|10 minute read
How we turned Home Group into the UK's Best Workplaces for Women
Susan Fulton, director of people and corporate services
Being the best workplace for women in the UK isn’t just about having the latest policies in place, explains Susan Fulton, director of people and corporate services at Home Group.
Achieving first place in the UK Best Workplaces for Women award was a proud moment for everyone at Home Group. It represented a marker of how far we’ve come in empowering women within the workplace and showcasing their talents, but it also represented a challenge.
Now that we have earned the top spot, there is no time to rest on our laurels. Rather, we must continue to strive to improve our support for the women within our workforce even further and, crucially, help provide the blueprint other organisations can look to as they too improve.
At its core, our success comes from no one single action. It comes from our culture, our leadership and having a clear strategy in place. It has come from us looking within ourselves and facing some uncomfortable truths about the inequalities in the workplace that women face. These are inequalities we are determined to help fix.
Belonging is a part of our strategy. It’s a key goal we align ourselves to as an organisation. To feel like you belong somewhere though, you have to feel respected, valued and treated as an equal.
Susan Fulton | Director of people and corporate services
Picking up awards like the UK’s Best Workplaces for Women reaffirms to colleagues that we are serious about change.
But we can’t lose sight of the fact that it hasn’t always been this good for women in the workplace. One doesn’t have to cast one’s mind back too far, to recall rampant gender inequality, vastly unequal pay and uncompassionate policies. Progress is being made, but there is still plenty to do.
Across society, there remains a gender pay gap. Even as laws and regulations were introduced to ensure equal pay for the same role regardless of gender, the average take-home earnings by women in most organisations still falls short of their male counterparts. In the UK, the gender pay sits at 14.9% (ONS, 2022).
Even in our own organisation, our gender pay gap is coming down but not as much as I’d like. We still have a way to go. Our current gender pay gap is at 13.69% while our median gender pay gap is at 6.49%.
Across the 3,400 Home Group workforce, 64% are women. As an organisation, we are committed to further supporting career development among all of our colleagues, with the hope that this will lead to more of these women progressing into senior roles – in turn, working to further close the gender pay gap.
Within the wider business, we did a really successful women in senior leadership programme recently where 32% of the people that were on that programme got a career move or promotion. At 50%, we have got more women within our executive team than ever before. It’s a similar picture for the board make up.
Susan Fulton | Director of people and corporate services
Externally, it really helps to be branded as an employer of choice. It has certainly helped attract, and retain brilliant colleagues over the past several years.
Then, as an organisation, there’s also the impact it has on our customers. Everything we do at Home Group is tailored towards supporting our customers. For them, they see the diversity and inclusion within the business, and how much it matters to us, and that reassures them. They see a business which reflects themselves, which gives them confidence in what we deliver for them.
Historically though, even when women have made it into competitive, career-driven roles they’ve often faced barriers to progression and personal development. Networking opportunities would often be limited, while mentoring and coaching wasn’t widespread, if available at all.
Even now, it is a challenge faced by many in the workforce – with it disproportionately impacting female and multicultural staff.
It was a challenge we recognised some time ago at Home Group, and it is why we have invested significant time and energy into the establishment of our colleague and customer groups. These cover nearly all identities and serve to provide representation, opportunities to connect, and safe spaces to discuss and challenge the status quo.
I remember vividly helping to establish our women’s network, which I’m so proud to call one of our longest established networks within Home Group that is still going strong!
What inspires me most about these groups not only that they support the colleagues within them, and those who hold similar identities as the group, but they have a meaningful impact on all colleagues across the business.
Our women’s network has become very strong with women all over the organisation joining. Covid helped turn it more virtual, and that’s when we started to see a lot more of our female customers joining that conversation too.
Having our customers there adds a lot of value and richness to the discussions and helps critique the policies and their development. They’ve been influential in changing the whole dynamic, which I think is a strength of Home Group.
As I said at the start, the key to a thriving workplace is the leadership, culture and a clear achievable strategy. But individual polices and practices naturally play a pivotal role.
An example of such an impact of the adaptions to the lone worker policy, which has benefited not just women but all colleagues in the business. It was raised in the women’s group that they didn’t feel the current approach kept them safe enough or was accurate enough. That had led to some colleagues using their own devices, which meant we didn’t have good tracking as an organisation.
So, we listened, and the women’s group carried out a tender exercise with procurement and we mobilised a project for funding which will come into fruition this financial year.
What we have been able to introduce to the business will now have a positive impact improving the safety of colleagues of all genders.
The strength of Home Group’s colleague and customer groups and their tangible impact on the organisation are a key element highlighted within the feedback received from the Great Places to Work judges.
When you reach a pinnacle like the best place to work in the UK for women, it becomes more challenging to make such dramatic improvements. One doesn’t need to, the incremental changes that we continue to make will allow us to get to where we want to be. If that means we drop down the table so be it. The big picture is what we strive towards, not the relatively transient plaudits.
There is still a lot of work to do, but when I reflect on where the business is now 15 years on from joining it makes me so proud. Proud not only of what we have achieved, but also of all the amazing women we’ve helped support and grow within the business – the very women who are now leading the effort to keep improving our workplaces for not only women, but for everyone.