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Stow Healthcare wins Employer of the Year at the Suffolk Business Awards 2020

In a year like 2020, it has never been more important to celebrate how our region’s businesses are making a difference. This year has brought many changes to the working environment and we adapted the award to recognise those businesses who have supported, adapted and been innovative with their workforce in these challenging times. 

With our partners, Birketts LLP, we were delighted to co-sponsor the Employer of the Year category at the Suffolk Business Awards 2020. The judges were looking for how Suffolk’s businesses were making a difference in three key areas – care for employees and stakeholders, adaptability and being innovative.

Pure Business Director, Jodie Woodrow said, “when I read all the entries, I was humbled at hearing about the many challenges that these organisations have faced this year. Talking to each organisation as part of the judging process, I was overwhelmed with the creativity, innovation and hard work that was going into looking after their people. Employee engagement is so important, and I am delighted to be able to share my thoughts on why Stow Healthcare were crowned the winner.”

Whilst we were sad that we were unable to celebrate with the finalists and winners in person, we are pleased to share with you why we felt Stow Healthcare, Vertas, Rosedale Funeral Home and Seven Resourcing, were worthy of the recognition that they worked so hard to achieve.

WINNERS: STOW HEALTHCARE

Stow Healthcare were chosen as Employer of the Year winners because of their relentless dedication to providing the highest quality care, and a safe, supportive environment for their staff and residents.

Stow Healthcare owners Roger Catchpole and Ruth French in collaboration with their leadership team made critical decisions at the beginning of March in their ‘Stowbra war cabinet’ meetings, keeping employees updated on a daily and twice weekly basis. They launched a recruitment campaign called ‘From Air to Care’ which was initially aimed at furloughed airline staff, to retrain with them as care workers to ensure consistent care at all times. The leadership team regularly sent their people personalised gifts, weekly letters of thanks and video blogs were produced to ensure staff remained connected and supported. They produced a new ‘Raise Your Hand’ mental wellbeing pocket support guide to ensure mental health was prioritised as much as physical health.

Vulnerable residents were supported with companionship and light-hearted, fun activities and competitions, as well as utilising Zoom and Facetime to ensure ‘face to face’ contact with loved ones continued. They remained an integral part of the local community, supporting Thurston College with their Health and Social Care qualification by offering training in their Infection Control module.

Jodie Woodrow said, “in their June 2020 employee survey, 98% of their staff said they were ‘proud to be keyworkers in social care at this time’ which is a testimony to what they have achieved as a team. As judges, we were impressed by how Stow Healthcare were running their business. Their ethos, culture and values, reward structure and approach to caring for your staff, residents and families during this crisis is to be applauded. Strong leadership promoting teamwork, communication, training and appreciation has been key to ensuring staff have remained supported and engaged.”

WHY DID THE OTHER FINALISTS STAND OUT?

At Vertas, swift, decisive, and caring leadership ensured engagement remained high with colleagues, despite the scale of their nationwide operations. An early decision was made to financially support those colleagues on furlough leave with a further 20% increase for the duration of the job retention scheme to help alleviate financial concerns. Continuous transparent and helpful communication was issued throughout the crisis as well as personalised phone calls from the CEO to thank those on the front line.

Jodie said, “we were particularly impressed by the efforts of their schools catering teams who ensured that Suffolk children entitled to a free school meal were prioritised and provided a daily packed up meal that parents could collect. Re-deployed staff from the facilities and transport services helped deliver essential PPE, including over 400 welfare boxes to high risk families and food parcels as part of Suffolk County Councils Vulnerable Campaign.”

The safety of its staff was paramount to Seven Resourcing. For those staff who chose to continue to work in the office, Managing Director, Richard Cook bought everyone their own “personal kitchen” which included brand-new fridges, microwaves, kettles, tea, coffee and other facilities. These facilities were on every desk, stocked up and cleaned daily. Those working from home were provided with desks, chairs, computers, laptops. All staff were provided with vitamin tablets, anti-bac hand gel, unlimited visors, masks and gloves, along with a new air filtration system that was put in place on desks and in corridors. 

Catherine Johnson, Partner and category co-judge from Birketts said, “Richard Cook kept in touch daily with his teams who were working from home or on furlough. He delivered PPE and various treats to make sure that staff and their families felt safe and well connected to the business. They worked hard to reduce the number of staff furloughed and where recruitment was frozen in some sectors, they retrained and redeployed those staff into different sectors to help in other areas of the business, keeping them employed, motivated and engaged.”

Seven Resourcing also wanted to do something to “give back” and chose the key workers in the NHS at Ipswich Hospital to have gift boxes made up and delivered to them including PPE and other goodies.

Catherine said, “Seven Resourcing have very much shown during this difficult time how much they were prepared to go above and beyond for their staff, clients and community.”

Nominated by one of their employees, Rosedale Funeral Home impressed the judges with the resilience and innovation demonstrated in supporting and helping bereaved families, whilst navigating the everchanging restrictions and rules covering funerals for their loved ones.  

Alison Rich, HR Manager and category co-judge from Archant said, “the Directors, Simon and Anne, ensured that the physical and mental wellbeing of their people was of equal paramount importance. It was evident to the judges that they cared deeply about their small workforce, they undertook certain essential tasks themselves to ensure that no staff were put at risk, and personally made sure the individual needs of each employee were considered with an impressive welfare and support programme.”

Rosedale are active across a range of community projects, including Nelsons Journey, Shoe box appeal and Waveney foodbank, they also have also recently launched an innovative bereavement project called Cooking for One. The Bereavement Support training they offer workplaces and schools has quickly been adapted online and is available free to the NHS and Police together with the Suicide Awareness Training.

Alison said, “Rosedale Funeral Homes responded and continue to operate throughout these extraordinary times with sensitivity, carrying out their duties whilst proactively balancing the needs of the bereaved families and the communities they serve and supporting their employees and their families.”

HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS BE INSPIRED?

All four finalists stood out by demonstrating great care for their employees, stakeholders and communities, strong leadership that enabled the organisation to adapt in the crisis and innovation in ways to communicate, collaborate and operate in the changing market.

What most came across in all entries was how organisations lead and act now is how they will be remembered by customers, teams and wider community for a long time to come.

Sponsorship of the Employer of the Year award is part of our Best Employers Eastern Region initiative. Find out more at www.best-employers.co.uk 

Written by

Judith Pugh

Judith has worked in marketing for 20 + years across a range of industries from health and fitness, horticulture, GIS software, education and now recruitment. Judith joined Pure in 2017 and is responsible for marketing the business, marketing strategy and delivering initiative campaigns.