Opinion

Best Employer case study: Pound Gates

Established Ipswich insurance brokers, Pound Gates, found that winning the Best Employer award for Employee Values in 2012 provided welcome confirmation that their engagement strategy was a success. Staff gave their bosses top marks in the Best Employer survey for taking care of their interests and listening to their opinions.

The feedback and award served not only to reinforce the firm’s commitment to being a ‘values led’ business, but it also created an opportunity for staff to gather together and celebrate with cake bought by senior management!

Rob Thacker, Director of Pound Gates, reveals why the firm got involved in the Best Employer initiative and tells us more about the firm’s approach to employee engagement.

Enhancing business profile and reputation

Around the time of the award-win Pound Gates was just finishing the process of securing chartered status with the Chartered Insurance Institute. And although the firm’s expertise has led them to win national and industry awards before, the regional accolade added yet more shine to its gleaming reputation.

Rob explains: “The award raised our profile locally and put us in a great position for when we have been recruiting. It was particularly good to receive a regional award, which is where a number of our clients are based, so awards like this are great for our PR.”

Value of an independent survey

The impartial survey, provided by Pure and eras Ltd, provided Pound Gates with very useful, objective feedback. “Although we undertake our own bi-annual staff survey, we are always conscious that it is us - the management of the business - organising it, so it could have some form of bias.  We like to think not, but you cannot ever be certain,” says Rob.

“So by using a third party, confidential system meant that although clearly we would see overall results, it was an independent assessment. Although our results were great they also indicated other areas for us to take on board and look at.”

Since winning the award, Pound Gates has continued its successful engagement programme, maintaining a “regime of regular interaction, and training on sales and good business habits”.

Winning engagement techniques

The 25-year-old insurance firm’s strategy reaches far beyond its risk management expertise. The approach to engagement is also well-planned and effective – and, in some cases, fun.

Every two weeks, managers have one-to-one coaching sessions with team members. Using the GROW model, which helps people identify areas of development, set goals and work out solutions to problems, managers talk to staff about the direction they are taking. This can also include looking at whether, ultimately, Pound Gates can fulfill those ambitions.

Rob recalls: “One person wanted to start their own business, and another aspired to be a managing director’s PA. Both achieved these goals – but not at Pound Gates. Success for people cannot always be measured in simple, business economic KPIs.  Our coaching ensures that the people joining us truly develop and grow, even if it is to fulfill ambitions elsewhere!”

In addition, the firm offers weekly, half-hour Business Enlightenment sessions including themes such as Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People .  Its corporate social responsibility work includes painting a sports facility for local charity, Inspire Suffolk. Staff and their families take part in the Orwell Walk and Santa Cycle to raise “tremendous amounts” for other fantastic local causes. There’s also a monthly Entertainments Club for staff, with activities ranging from go-karting, treasure hunts and meals out.

Plans for the 2014 Best Employer survey

Pound Gates employees are taking part in the survey again this year, so the firm can compare how they are doing now, compared to two years ago. Also, Rob feels it is vital to make the most of the opportunity to help spread the word of its engagement activities so other businesses in the East of England can benefit.

Why employers need the Best Employer survey

Clearly, an advocate of the survey and awards, Rob encourages other employers to take advantage of the survey: “I would encourage all employers to take part because the feedback you receive from eras is extremely useful. But make sure you and your people are interested and engaged in doing it. If not, do the survey anyway to find out what else you could be doing to engage staff!”