Staff at National Air Traffic Services (NATS) appreciate the fact that their career paths are given clear direction by their employer.
The organisation has more than 5,000 employees operating from 48 sites across the UK, including 15 airports.
Paul Reid, general manager of Swanwick control centre in Hampshire, has been with NATS for 19 years and has worked at Glasgow, Heathrow and Gatwick. "Training and development has been a big theme in my career which is why, at 37, I run the biggest air traffic control centre in Europe," he says.
"I've always had the opportunities to develop and be challenged. I took responsibility for my career, but the company supported me the whole way, including a sponsored master's degree."
Employees give NATS a 63% positive score for their work being good for personal growth, 64% for being able to make a valuable contribution to the success of the organisation and 73% for work being stimulating, the latter a top 10 score.
Gretchen Barrett has been NATS director of safety for five years. She believes that she has been given "life-changing training" that has developed her skills and leadership capabilities.
"All our managers have been trained to be better coaches, which has made a great difference to the entire company because everyone is being coached to deliver to their highest potential," she says. "We are delivering beyond our expectations, we're influencing pilot training procedure and air space rules. The whole mood in the company has been amazing because it is so nice to see people achieve things they didn't think they could do — and I am one of them."
Employees gave managers a 62% positive score for caring about them as individuals, 64% for talking honestly and openly with them and 65% for offering support.
"The support they have given me is fantastic. You actually feel like you are part of a company rather than just an employee," says air traffic control assistant Adrian Roberts. "Everyone respects each other, managers have their job but you can sit down with them and have a conversation on a level playing field."
Air traffic controller Becky Evans has been with NATS for nine years and feels that camaraderie is prevalent throughout the organisation. "There are times when it's high pressure, but you are trained to do your job safely," she says. "It's a real team environment, everyone is trying to help each other and we are regulated, so you can't work for more than an hour and a half here without getting a half-hour break."
Staff give team-mates a 74% positive score for being fun to work with, 75% for going out of their way to help each other and 79% for having confidence in each other, the latter result beaten by just five big companies.
Reid says: "People being able to say what they need to say in terms of leadership, safety and service delivery is the bedrock of our success."
More than 1,100 people work at the Swanwick site and Reid ensures both he and the rest of the employees are well informed about NATS affairs. As well as open meetings and business briefs, he walks around the facility every day and writes a weekly blog that people can respond to. "For me this is about listening, so I give a maximum of six to seven people the opportunity to have dinner with me once a month," he says. "They can rant, debate, question or just listen if they want."
Employees give a 62% positive score for feeling fully involved and the same score for managers caring for them as individuals. Staff say that managers are not guilty of doing a lot of telling but not much listening (63%).
In addition to sabbaticals and career breaks, the organisation offers all employees flexitime, home working and term-time only contracts. Everyone is eligible for membership to a contributory pension scheme. Other benefits include discounted healthcare, dental insurance and childcare vouchers. Employees can also take advantage of on-site gyms, and there is an employee assistance programme offering free confidential advice and counselling.
"One of the great things is the amount of leave," says Evans. "Because of Christmas and bank holidays, you can potentially have 38 days per year."
The NATS travel club offers employees a range of discounted travel services including holidays, hotels, flights and car hire.
Staff say they are happy with their work/life balance, giving a 63% positive score and feel they are fairly paid for the work they do relative to people in similar organisations (67%), earning NATS the seventh and second highest scores respectively in these areas.
"The service we provide is the best in the world," Reid says. "And the fact that almost all our staff stay from day one to the day they retire speaks volumes."
Staff say they are proud to work for NATS, giving it a 70% positive score, and with a 50% positive score, just one big organisation has more people doing their dream job.
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