An initiative to build and sustain the best possible workplace culture

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In association with Great Place to Work

Achieving certification as a Great Place to Work is helpful to employers at any time. Achieving it during a pandemic is a special cause for celebration.

“The Great Place to Work certified programme is designed to build, sustain and celebrate high-trust, high-performance culture in organisations,” says Brian Sutton, client relationship manager, Great Place to Work. “It is the first recognition step that organisations can unlock on the Great Place to Work journey,”

Undertaking the programme allows organisations to accurately assess where they are as a business, and as a culture. “The insight and feedback can help align and focus people strategies. This is especially true for those organisations that commit to and embrace the framework to build success for both their people and the business,” she adds.

“The programme also provides a mechanism for organisations to leverage and develop their internal employee value proposition, along with their external employer brand. This plays a critical role in both retaining and attracting talent.”

That has proven to be the case at Capital Switchgear, a designer and manufacturer of low-voltage switchgear for data centres, commercial and Industrial buildings.

The results it received to a Great Place to Work survey, a central plank of the certification process, were hugely cheering for management, with 83 per cent of anonymised respondents saying felt “proud to tell others I work here”, 96 per saying “people here are treated fairly regardless of race or ethnic origin”, and 90 per cent attesting that they can “be myself around here”.

Management at the company, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, believed that pursuing certification would be a good move, according to Mariona Ferrer, its marketing manager.

The pandemic had an impact on everyone in the team, she points out, both the office staff who had to move quickly to working from home, and the production staff who could not, and so had to work under new social distancing restrictions.

“The company did feel the strain of Covid in terms of morale, it was hard on everybody,” she explains.

Good culture

Ferrer believes that keeping morale up is all about culture. “Good communications, both digital and in person, is the key to establishing a good culture. But culture is also very difficult to assess,” she points out.

‘It was about looking at our culture, finding out where we are now, and seeing what and how we could improve. For that we needed a baseline’

Undertaking the comprehensive Great Place to Work anonymised survey was the perfect place to start.

“For us, it was not so much about achieving certification as it was about looking at our culture, finding out where we are now, and seeing what and how we could improve. For that we needed a baseline,” she explains.

Gaining Great Place to Work certification is something management at Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience was keen to achieve too.

Sales and marketing manager Melanie Lennon joined the organisation in 2020. “It’s a fabulous place to work, management here are so progressive. There’s never a dull moment and there is always a new initiative underway, a culture of ‘how can we improve’,” she explains.

“There’s also a huge commitment to training and learning here, and of looking to the future and working with local stakeholders such as hoteliers and the Burren Geopark, which we are part of. It’s a magical place to work. It’s the most visited natural visitor attraction in Ireland, and the second most visited visitor attraction in Ireland after the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.”

A key part of the visitor experience is the calibre of the team that staffs the centre, all of whom consider themselves its custodians. “Last year we launched an app and audio guide, and staff were so informative about biodiversity and mythology, I was blown away by their knowledge and enthusiasm,” she says.

During the pandemic some staff worked from home, others stayed on site to look after ground maintenance while others still adapted to changes, such as the closure of the café, to provide takeaway coffees. On St Patrick’s Day last year staff mounted their own mini (socially distanced) parade, as a way to keep up morale. “We also arranged coffee mornings and had a WhatsApp group we could post fabulous pictures to,” she adds.

Online training

Staff also took the opportunity for online training, including such topics as digital marketing and GDPR.

For Lennon, securing Great Place to Work certification was a way of promoting to the outside world what those who work there already know. “It really is a great place to work, so why not show it by getting certified?” she says.

Adrian Breen and Keith Hussey are joint acting heads of people and culture at the Office of Government Procurement, the public sector’s buyer of goods and services.

Achieving Great Place to Work certification dovetailed well with its own internal human resources strategy, explains Adrian Breen.

‘We embarked on a journey, using Great Place to Work as a measure to deliver really impactful and lasting cultural change’

“Our people strategy, EMPOWER, has acted as our North Star over the last four years. We set out to improve people’s feeling of belonging, strengthen leadership at every level across the organisation, while also delivering meaningful work on behalf of the public. To enable this, we embarked on a journey, using Great Place to Work as a measure to deliver really impactful and lasting cultural change,” he says.

Engagement was a core element of building trust with our people. “Our Engagement Group, EMPOWERed, has advised, developed and piloted key learning initiatives that showcased collaborative and inclusive leadership and people priorities. Our CEO and senior leaders committed to ensuring their voice would be heard before decisions were made on key strategic projects including our recently launched OGP Leadership Model and refreshed values,” he adds.

The new OGP Leadership Model, launched last year, aims to “identify, build and enhance the leader in all of us,” he says.

‘This holistic approach to learning has helped us to challenge the stigma and myths surrounding mental health to create a more supportive workplace’

To support this, the OGP invested in online coaching programmes so that everyone had the opportunity to embark on their own tailored learning path. “We adapted our coaching programmes to reflect the reality of the world we are in now, certifying people in wellbeing coaching as well as mental health first aid officers. This holistic approach to learning has helped us to challenge the stigma and myths surrounding mental health to create a more supportive workplace,” says Keith Hussey.

‘Mechanism to measure’

The Great Place to Work process played a significant role, too. “Our Great Place to Work feedback has given us a mechanism to measure and respond. Its rich data has proven valuable and resulted in us launching a new internal mentoring programme, leveraging our talented workforce,” says Hussey.

The OGP’s people-centred strategy enabled the organisation to have exceptional agility and business performance during the many challenges of the pandemic, he adds.

“It gave the organisation a platform upon which we could be responsive to the changing needs of society and the economy, while also ensuring our people were engaged and included in meeting those needs effectively,” says Hussey.

“Now, as we move to a blended working environment, we are creating the space for teams to reflect and identify new areas for personal growth and development.”

Adds Breen; “We have learned through Great Place to Work that connecting people to their purpose is a huge driver of engagement, motivation and leadership.”


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