A great place to work

By: Mike Southon

Date: 3 June 2011

Company bosses often set a key corporate objective to ensure that they gain a good listing in the league tables of those organisations judged to be the best places to work.

Those who organise the lists helpfully define the criteria for success, so aspiring companies can implement the best practices of the best companies and then persuade their people to affirm that they are indeed happy and are treated well.

As an entrepreneur, I often meet highly motivated people working in small teams. In larger organisations, particularly the public sector, the picture is not nearly so rosy. Even those who have escaped the current round of cuts can later feel guilty and de-motivated despite working in a relatively stable environment.

The best example I know of a company that knows how to recruit, motivate and reward their staff is not a high-powered corporate entity, but a social enterprise: The FRC Group.

Based in the north west, they have a number of operations, including Bulky Bob’s, a van-based collection and delivery service. They will pick up your old sofa, washing machine or other awkward item, re-cycle or repair them, and then resell to low-income families or anyone looking for a bargain.

They are a regular business, providing a valuable service for a tidy profit. What makes them a social enterprise, is that as well as the focus on recycling, most of the people who work there are long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, or otherwise challenged.

You know you are visiting somewhere special as soon as you walk through the door to see a personal welcome displayed at reception. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how few companies bother with this simple courtesy.

Shaun Doran, chief executive of The FRC Group explained to me that this not only makes visitors feel welcome, but also it spikes the curiosity of the staff, who are encouraged to engage with visitors as much as possible.

Rather than a standard name badge, the visitor chooses their own name badge, based on the core values of The FRC Group: bravery, creativity, passion and professionalism, another good conversation-opener.

The company’s interview process is well thought-out and focuses on the design of the job itself, its delivery criteria and metrics for measuring success. These are then reviewed by an external organisation, The Reward Group, to determine the appropriate financial rewards for good performance.

Each potential new employee then goes through a “values day” to see where they would best fit in. They are then given the opportunity to convince the interviewers that they are ready and willing to give the job their very best shot.

The induction process is very thorough and their subsequent employment is based on recognition and reward. Their photograph is displayed in a public area with ten interesting facts about the new joiner, and their step-by-step progress constantly monitored and again displayed publicly, with regular praise for a good job done.

But the best confidence-builder is their staff knowing that they have a specific “buddy”, who on their own first day was equally scared and confused, so is always available to put a hand around their shoulder and show them the ropes.

This is just a tiny glimpse into of the well-considered and highly effective methods the FRC Group use to make their company a great place to work. They would be delighted to welcome you to their place to explain how to recruit well and increase the self-esteem of your people.

If you do, you might even make it into the Financial Times’ own list of Best Places to Work one day.

Originally published in The Financial Times. Copyright ©Mike Southon 2011. All Rights Reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.

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