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From culture to community work: Five things we learned from the Best Employers 2018 survey

Lynn Walters, executive director of Pure, at the Best Employers awards conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.

Lynn Walters, executive director of Pure, at the Best Employers awards conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.

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The key trends from the Best Employers Eastern Region survey 2018 were discussed at a conference event in Newmarket today - here are five of the key lessons we learned.

It’s been bigger than ever

The 2018 best employers eastern region was the biggest yet.

Overall participation numbers were more than double the previous edition, with the number of employees surveyed rising from 7,000 in 2016 to more than 15,000 in 2018. The numbers of businesses also rose dramatically, going from 78 in 2016 to more than 140 in 2018.

Overall, it means that the 2018 edition of the Best Employers programme offers the biggest single snapshot of employee sentiment in the region.

The businesses which have been awarded gold or platinum accreditation at the Best Employers conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.The businesses which have been awarded gold or platinum accreditation at the Best Employers conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.

There is still work to do

The Best Employers survey asked how engaged staff are in their business - how much they feel a part of it and motivated to contribute to its success.

But the uncertainty many businesses have been reporting since the EU referendum appears to be filtering down to employees.

A panel discussion at the Best Employers awards conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.A panel discussion at the Best Employers awards conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.

The survey results showed many staff reporting feelings of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

“Those words come up quite a lot in how they are having to plan in day-to-day activities,” said Paul Henderson of psychometric experts Eras, one of the partners on the project.

“Some are feeling their environment is very volatile - for example, that could mean share prices changing - and clearly people are very uncertain about things like Brexit.

“A lot of staff are quite ambiguous about what the future holds for them and what the business is saying to them on occasions.”

A panel discussion at the Best Employers awards conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.A panel discussion at the Best Employers awards conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.

The East is punching its weight

One of the aims of the Best Employers programme was to raise the profile of the East as a great place to work - and the results suggest employees in this region are at least as engaged in the success of their business as workers elsewhere in the UK.

Dr George Sik of Eras said the results were comparable with national levels.

Nearly 170 employers attended he Best Employers awards conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.Nearly 170 employers attended he Best Employers awards conference in Newmarket. Picture: David Johnson Photographic.

“We have our own attractions in the East of England - centres of excellence in learning such as Cambridge University.

“The results we are seeing seem to, in percentage terms, resemble what we see elsewhere in the country.

“There are differences - for example, in the North West businesses may be larger - but in percentage terms there’s nothing unusual about the results we are getting here compared to the rest of the country.”

We’re heading in the right direction

Overall engagement levels per company rose to the highest level seen in the four editions of the Best Employers programme.

“This suggests employees are seeing their business in an ever more positive light and are more engaged than ever,” said Paul Henderson of Eras.

The percentage of workers who said they were personally inspired by leaders in their business rose by 9%.

The qualities employees valued most in a business were teamwork, motivation and quality.

Workers also felt that the three main priorities for organisational success were cost focus (55%), teamwork (50%) and quality (43%).

Community projects aren’t being recognised

The measure of staff reporting engagement from their company in community projects and charitable activities dropped by 5% - though there was doubt over whether the figures painted an accurate picture.

Alex Pearce, managing director of Eras, suggested it could be because of a tightening economic climate.

But Lynn Walters, executive director of Pure, said the numbers may belie the truth.

“The amount of flexibility afforded by employers could cause staff to associate charitable activity with themselves more than the company,” she said.

However, Best Employers participants did make one undeniable contribution to charity by taking part in the programme.

At Wednesday’s event in Newmarket, Ms Walters announced that the ticket prices from the launch event and awards conference had raised more than £5,200 for Mind charities across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.

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