Does the modern office need a ‘silverware’ cabinet?

20 October 2015

Sometimes it feels like we’re being flooded with standards, pledge schemes, top 100 indexes and charter marks.  That’s before the temptation of a glitzy dinner and a piece of glassware results in an entry to an awards event.  It’s nothing short of a minefield, and one that if you’re not careful can occupy a lot of your time, for little apparent reward.


From the globally recognised Investors in People and ISO, to local schemes, industry and size specific options – what is the value to your bottom line?  Specifically, what’s the return on investment of those standards focusing on the quality of employee wellbeing and happiness, such as the Workplace Wellbeing Charter or the Investors in People, Health and Wellbeing Framework?

Investors in People are clear on the benefits they bring, “accredited organisations are more profitable, sustainable and optimistic about the future…..60% of IIP accredited organisations predict business growth compared to the UK establishment average of 47%.” (UKES Employer Perspectives Survey 2012).  With that kind of endorsement it is no wonder 75,000 organisations across 75 countries are investing in this approach.

On the other side of the room there is a different view, essentially that such schemes are purely money-spinners for the accrediting organisation.  For the sceptic, these exercises are often, “common-sense” and what good quality business leadership should look like, as one contact put it, “it’s what the grown-ups do anyway”.

A more nuanced view is shared by the HR and business development professionals I have spoken to; the value and impact depends on whether the specific ‘standard’ works for your business, at the time and how you approach it.

Sandra Webber, owner of The Kudos Group highlights the need to be clear on what business differentiator the standard will deliver.  Your audience may be clients, particularly if tender processes require compliance with key standards.  Similarly, for public facing business it is worth considering whether an award will have ‘ethical shopper’ impact, for instance ongoing campaigns around restaurant tipping demonstrate some potential customer appetite for employee welfare issues.

Advantage in a competitive recruitment market could be a consideration, although to what extent a kite-mark will assist in being an ‘employer of choice’ is somewhat debateable, particularly if looking to research on the motivations and engagement of the ‘Millenial’ workforce.  Shouting about your good practice is good but increasingly savvier firms are looking to their existing employees as their best cheerleaders.

If you want authenticity in your cheering squad then a charter could still be an important ingredient.   Sandra comments that the real benefit, of something like the Workplace Wellbeing Charter, may come in the opportunity to push employee wellbeing higher up the agenda and, “being forced to do a thorough job of it.”  An approach that goes through the motions and fails to engage both senior management and employees in contrast will at best be of no benefit, and more likely will further disengage employees.  This use of a framework to focus minds on a number of difficult issues facing business was cited last week at the launch of the Workplace Wellbeing Pack as part of Bristol’s Healthy City Week.  With lifestyle related illness rates skyrocketing, 1 in 4 of us going to experience a mental health issue and 1/3 of sickness due to stress, anxiety and depression the impact of poor employee wellbeing on business is stark.

As part of the Go Green initiative, the Bristol pack is not reinventing the wheel, being based in the Workplace Wellbeing Charter and brings another powerful advantage that should be an important consideration in any decision on engaging in a standard process – a local business network.  This ability to be excited by, share and develop good practice with other organisations could be critical to success by demonstrating to senior managers what is possible, realistic and importantly what the results can be.  As Sandra clearly put it, “going through the motions does not win hearts and minds” and for any standard process to make a return on investment it needs to be authentically a core part of business.

Nicola Waterworth,  Associate

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