07 May 2019
As it’s announced that FirstPort has been recognised as one of the UK’s 2019 Top Employers, Mandy Ferries, Director of HR, looks at how an engaged and supported workforce is key to a successful business.
At FirstPort we look after people’s homes – 196,000 of them – and to deliver a great experience for our customers it’s important that our employees are skilled, engaged and motivated. With a diverse workforce of over 3,000 people working across multiple office locations and sites, this means recognising differing needs, whilst at the same time finding a common thread to unite everyone.
Here are my top tips for Top Employer success:
1. Starting off on the right foot
Regardless of someone’s role or career aspirations, I’m confident that most people feel the same about their first day of a new a job – nervous and a little apprehensive. We have reacted to this by making our welcome one that hopefully puts our new employees at ease before they even walk through the door. We deliver a welcome pack directly to our new employees before their start date. As well as information on what to expect on day one, it also includes a tea bag and chocolate bar to enjoy while taking it all in. We hope this little touch creates the right impression of the friendly organisation they’re joining. I’m pleased to say that this friendly and supportive approach continues throughout the on-boarding experience with a company induction that helps employees understand their own role in looking after our customers’ homes, our objectives, Values and ways of working.
2. Values at the heart
Speaking of friendly, it’s one of FirstPort’s five FIRST Values (the others being Inventive, Respectful, Skilled and Trustworthy). Not only do we recruit to these Values, we empower our employees to demonstrate them in their interactions with customers and each other. Our partnership with The WOW! Awards is a great example of how we use our Values to unite our workforce. This is a national recognition programme where we ask customers to nominate employees for stand-out service against our Values. I’m blown away by the fact that over 6,000 nominations have been received through this programme since it launched and because of this, our employees understand how our Values are linked with the way they look after our customers.
3. Engagement matters
Because we are such a geographically-dispersed workforce, our communication channels need to contribute to making employees feel like part of the FirstPort family. We do this by engaging with employees in clever, inventive and friendly ways. Some employees prefer a written communication directly from our Chief Executive, while others want bite-size information in a more visual format, such as a video me and my fellow Executive team produce on a monthly basis, helping employees feel connected and motivated. Our intranet provides all employees with access to news and information, connecting them to other teams in the business. More informal channels have also worked well for us, such as Yammer, which is an incredible tool for building a community (particularly key when you have lone workers). This is used by an impressive 2000 of our 3000 employees to comment on, ‘like’ and share information.
4. A learning culture
We’re committed to providing learning opportunities for all employees, whether it be one of our 90 eLearning modules that can be done in an afternoon, or one of our 40 plus face-to face-training courses delivered internally. It could also include our bespoke Concierge Academy and Customer First training, or more formal external training and qualifications up to degree level, we support all employees to be their best selves.
5. Employees supporting each other
We’ve created a culture where peer-to-peer engagement is not only supported but embraced. I’m really proud of our mentoring programme, which is in its second year and gives our employees the opportunity to develop relationships and networks, and enhance their skills. It’s also a firm commitment that FirstPort is investing (time and resource) into their careers. We’ve also seen great results from our Digital Eagles programme, which we worked with Barclays to develop, to enable employees to support each other and our customers to become more digitally confident and the creation of a ‘digital community’ across our business.
6. Easy to do business with
Working for FirstPort should be frustration-free, and as an HR team, one of our key objectives is to ensure that we’re easy to do business with. We use technology to provide instant access for all employees to things which are intrinsically important (pay, holidays, benefits) and ensure that user-friendly information and support can be found on our Intranet.
7. Health and Wellbeing
We know that if employees feel healthy and well, they’re more likely to be able to be their best selves at work and deliver a great experience for our customers. That’s why we’ve invested in a wellbeing programme which includes tools and support to encourage mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing and we are training employees to become mental health first aiders.
8. We’re all Property Managers
At FirstPort we’re all property managers; it’s important that each one of our 3,000 employees knows the role they play in looking after our customers’ homes. From recruiting the right people, creating accurate and easy to read accounts, to ensuring contractors are engaged and paid on time. That’s what makes us #FirstPortPeople!