Tucking into home-made popcorn in front of a classic weepie movie might not be an everyday occurrence for employees of Tower Homes, but it was how they whiled away the time after their Christmas lunch. It's a wonderful life indeed for staff here.
Teachers, policemen and nurses will recognise the housing association's name. Tower leads the field in providing key worker housing, for both homeowners and renters. Not surprising then that employees gave the organisation a 92% positive score for making a difference to the world and 93% for pride in working for Tower Homes.
The association originated with just two people as an offshoot of its parent organisation London & Quadrant — our 12th best medium-sized company to work for in 2005. Looking after its workforce is integral to how the group operates, and at Tower this approach benefits from a very personal touch, thanks not just to its smaller size but also to the influence of hands-on chief executive Steve Walker.
Walker's office resembles a cosy front room; honey-coloured squidgy sofas provide space for visitors, rather than the sleek black leather numbers found in most corporate environments. He believes that people should like their jobs. "I say to staff: if you can't enjoy what you do, go and get a different job. We don't make biscuits or widgets, we change people's lives." He will be pleased to learn that staff say they love their job (the 93% score another top rating for the charitable housing association).
Walker is a popular boss; the workforce think he is doing a great job (95%), have a great deal of faith in him (94%) and are inspired by him (90%). He engenders a close-knit feeling with regular lunches out and rewards excellent performance with thank yous, flowers and chocolates. There is also a decent budget for social activities (£26,000 last year).
Staff are given an induction by Walker and seem to get the message; a resounding 97% positive score is given for belief in the association's guiding principles and 94% for it being run on strong values.
Excellent family-friendly benefits include enhanced maternity and paternity leave while those adopting a child or undergoing fertility treatment also qualify for time off. Employees say their work does not interfere with responsibilities at home (92%) and they are happy with their work/life balance (85%).
Training is well budgeted for at £1,000 per head and staff say it really helps them (92%, another top score).
Sales manager Tesh Kataria says a personal encounter really brought home to him what it means to the people Tower Homes helps. "I was visiting my grandmother in hospital and met a nurse who I had helped find affordable rented housing. I had handed over the keys to her weeks previously. It really sank in," he says.
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