We’ve joined the top 16% of UK companies by receiving the We Invest In People Gold award. Here’s how we put our people first.
At Wordbank, our vision is: ‘To inspire change in our industry by putting people first and driving action with meaningful words.’
In the maelstrom of London agency life, it’s natural to focus on the day-to-day servicing of client accounts, meeting KPIs and achieving sustainable growth. But the people who make all of it possible are often overlooked.
This is a mistake. We know from over thirty years of experience that our success is dependent on our people – our full-time, part-time and freelance Wordbankers.
Which is why, three years ago, we began our journey to the We Invest In People Gold award. We wanted to strengthen our approach and create a truly people-focused working environment.
As Lydia, our COO, puts it: ‘Putting the focus on our people means we can retain an engaged, driven team with a shared vision and values. It allows us to deliver great things for our clients and create sustainable success for our business. It all starts with our Wordbankers.’
We’ve always had a distinctive culture at Wordbank. It’s why several of our employees have opted for a ‘lifetime subscription’ – bucking London’s job-hopping trend and resulting in a staff turnover significantly lower than industry averages.
But five years ago, we decided to turn our culture into an inseparable part of our brand. We wanted to be known as good employers, colleagues and collaborators with freelancers.
Investors in People (IIP) offered us a framework in which to formalize these ambitions. It assesses every area of your dealings with employees – from professional development to recognizing and rewarding high performance.
Lydia spearheaded the process, recalling that it was: ‘Really challenging. It shone a light on areas that needed improvement. It took creativity and collaboration to make them better.’
Our efforts were soon rewarded. We received the IIP accreditation in 2014, rapidly upgrading to IIP Silver in 2015. Our assessor commented: ‘There’s a clearly defined culture at Wordbank, which is built on trust, creativity and engagement.’
We’d successfully turned our culture into an essential part of our brand. But we didn’t want to stop there. It was time to go for gold.
To achieve Silver, we made several wide-reaching changes to the way we did things. To receive the We Invest In People Gold award, we took these even further, including:
- Revamping our training programme to give new hires the best possible start as Wordbankers.
- Scrapping our previous score-based performance review system, replacing it with light-touch reviews and building an in-depth career planning model for every individual.
- Introducing cascade objectives, which filter from company to departmental and individual levels.
- Setting up a Values Embassy to agree on how to live our company values – care, collaboration, ambition and excellence – on a daily basis.
- Establishing a culture of transparency. Sharing information regularly so we can face challenges and celebrate successes together.
- Embedding flexible working as a normal part of working life. Employees can work from home when needed, and there’s generous flexibility around working hours and TOIL.
When our assessor returned for our Gold assessment in February 2018, they noticed how much progress we’d made. In their report, they asserted: ‘Wordbank’s approach to leading, supporting and managing people is notably sophisticated.’
Our confidential employee survey was equally effusive. Here are some highlights:
- 97% of employees completed the survey.
- Our overall score was 758 – well above the average of 725.
- We were above average on all nine of IIP’s performance indicators.
- 97% of employees felt encouraged to use initiative in their jobs.
- Similarly, 97% believe in our leaders and the direction they’re taking us in.
- 90% agreed that our values guide the way we work.
But the million-dollar question was: ‘Is Wordbank a great place to work?’ And here too, the answer was a resounding yes, with 97% answering positively.
As one Wordbanker said during an anonymous interview: ‘You’re encouraged to try new things, come up with new ideas and go for it. There are no barriers.’
Another agreed, adding: ‘There’s lots of diversity, really bright people with individual expertise. It’s friendly and collaborative, they focus on what people are best at – it’s a positive environment to be in.’
With this kind of feedback, it was clear that our efforts had resulted in happier, more engaged people with a greater sense of purpose. Wordbank’s leadership impressed our assessor with their hard work to ‘create an attractive and supportive working environment where people can develop and use their talents.’
So our assessor was pleased to give us the We Invest In People Gold award – and we were delighted to receive it.
‘Investors in People has given us a great roadmap to develop against. But it was never about the plaque – it’s about continual improvement. All of us playing an active part in developing an environment that is collaborative, caring and ambitious. That allows us to be our best and do our best for clients.’
With Lydia’s words ringing in our ears, we aren’t resting on our laurels. Now we want to take things further.
We’ll continue to embed the initiatives we started – tweaking and evolving them, as needed.
We’ve launched some new schemes, too. They include our Volunteering Programme, which gives our employees paid time off to volunteer for a cause of their choice. And we’re strengthening our collaboration with local schools and universities.
We’re also always looking out for new Wordbankers who’ll champion our values. If you think you’ve got what it takes, check out our Careers page here.
So, now we’ve received the We Invest In People Gold award, could a run for Platinum be on the cards? Watch this space.
Photo by Quinten de Graaf on Unsplash
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