In the press: The Nursery wins Research Live Best Place to Work at the 2022 MRS Awards.
The Nursery became employee-owned in 2020, shifting from three owner-managers to 43 ‘partners’ (its word for employees).
The company has since prioritised several principles to underpin its aim of being a workplace that is ‘fair, fun and inspiring’, according to its award entry submission.
The Nursery aims to have transparent structures that are centred on employees. Part of this involves regular clinics with the elected partner representative aim to allow everyone to contribute ideas and check the ‘cultural temperature’. Additionally, internal awards twice annually celebrate work, with nominations coming from employees and winners given a dinner voucher and ‘duvet day’.
The Nursery announces its profit-share before the end of the financial year, and in 2021, employees received a 10.9% of salary bonus.
In personal development, the company has monthly line-management one-to-ones and individual training plans focused on areas of employees’ choice, such as semiotics and ‘big qual’. It also produces self-funded research, such as a project exploring the attitudes and behaviour of people turning 50 in 2022, which it says offers employees opportunities through thought leadership.
Based on employee feedback, it launched a permanent hybrid working model of two days per week in the office. ‘Wellness team’ events and initiatives aim to support employee wellbeing, including a monthly newsletter created by mental health first-aiders, and employees can take a three-month sabbatical (unpaid) every five years.
Following a review, the agency updated its family policy to include six-months full pay for maternity leave and other policies such as interest-free fertility loans and paid time off for children’s special ‘firsts’ such as first day at nursery and school concerts. “We want to create a work environment where people can bring their full selves to work, and these changes will help parents do just that,” says David Alterman, chief executive, The Nursery.
The Nursery has also changed its recruitment processes, including anonymising CVs and introducing a research apprenticeship position for those with no formal higher education. Alterman says: “CV anonymisation was an important first step in moving to a more diverse recruitment policy. It helps to chip away at some of our inherent biases. We engaged specialist diverse recruitment agencies and we sought out new recruits in new channels that created more opportunities for us to broaden the base.”
Two annual surveys measure employee satisfaction with policy and performance. The research found that agreement with the statement ‘everybody has the same opportunities to progress’ increased from 64% to 89% from 2021 to 2022.
Alterman says: “Our move to employee ownership was a catalyst for us to review all aspects of the working environment. We already had a healthy open culture, but we needed to formalise this and ensure this covered all aspects of our working environment. This included transparency, open communications about the business, warts and all; ensuring every individual has a personal development plan to reflect their own career trajectory, skills and needs; a flexible working environment – optimising hybrid working opportunities, but also investing heavily in a best in class family policy, working groups across the business looking after mental and physical wellbeing: and a series of initiatives to put equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of the business with regular surveys to monitor our progress.
“Because most of these initiatives are partner (not management) driven we have very wide buy-in and support for them. There are always tensions that need to be resolved – for example transparency of financial information has to exclude individuals’ salaries, and maintaining a sharp focus on diverse recruitment can be difficult in the current tight recruitment market. But as a research based consultancy we know if we can recruit, retain and inspire the best people then we do our best work.”