What’s best for your workers?
How two B Corps in tech and consulting have embedded employee-friendly initiatives within their organisations.
People sit at the heart of any business, and it’s important to take care of them. A people-first approach recognises that workers are the driving force behind a company’s mission. From inclusive hiring practices to mental health awareness, B Corps are leading the way by creating standards, policies and tools to improve their offering to employees. We asked two B Corps SMEs — both Best for the World™ in the Workers category — how they’ve created an environment in which everyone can thrive.
Mark Watson is CEO of Fat Beehive, a creative web design agency for the charity and non-profit sector. Claire Kennedy is Co-founder and Managing Partner of PPL, a management consultancy that exists to promote better health and economic outcomes across the UK.
The Best for the World (BFTW) series will spotlight our UK BFTW B Corps across July and August. These businesses are recognised for a score in the top 5% of one or more of the 5 sections of the B Impact Assessment, showing that competing not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world, is a winning strategy!
Hi Mark and Claire! Can you tell us about the people behind your businesses and why they’re so important?
Mark: Internationalism is at the heart of our hive. Drawn from all over the world, we share a common drive to contribute to social good in all its forms. From creatives to secret geeks, the team has been living and breathing charity web design for many years, and it’s up to me to create an environment where my colleagues can do their best work.
Claire: People are the heart and soul of PPL. The team has a real breadth and depth of experience, with backgrounds in the public sector, consultancy, business and academia. We really value the different strengths and perspectives this brings. Providing the right support, training and development is the most critical part of our business model as a consultancy, and we believe that it’s our responsibility as an employer to bring out the best in people — this, in the end, leads to a better business!
What initiatives have you implemented to create a supportive and engaging workplace?
Mark: We offer fully flexible employment with no expectation to work longer than 35 hours a week, and no out of hours emails. Everyone is included in strategy and planning and encouraged to contribute above and beyond their roles. Financial information is shared on a monthly basis and all staff benefit equally from a transparent profit share and quarterly bonus scheme.
Claire: When we founded PPL back in 2007, we wanted to create an organisation that we would want to work for. We take a holistic approach to line management, focusing on a person’s current activities, future development and welfare — seeing each other as people, rather than just people delivering. We recently set up a Mental Health First Aid team (here are some top suggestions for organisations and for individuals), and established a community of practice where employees can learn from one another — we’re a very flat organisation! As well as having the basics covered, we recently made improvements to our policies for new parents which now also cover adoption.
What are you doing to foster a diverse company culture?
Mark: We’ve partnered with two fantastic organisations — Code4000 is a small charity that teaches people in prison how to code, and we are very pleased to have taken on Ben as a Junior Backend Developer. We are also working with Code Your Future which offers similar training to refugees and other disadvantaged groups. We hired Sonjida who has just graduated from their course as an Associate Producer — passionate about all things tech and gadgets, Sonjida believes that a great website should be about creating an experience.
Beyond these partnerships, we also invest money otherwise spent on recruitment (£75 — £100K a year) on training people who have technical skills but less experience, meaning that our pool of candidates is far more diverse. This year 40% of our new hires were women, 40% were black, and 20% LGBTQ+. Investing time and resources in people at the beginning of their career allows us to develop very engaged, committed and enthusiastic team members!
Claire: We are really proud of the diversity of the PPL team. Solving complex problems requires a variety of perspectives, which is why we have always been committed to ensuring that the PPL team is professionally, socially and ethnically diverse. Our last survey in December 2020 showed that 56% of our workforce were women and 43% were from African, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds. We set up an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion working group, a safe space where people can have conversations and raise issues internally.
It’s so important to feel that a job allows for personal growth. How do you provide opportunities for ongoing development?
Mark: All our staff have individual training budgets which they can use on personal development and any specific training that’s of interest to them. We offer all staff two days a year (separate from their holiday) to volunteer with organisations of their choice. This provides staff with opportunities to learn about aspects of the third sector and grow their knowledge.
Claire: The foundation of our professional development is our CMI accredited in-house consultancy training programme, How We Learn, which has a growth mindset at its core (it covers topics like ‘Self Management’ and ‘Research and Strategic Thinking’). This course is as much about the process of learning to learn as it is about practical skills, and we also ensure there’s space for learning and reflection in daily work. In addition to 1 day a month of training, we offer 10 days a year of volunteering time to help our colleagues see their impacts in different environments.
What are you doing to celebrate your BFTW status?
Mark: We are holding a summer barbecue now that many COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. Our BFTW status is ultimately about the team so I’m really looking forward to spending time with everyone without a laptop!
Claire: We’re absolutely delighted to be recognised, and will be shouting about our BFTW status from the rooftops! We want to show other organisations like ours what’s possible. We’ll also be planning an in-person PPL party later in the year.
If you are a B Corp, get in touch with Claire and Mark on the B Hive with any questions and share any tips that you have on putting people first in your business with the B Corp community.
If you aren’t yet a B Corp, get started on the B Impact Assessment today! This free, confidential platform is designed to help measure and manage your company’s positive impact on your workers, community, customers and environment. Start the assessment today for free.