Best Employer award entries show Norfolk businesses are taking people strategies seriously

Congratulations to MHA Larking Gowen, winners of the Best Employer category at last night’s Norfolk Business Awards, and to the East Anglian Air Ambulance, Liftshare and Holkham Estate as the extremely well-deserved finalists.

As proud co-sponsors, alongside Birketts, Pure’s Executive Director Lynn Walters was one of the judges. As a team, they were faced with an exceptionally difficult decision in selecting not just an overall winner but also in shortlisting the finalists. The quality of all the entries received was very high and there was a record number of applications.

Lynn said: “Norfolk businesses are taking their people and workplace culture strategies seriously. They understand the benefits of engaging their people and are pushing the boundaries to develop their workplace cultures. This echoes what we see in our work as professional recruitment specialists. Business leaders are recognising the importance of culture and engagement when it comes to competing for and retaining, high-calibre employees and they are embracing opportunities to develop inspiring environments.”

The judges visited seven organisations before narrowing down the field to the four finalists, all of whom demonstrated a clear passion for creating great places to work and in supporting their people. While each organisation had developed strategies bespoke to its business and aligned to its own company values, there were some noticeable common themes. The progression towards agile working stood out across all four finalists, with the judges seeing genuine examples of job shares, flexibility and different working patterns at both senior and junior levels. The importance placed on mental health and wellbeing was also clear with each finalist having mental health first aiders in place.  

Lynn added: “The calibre of all the finalists was outstanding. It is a privilege to appreciate the culture of these businesses, to understand their vision, values and purpose and how they bring this to life for their staff. The movement towards agile working is a definite step change from previous years. It shows a positive shift from a culture of hours spent in the office to people being trusted and empowered to deliver what is expected of them in truly agile ways. It is also extremely encouraging to see people being supported and encouraged to have more open conversations about mental health, with senior leaders heading the change by talking about their own vulnerabilities.”

Pure has supported the Best Employer category at these awards for many years now. As judges, we have seen how the strategies behind employee engagement and workplace culture are continuously evolving each year. Engagement is an ongoing journey, and this is what helped the judges to make the final decision on the overall winner. In the past five years, Larking Gowen has really been on a journey of making positive changes and taking brave decisions.

Lynn concluded: “Since Larking Gowen first became involved with Best Employers five years ago, the difference in the organisation is nothing short of transformational. I remember meeting them when they first entered and they had all the right intentions but nothing yet firmly in place. Having discussed with them what they needed to consider, it has been a pleasure to watch the changes unfold. Led from the top by Managing Partner Jon Woolston, the culture change has authentically permeated down and the business has developed to become a true employer of choice.

“While it was difficult at the time, it was fantastic to be faced with such a tough decision between four outstanding Norfolk businesses. They all really stood out to us, and that means they will also stand out to current and future employees, and to those they do business with. Congratulations to all of them.”

Throughout its engagement journey to becoming an award-winning employer, Larking Gowen also benefited by participating in Best Employers Eastern Region. Founded by Pure with psychometrics experts eras ltd, Best Employers has become a force for culture and organisational change which businesses are using to shape and develop their employee engagement strategies. It was a real enabler for Larking Gowen as the employee survey findings helped to guide and inform them on the key the priorities to focus on.

Best Employers Eastern Region returns in 2020. Business leaders who are passionate about developing their organisation’s culture, engagement levels and workplace environment can now register to take part and book a place at the launch event in March by visiting

Watch the announcement of the winner of the Best Employer Category at the Norfolk Business Awards 2019.

Watch the highlights of the Norfolk Business Awards 2019

 Lynn Walters profile picture

Written by

Lynn Walters

Lynn is a founding Director of Pure and leads Pure Executive. She has over 25 years’ experience recruiting for executive appointments, and helps east of England-based businesses with senior management and board-level recruitment. Lynn also leads our Best Employers Eastern Region initiative and Women’s Leadership Programme, both of which help companies and people develop.

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