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Published: 20 Jan 2015

Brand Learning, Joint Winner 2014, The Childcarescheme Top Small Family Friendly Employer Award

Brand Learning is a global consultancy with unique expertise in lifting the capabilities of people and organisations to drive growth by creating better value for their customers. Founded in 2000, by Mhairi McEwan and Andy Bird with hubs in London, Singapore and New York, the team of 120 employees have worked with over 100 leading multinational organisations (including Unilever, Shell, PepsiCo and AstraZeneca) in more than 60 countries to create sustained performance change in their commercial teams.

Cathy Winsey, HR Operations Director, explains “we have a mature culture, based on trust and positive intent, allowing people in the organisation to work flexibly to meet their work commitments but also balance family life’. This desire to treat employees as responsible adults underpins Brand Learning’s attitude to flexible working. Flexible working can be agreed from day one of employment, there is “no closed door agenda” and every flexible working request is approached from the same point of view: “is it possible to meet the individual needs and also the needs of the business?”. It is recognised that employees work hard in a high performance, competitive environment and a lot is expected of people, but with performance management focused on outcomes and achievements, rather than on time spent in the office, employees have freedom in how and where they work. “Our clients and our people tell us that working with us feels different: we pride ourselves on being engaging, supportive partners, driven by our strongly-rooted values: Expert, Engaging, Inclusive and Inspiring Change” says Cathy.

Brand Learning underpins its approach with policy but the main strength of their flexible working provision is the culture of the organisation. Cathy feels that having a straightforward form for applying for changes in working hours and days enables employees and their supporters (line managers) to really think through how the pattern of flexibility might work for them and what the impact on colleagues and the business might be so that the optimum approach can be agreed. As Cathy says “people need to be mindful that this is a two-way commitment and we need to be mindful of both the individual and business”.

Much of Brand Learning’s flexibility supports working parents. The company has an impressive track record in both encouraging parents to return to work after maternity leave, but also in retaining them through the second child and beyond. It is important to the company that flexible workers progress and employees will be promoted on merit regardless of working pattern.

Brand Learning’s directors lead the way with their own flexible working patterns and “flexibility, fairness and maturity” are important guidelines to follow, recognising that work and life demands ebb and flow and there has to be give and take.

Brand Learning is keen that all employees have some sort of work flexibility to help meet home commitments and following the annual “happiness survey” realised that their Operations Team, due to the nature of their roles did not have opportunities for working from home. On reviewing this, the Operations Team were given 4 days per year in addition to holiday to work from home and meet home commitments such as deliveries or to get the boiler serviced for example. As Cathy says “we know that flexible working is key for retention and engagement so we will continue to consider how we can be even smarter around flexibility in the future”.