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When Heat applied to Investors in People five years ago, it thought getting recognition as a firm that looked after the interests of its staff was a foregone conclusion. To the shock of management, it failed to get an award. “We were doing a lot for our employees,” says John Morgan, resource and communications director.
“I thought it would be easy to get through.” But it turned out that while the senior team were living and breathing the company values, the messages weren’t getting down to staff at the coalface.
The business, which designs, installs and maintains domestic central heating in social housing in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and England, turned shock to action, setting up a communications team with Morgan at the helm. The company began to go out on site, where 90% of the staff work, to tell them about social events and business issues. Heat bought a £40,000 mobile classroom to save people having to travel up to 100 miles to the main offices by the old Titanic shipyard in Belfast.
Heat (which stands for Heat, Energy and Associated Technology) also employed a photographer to take pictures for a book of employees enjoying life outside work.
The personal approach has given Heat the Midas touch. It has won a string of awards and now it is officially the best mid-sized company to work for in the UK, heading off stiff competition from white-collar rivals to win the title.
At the heart of its success is a genuine sense of family, together with copper-bottomed comradeship. People go out of their way to help each other, earning Heat, which includes the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Leeds city council among its clients, an 85% positive score in our staff survey.
Managers are excellent role models and motivate their workforce like no others (80%).
The culture of asking permission isn’t one you’ll find at Heat. Team leaders are encouraged to embrace intelligent decision-making and accept responsibility. Integrity and confidence grow easily together against a backdrop of good training and communication.
“Everybody gets on really well,” says Siobhan Orr, 26, a service co-ordinator in the call centre.
So well, in fact, that she goes on holiday with colleagues to the company’s villa in Turkey. Orr, like many other staff, is studying for further qualifications. She already has NVQs in office administration, which all call centre staff have to gain. People are always learning at Heat. Several team leaders were fresh-faced apprentices just five years ago and the technical director is currently completing a PhD.
The culture of this company is founded on the basic human values of belonging, caring and respecting others. Staff, who include siblings and spouses, love working here (85%) and in the office or out on site the contentment is tangible.
“The working conditions are brilliant,” says Noel Gallagher, an electrician and installation team supervisor. “It’s the best firm I have ever worked for. They gave me money to get a boxing club going. They give us shares. They are always there to help you in any way.” Colleague John McCann, a plumber, agrees. The company is helping the 23-year-old former apprentice to overcome his dyslexia with extra tuition. It’s easy to see why staff turnover is a low 4% and more than 40% of employees have been with the firm for five or more years.
Bill McCandless, the managing director and dressed in the company T-shirt rather than a suit, is the man who gives the firm much of its X factor. A great believer in perceptual positioning, McCandless likes to put himself in other people’s shoes. He asks himself how he would like to be treated as an employee and acts accordingly. Communication is the key. “We work hard in here to make it simple,” says McCandless. “People confuse simple with easy.
Simple is really very hard. If you can make it simple, everybody understands and that makes it more likely to last.” It’s no wonder staff are inspired by McCandless (87%) and think he runs the business on sound moral principles (89%).
Managers and administrators make up teams such as the one that undertook the Four Peaks challenge for charity. Engineers and supervisors play football together at the company’s £1m sports and recreation facility.
The company prioritises the health and safety of staff, winning it a 93% positive score and ranking it third on this point. Benefits include private healthcare and a good pension.
Workers, though, are particularly proud of what Heat does for the community. Multiskilled labourers stand shoulder to shoulder as they refurbish a respite centre for charity, among other good causes. Staff vote Heat the best for giving back, with a top score of 77%. It also comes first for wellbeing overall, with work not interfering with employees’ responsibilities at home (83%) and little stress (89%). In all, as an employer, its workforce reports that the company is hot stuff.
Learn more about the 8 factors of workplace engagement here
10% of staff undertake charitable activities during business hours
Companies where employees are offered share options
Companies offering a minimum of 25 days annual leave
On-site gym or subsidised gym memberships
On-site nursery or vouchers
Full family cover
40% of employees with more than 5 years' service
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