"At the top of the class for educational research, the NFER scores highly with its employees, too.
With nearly 60 years of experience schooling government agencies in educational research and development, staff take pride in affecting the decisions of policy-makers in Britain and abroad, thereby helping children and society in general. Seven out of 10 find their work stimulating, although four in every 10 feel they could be stretched further. A more focused promotions policy was introduced last year, however, which may impact positively on this score in future.
Most employees are based at the Slough headquarters — whose pleasant gardens are undergoing extensive landscaping — where they enjoy a studious but relaxed atmosphere. Satellite offices in Swansea and York provide regional bases and the use of telephone conferencing and an improved intranet oil the cogs of communication between the sites.
Flexible hours, occasional working from home and the ability to meet family commitments please the 71% of staff who say work does not interfere with responsibilities at home — a top 25 score across the 100 best companies overall. The foundation helps staff maintain healthy lifestyles via counselling, occupational health and free physiotherapy, while surveys help monitor workloads. A generous 30 days' holiday is available to all, plus four discretionary days for staff with three years' service that are often used to elongate bank holiday weekends.
Eighty-two per cent of the workforce say they believe in the organisation's principles. However, the NFER, a charity, has to compete for contracts with other institutions and balance the books, so while staff report low levels of exhaustion (just 58% are shattered when they get home most days, the fifth-lowest proportion) they also report high levels of stress (nearly a third say they have suffered stress over the past year, a level exceeded by just 10 companies).
While only six out of 10 are happy with their pay, more than three-quarters say they would miss the foundation if they left. Most employees are in the final salary pension scheme, and the predominantly female staff enjoy enhanced maternity pay and a childcare allowance. The canteen is subsidised and communal tea breaks are encouraged.
Entertainments on offer show imagination; last year's mini-Olympics featured balloon javelin, tiddlywinks and Twister.
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