Kim Coles, Executive Director of HR & Governance
Cranstoun exists to help people, empowering them to live healthy, safe and happy lives. As an organisation, we work hard every day to improve the lives of others. But what about our staff, the people who are working hard to support others?
At Cranstoun, we know that our most important asset is our staff. They’re the people who make a difference, and make our organisation a success. When I joined Cranstoun over five years ago, our ‘people measures’ – high retention, low absence – told me that Cranstoun staff were pretty happy. Since then, we’ve gone from strength to strength, working hard to build our employee engagement. ‘Engagement’ is a term bandied around so much, but in simple terms, we want our staff to feel connected and invested in Cranstoun, in order that they work with us (not for us) towards our vision.
We achieved a place in the Sunday Times Top 100 Not for Profits for two consecutive years, then went on to achieve Gold standard accreditation with Investors in People in 2018. We’re incredibly proud of these achievements, which are primarily based on feedback from our staff. These endorsements have made us more ambitious to focus on the benefits that our staff can bring, and in return what we can offer them. We’ve just shared the headline results from our 2019-20 annual staff survey, and are pleased to say that our employee engagement levels have increased even further.
I often ask what it is that Cranstoun does to achieve such high levels of engagement. There’s no ‘one thing’ that we do, no ‘one strategy’ that works. It’s a culmination of different things, and not all of them are visible. It’s an ongoing challenge to reward staff with competitive benefits in this time of cut-backs and diminishing budgets. We have to think creatively about what we can do to make our staff feel valued. We don’t make these decisions on our own; we listen to what our staff want.
Communication is key – this sounds obvious, but it’s not always easy to get right. And we don’t always get it right, but we actively seek ongoing feedback and learn from what we’re told. Working in HR, I’m naturally an enquiring person – I understand the need to be kept in the loop – and this is how I see the organisation’s responsibility to our staff – we have to keep them in the loop to keep their trust, and their buy-in.
This also helps us to feel valued, which is another big factor to being engaged. To feel valued, we need to know instinctively where we fit in. We try to do this by being clear around expectations, ensuring everyone knows what part they play, and what impact it has.
Personal growth is another area that we continue to focus on – we all want to learn new things and develop our skills and knowledge, whether that’s to achieve a career goal, or to keep us motivated doing what we do best.
And then there’s our colleagues. From my own experiences, which I’m sure will be shared by many, it’s the people that you work with that make you happy in a job. Relationships at work should never be underestimated. This isn’t something we can engineer through our HR policies and practices. But if we recruit people with the same values, we invest in the leadership skills of our managers, and we value our staff, that goes some way to creating an environment where positive relationships will flourish.
My final nod to how we keep our staff healthy, safe and happy, is around health and wellbeing. For some time, the mental and physical (not to mention financial, professional and social) wellbeing of staff has been much talked about in organisations across all sectors. Most of our staff are well versed in supporting others with their wellbeing. It’s our job to support our staff with theirs. This is a road that we’re still on, and will stay on. We have things in place such as access to advice and counselling, flexible working practices, promoting healthier commutes, medical support etc. But we know that we can do more. We’re relying on our staff to tell us what we can do and how we can support them better. We’ve talked about a ‘wellbeing strategy’, but actually, I see this as more of a culture shift, than an individual strategy. We’re all different, with different needs – there’s no one size fits all when it comes to personal wellbeing. We need to be flexible, adaptable, and willing to try new things to really embrace a culture that supports everyone. Looking at Cranstoun’s history of innovation, compassion and ambition, this is a journey that we’re well placed to take.
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