Working on canals, according to British Waterways employees, is a way of life that should be prescribed on the NHS. Lush green surroundings, flowing water and a wistful pace of living that seems to recapture that of centuries gone by. Add to that intimate offices set in listed buildings, with perfect views, and total autonomy handed down from head office.
Of workers surveyed, 77% say their work is an important part of their life, 78% feel proud to work for the company, and 80% say they would miss the firm if they left. One in five has been with the company for more than 20 years.
The British Waterways Board manages and cares for 2,000 miles of canals, rivers, docks, buildings and landscapes. Each year the canals and rivers attract 10m visitors, spending more than £1.5 billion.
Christine Styles, waterway manager for the Oxford and Grand Union canals, says: “When we regionalised in 1989, British Waterways realised that the business was at the canals. There was a big movement of power from one place to another and it was the right thing to do, because we didn’t have the balance right; people weren’t able to do the work they needed to do.”
Our survey supports this: three-quarters of the workers say people in their teams go out of their way to help them, 76% say they have confidence in the abilities of team-mates, 75% feel managers trust their judgment and 68% say their managers care about them as individuals.
The firm has an annual training budget of £2m, with workers getting 30 hours of formal training per year. Employees are entitled to performance-related bonuses ranging from £500 upwards. A final-salary pension and life insurance, at four times salary, are available to all. Only 5% of employees are eligible for free healthcare, while the other 95% get occupational healthcare and regular screenings.
The firm’s rewards include bonuses for efficient improvements, one-off payments for exceptional improvements and annual awards for the best-kept locations.
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