds Banking Group takes a holistic approach that gives everyone access to a broad range of equitable, flexible working practices that work for the customer, the business as well as the individual employee. The hub received around 850 views in its first month alone. The approach is team-led and conversation-based. It brings together guidance and toolkits, including prompts for conversations and things to consider ensuring any ways of working changes continue to meet business and customer needs.

Progression

Lloyds is also keen that people who work flexibly are able to progress. Nicky says that, historically, most of the company’s reduced hours or job share workers have been mums [91% are currently women]. However, this is changing with more Gen Z workers undertaking portfolio careers and older workers reducing their hours to avoid a cliff edge retirement. “Looking at flexible working by life stage is now a big focus for us,” she states. “Whether it is about lifelong learning, sabbaticals for travel or family or end of career or transitioning to new roles. Historically, we had a list of different flexible working practices which colleagues could request, but now we are trying to be more outcomes-focused with different types of flexibility that consider the needs of our business and our customers alongside those moments that really matter for our people. It’s really important because so much has changed since Covid.”

Nicky says that, although some roles can’t be done remotely, the company wants to be fair and inclusive. The life stages approach is important in this respect because, she says, it acknowledges that people need different things at different points in their lives. “It ensures that we are there to support colleagues at the moments that matter most,” she states. Lloyds Banking Group also wants to remove the career stigma from part-time working and change people’s perceptions about it, for instance, making job shares more available at all levels and encouraging more men to consider part-time options if they suit them. The bank, which operates a job share register, has started to hold grade-based speed dating events for people who are looking to job share where they get to chat to 20 different people who are on the same level as them and to hear from those doing job shares. 

Line manager support

Lloyds Banking Group also provides training for hiring and line managers to change their mindset, for instance, to encourage them not to think they have to replace a full-time person with another full-time person. The bank advertises 97% of its roles as flexible and agile, but is looking to be more upfront about part time and job share possibilities too. “Until we normalise job shares, they will always just be for the few,” says Nicky who is clear about the business benefits of having two people’s experience and skills over one. She says line managers are crucial when it comes to flexible working and matching skills to work demand in a more holistic and agile way than happened in the past, opening up opportunity and mobility to take account of people’s changing needs. But it’s not all about employee need, she says. The flexible model is very much based on give and take and continuous discussion about the needs of the team and customers too. “We want to shift the mindset about flexible working from me to we,” says Nicky.

Job design

Nicky says that Lloyds Banking Group is increasingly interested in job design. “Why do all the roles tend to add up to one full-time person?” she asks. “We need to get better at making roles more modular. We are trying to look at role architecture in different ways following a skills-based structure,” she says. “We are thinking about how we can build more flexibility into roles,” she states. All the conversations are driven by business need, for instance, whether the Group can hire people more flexibly to cover particularly busy times. This might be of interest, for instance, to older workers who don’t want to keep working full time all year round. 

Older workers

Lloyds Banking Group won the WM People Best for Older Workers Award on the basis of the full package that it offers them, including its flexible approach. It also has a relatively new initiative called Your Future Your Way which recognises the fact that many people are living longer which means the traditional stages of education, work and retirement will no longer exist and people will want to try different careers, take breaks and have multistage lives.

It aims to help older workers consider their work and lifestyle choices, backed up by discussion with their line managers, and provides dedicated support, including on-demand coaching videos, interactive learning, transitioning out of work support and hearing from and connecting with others via a Yammer community. Line managers are also given guidance on how to enable conversations about later life and everyone is encouraged to share their stories and experiences. The initiative was trialled in two pilots and was rolled out last September across the company.

“It allows our colleagues to plan what they want from life,” says Nicky, adding that it could mean reducing their working hours, a change in responsibility or reskilling and moving to a different part of the business. Speaking about the psychological contract between employer and employee, she says it is important to make it easier for people to stay in some capacity or to return later, for instance, through alumni groups or portfolio careers. She mentions a colleague who had thought he would have to retire because of his caring responsibilities but has been able to reduce his hours and stay. And another in her late 50s who wanted to work less but didn’t trust job shares until she found another colleague who wanted to work reduced hours. They hit it off instantly and now do a multigenerational job share where they both learn a lot from each other, although both are based in different parts of the country. “Both are living the lives they want to live,” says Nicky. “Enabling those conversations between people helps them to hone a map for the future.”

She also mentions the importance of making it easier for older workers who have left the workforce to come back to work – a big current policy focus for the Government. She says 29% of its staff are over 50 and it greatly values what they have to offer in terms of work knowledge, as well as lived experiences and years of relationship building. 

Giving back

Lloyds Banking Group also has a big focus on giving back. The Lloyds Bank Foundation and its Charity of the Year opens up more opportunities for all workers, including older workers who might be looking to decrease their hours and do something different on the side, developing new skills and in turn bringing these back to Lloyds Banking Group. In this vein, Lloyds Bank has been working on guides for SMEs on issues ranging from mental health to flexible working to share its own experiences and help the many SME customers it works with. 

All of this multistage career approach is underpinned by the company’s flexible working culture. Nicky says that Lloyds Banking Group has used Covid to learn where it should go next. “We are putting the building blocks in place for Flexible Working 2.0,” she says. “We still have a way to go, but we are listening to our colleagues and customers and thinking about how we keep evolving in order to become a progressive employer where people love to work.”



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