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Director, Policy Services Limited

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1 Director, Policy Services Limited
Good morning everyone, and welcome to the Central Hotel for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Maggie Ness ... Who are Policy Services? Some background. ... and I’d like to begin my presentation today by talking about dogs. This is not some trendy form of corporate slang. I really do mean the loveable, loving and disruptive animal that may or may not be better than a cat, depending on your personal preferences. Maggie Ness Director, Policy Services Limited

2 Dogs as a species may have many characteristics in common
Dogs as a species may have many characteristics in common but as anyone who is unlucky enough to have found themselves at the thick end of a vet bill can testify the particular characteristics of each pet are unique. They relieve stress, but they also cause it which may explain why the family dog plays such an important role in many of our lives. I mention this because, in a small business, you tend to gather quite a lot of information about your colleagues’ pets as there’s usually an injured paw or the mysterious disappearance of a steak from the kitchen or a diplomatic crisis when it turns out the neighbour’s dog somehow became pregnant during your summer BBQ. And when I first set up my company I knew every last detail about my colleagues’ dogs as I only had one colleague and his dog was not just similar to mine it was the very same. Indeed, I think the fact that I’ve run a company with my husband makes me particularly qualified to give advice on dealing with problematic, irritable and frequently stubborn members of staff! Those early days were often difficult when every vet’s bill added to an ever-more intimidating accumulation of credit card debt and it wasn’t unusual for us to work well into the night. Still, the partnership, like the marriage was founded on a shared faith in the company and our strength when we worked together and after two years of extremely hard work, we were able to move into rented premises and we began to expand the team.

3 As our company grew, we began to clarify the values that were essential to the working environment. We wanted to maintain the feeling that we were all a family not only interested in the bottom line but also in the things that mattered to each other outside work. We wanted to build on the ethos of trust in the team and we wanted to be generous to our employees. This was particularly true of my husband who, I later discovered, was likely to offer a higher salary than me for exactly the same job! But the company was sound and a few years later, the team had grown again.

4 And at some point along the way, we passed the invisible line where we no longer knew the name of every employee’s dog or even if they had one. Hardly a catastrophe, but it’s not entirely without significance. Each employee, like their canine dependents, is an individual who not only has different needs but who also has taken a unique path to end up as part of our broader working family. Obviously, the relationship you have with a company when you enter into the fully-formed business as a graduate recruit is nothing like the experience of setting it up in your garage and our company has all the shades between those two extremes. The gradual evolution of the company, felt in practice more like a series of random tectonic shifts, where we would employ someone when we realised that we couldn’t manage without a person in that role. As a result, our company structure looked something like this before the consultatio

5 Policy Services Ltd Directors Recruitment Manager Executive Support Head Of Service Delivery Client Services Saturday Support Finance and Development Manager New Business IT Manager RDR Business Analyst Finance Acquisition Support We knew that this structure was not perfect but like many small and medium-sized businesses, we were very reluctant to change or structure , let alone to bring in outside consultants. After all, personal relations were central to our ethos and the structure was a reflection of the journey we had undertaken together as a team and in the case of the staff who had joined us early on they had adapted to different tasks and responsibilities as the business had developed. But if my husband, myself and the other directors were reluctant it was nothing compared to the feelings of the staff many of whom were firmly opposed to a consultation. The very idea, it seems, triggers a lot of anxiety and often in quite unexpected ways. This is probably more acute in a tough economic environment when consultation sounds suspiciously like cut-backs and an excuse to lay-off staff. Therefore, in order to bring about inclusion, we first carried out an anonymous survey with our staff to find out their attitude to a new salary structure with clearly defined roles, rewards and also a reward system that could be managed by Team Leader and management without the Directors having to be involved at every level. So at this point, I would like to say a few words about Ashworth Black the consultants who we appointed following the survey, when we decided to go ahead with the process. Most importantly, they quickly established a relationship of trust with our staff with a clear emphasis on listening to them. Within businesses, we often think of consultation as a process in which strangers come in and tell you what to do but our experience with Ashworth Black was that they really did consult and it was crucial that this process was as much about listening to the staff as it was about talking to the directors. They worked with a transparent and helpful structure involving both group sessions and consultation on a one-to-one basis. In addition, with their guidance and training we formed a job evaluation committee as part of the process,  that was composed of both directors and members of staff. In effect, this gave us a team that was trained to evaluate jobs, effective in decision-making and communicating, and working in unison to make the process fair. 

6 Process Communication – group & individual Company Structure
Job Evaluation – Grade Structure Salary Benchmarking – Pay Structure Performance Pay Progression Staff Consultation Performance Management

7 Policy Services Ltd Managing Director Director Commercial Director
Executive Support Head of Service Delivery Apprentices Acquisition Team Leader Acquisition Team Client Services Team Leader Client Services Team Saturday Support Team Leader Saturday Support New Business Team Leader New Business Team Operations Director Finance/PAYE Manager Finance Team Leader Finance Team IT Team Leader IT Team Head of Compliance RDR Analyst Virtue Project Manager Virtue Project Researchers Policy Services Ltd

8 Managing Director Director Commercial Director Executive Support Head of Service Delivery Apprentices Acquisition Team Leader Acquisition Team Client Services Team Leader Client Services Team Saturday Support Team Leader Saturday Support New Business Team Leader New Business Team Operations Director Finance/PAYE Manager Finance Team Leader Finance Team IT Team Leader IT Team Head of Compliance RDR Analyst Virtue Project Manager Virtue Project Researchers Policy Services Ltd However, I don’t want to give the impression that there were no difficult decisions to make during the process. It was important that the consultants felt able to communicate inconvenient truths to us and one of the anomalies they discovered when we undertook the job evaluation process ... was that we had effectively employed two people to do a single job under slightly different titles. This led to one redundancy.  The reality was that as a growing company, we had never had the time to prepare job descriptions therefore immediately after this exercise staff felt that they had greater clarity of their own roles. It certainly, has been a huge help when advertising vacancies, as we no longer scramble together something that we think sounds we know it is right. I think it is fair to say that for the vast majority of staff, the consultation led to a much better working environment. The spontaneous, slightly chaotic format for a company with a handful of staff was clearly less effective when managing a company with more than fifty employees. We realised that we had hit another milestone when one of the original team from the early office reached retirement age, and this only underlined how much the company had already changed, and that we needed to find both the structure and the infrastructure in order to maintain the operation. Crucially, remaining true to our roots as a business, we wanted all of our staff to feel personally invested in the success of the company. Once upon a time, this had happened of its own accord but as the team had expanded, the intimacy of moving forwards as a business family was bound to become less tight. It was unrealistic to expect every member of staff to see their job in a partly vocational light and so it made sense to give each member of staff clear incentives to achieve their goals. In effect, we wanted to make all of our employees stakeholders in the success of the business making sure that what we stood to gain as a large team was also expressed through the frame of individual benefit. As part of the process we introduced far more clarity on the way that each salary is calculated and assessed and gave an outline for each employee of the path to promotion, salary increase and other ways to maximise their progress within the company. Clearly, money is an important motivating factor for all of us at work but the structure we introduced, with consultation, was also designed to give the staff more guidance. It was important to us that the new system should be fair for all our employees but it was also key that it should be competitive. Inevitably, in the slightly haphazard old system, there would be staff who were being paid less than the market rate and sooner or later they would get a better offer to do the same job elsewhere. The consultation actually led to an increase in pay for most of our employees and the better rate means that we’re far less likely to lose them for financial reasons. So many of the decisions that we have taken as a result of the consultation have been about mutual benefit: The interests of the directors are often aligned with the interests of the employees. So what did we learn from the process? The first and most important lesson is that a good consultation process can be very helpful for a small or medium sized company and I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Ashworth Black in this capacity. They were incredibly efficient, without trying to cut corners. They were transparent in their costs and they offered good value for money. To the extent that if we regret anything, it’s that we didn’t undertake the review earlier. Since the consultation, the company has benefited significantly from the additional clarity and the new structure puts us in a much stronger position to adapt as we continue to grow. A bigger team places a greater burden of responsibility on the directors and that’s partly a question of due diligence and partly a question of adapting to a company size in which it’s evidently unrealistic to expect to know the name of everyone’s dog. And yet, at the same time we have made it a clear priority to maintain the family feel of the business with our annual sports day, a Christmas party, and our annual team day out to such places as GoApe, the zoo, hill climbing or skiing - we have done them all. No matter how much we grow, we will continue to ensure that good personal relations are the heart of everything we do in the business and it’s been good to reassure ourselves that a fair reward system doesn’t impede that. In fact, it’s essential for maintaining it. So if you find you have a complete memory blank about whether an employee has a Labrador or a poodle don’t be afraid to get an outside perspective and trust that a system that is effective and fair will help to keep a good relationship with your staff as you go forwards. Thank you very much for your attention. I hope that some of my presentation may have resonated with someone in the room. Does any one have any questions?

9 Email:
Contact Details for Maggie Ness Office:

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