Hamide Ahmet from Tulchan Group speaks to workingmums.co.uk about its outstanding wellbeing policies.
Tulchan Group London recently redesigned offices are decorated with amazing art works. “It’s like working in an art gallery,” says Hamide Ahmet, HR Partner at the London and Singapore-based financial and corporate communications advisory firm. That’s because its founder, Andrew Grant, is an art collector.
At its centre is a beautiful communal eating area, replete with blue leather seats, where all its employees can benefit from daily free nutritious meals cooked by the company’s in-house chef.
That sense of attention to detail – to setting and health – are what won the Tulchan Group a coveted top ranking by Best Place to Work in 2021 in the SME category. It was already doing great things before Covid, but has ramped those up during the pandemic and is continuing many of them to this day.
Tulchan Group has 70 staff and is growing fast. It increased its head count by 20% over the last financial year, having stopped recruiting in 2020. “Our industry has been very busy since the pandemic,” says Hamide, adding that the company lost one year’s graduate intake. Moreover, unlike other employers in its sector, the company has not fallen victim to The Great Resignation. “Our turnover rates have remained low and our retention rate was up last year. That is testament to how we have treated people, especially during the pandemic,” adds Hamide.
While the company has always been people centric, it switched immediately to “care mode” when Covid hit, driven by Grant’s desire to keep the team together. It was already set up for flexible working. Six months before the pandemic hit the UK, it had invested heavily in upgrading its hardware so people could work flexibly. That meant buying everyone laptops so they could work from anywhere. “We were ready,” says Hamide.
When it became clear that Covid was an ongoing crisis, the company’s driver delivered employees’ ergonomic office chairs to homes up and down the country. Tulchan also allowed employees to buy office equipment if they needed it to work from home. “The emphasis was on care,” says Hamide, adding that employees were told that they should take time out if they needed to for homeschool or caring responsibilities and there were weekly meetings to check in on people and update them on government guidance, with Hamide doing a regular slot on wellbeing.
The company also sent out care packages, including sanitisers lip balm and Covid tests. An important part of wellbeing is related to financial issues. Employees everywhere were very worried about their job security, but early on Tulchan Group’s founder promised everyone there would be no job losses at least until October [and there haven’t been any] and no-one was furloughed. Even if they were not working, for instance, the Group’s chef, they continued to be paid by the company. “That made a lot of difference,” says Hamide. Employees also have free access to an independent financial adviser, paid for by the company.
Tulchan Group already placed a big emphasis on wellbeing and offered staff mental health support. Everyone who is in the office breaks for lunch and eats together. Hamide says this builds a strong sense of community as well as being healthy. Even during the pandemic, the lunch hour has been ‘sacrosanct’ and employees are advised to take a break. Regular exercise such as short walks were also encouraged and employees were told not to answer emails after 6pm, unless there is an urgent issue.
Wellbeing has been their ‘differentiator’, says Hamide, with mental health being to the forefront. Even before the pandemic the Group did a survey on wellbeing and brought in an inhouse psychologist, paid for by the company, but offering a totally confidential service. That service was made more accessible during Covid. Through Great Place to Work, the organisation conducted a regular anonymous care survey to identify any need for further support and experts delivered sessions on everything from resilience to handling anxiety.
In addition to mental health support, the company pays for access to a 24/7 GP service which Hamide used recently when her son developed earache late at night. She had a prescription by morning.
When it comes to gender equality, the company has a 50/50 gender split in all cohorts except at partner level, where it is nearly at 50/50. Hamide says the level just below partner is gender balanced so the pipeline is there. It offers a generous maternity package – six months on full pay and three on half pay – and allows client-facing employees to work part time on their return, which is not the norm in the industry.
Hamide says Andrew Grant is committed to diversity of all kinds, including social mobility. Not having a degree himself, diversity is a personal thing for him, she says. “He believes that if you have the right attitude we can teach the rest,” says Hamide. Grant is part of the Speakers for Schools network and spends a lot of his time talking to school kids and encouraging them to do their work experience at the firm where they are shown all the ropes of the job. The firm also works with the Taylor Bennett Foundation to get more BAME candidates into PR on internships. That approach, says Hamide, “seeps through the organisation”. Progress on diversity and inclusion is a core business issue which is reported to the board.
She adds that the organisation is not resting on its laurels and continues to learn from others and keep up with new ideas.
Hamide says: “I love this organisation. It’s the best I’ve ever worked for. It cares about wellbeing and that is anchored from the top.”