Case study: Building a caring company
As part of its 2016 Quality of Working Life research, CMI spoke to Arup head of reward Evan Davidge to find out how the company turned round a culture of excessive working and poor life balance to create a work philosophy with employee wellbeing at its heartCMI Team
Arup is a global, employee-owned firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists with over 4,000 employees across the UK.
A few examples of their impressive work include the Sydney Opera House and the London Aquatics Centre.
The company prides itself on making a sustainable and positive difference in the world, which starts close to home – with making sure Arup’s employees are in the best position possible, both mentally and physically, to do their job and enjoy doing it.
Evan Davidge, head of reward at Arup, said this was all part of the ‘psychological contract’ between an employer and its staff.
“Employees put an awful lot of psychological and intellectual effort into the success of their business, and a good business should be able to reciprocate in kind,” he said. “That’s what constitutes the modern-day psychological contract.”
The first step
Arup’s health and wellbeing approach was triggered by the realisation that large parts of its workforce were very hard-working and dedicated – but at the same time lacked understanding about the impact of their working life on their health. There was a culture of excessive working and poor life balance.
Davidge said: “We were spending a lot of money looking after and caring for our people, but we had no clear objectives and a disjointed approach. It wasn’t sustainable.”
A few straightforward calculations showed how having a sustainable and integrated health and wellbeing strategy makes business sense. Not only does it have an impact on the bottom line, it also improves engagement and productivity, reduces risks and costs, targets presenteeism and absenteeism and attracts and retains talent.
A new health and wellbeing approach
Arup wanted the approach to be holistic – and get away from the disjointed and fragmented approach that had been characteristic of how wellbeing had been managed in the business until then.
In the new ‘Total Reward’ proposition, employees’ quality of life sits alongside the quality of their work environment, and there was a strong focus on people and personal development, and real recognition for their work.
“Arupians have an independence of spirit that is reflected in their work,” Davidge said. “Our sustainable health and wellbeing strategy empowers them to harness this spirit for the benefit of shaping a better world together.”
Health and wellbeing is positioned not purely as an HR initiative, but as an integrated part of the organisation, aligned to the business values of shaping a better world and being a humane organisation.
The challenges: winning management buy-in
Of course, all change attracts opposition. First reactions from senior leaders to the new health and wellbeing proposal were that it was a ‘soft proposition’, which Davidge and his group were immediately able to counter with tangible results in terms of business productivity and commercial success.
The rock-solid evidence helped senior managers become more committed.
Find out more about CMI’s Quality of Working Life research here