I believe that a supportive, friendly workplace environment allows the workforce to flourish. At APSE, we have all worked together to create an excellent working environment, and we have used the Investors in People award to set the standard we want to reach. Currently we’re at Silver level, which places APSE in the top 12% of businesses for investing in our staff, and next year we’re determined to get Gold – we aren’t far off it at the moment.
I have found the experience of reaching this stage very humbling. I am proud that we have been able to achieve such an excellent working environment through all the staff working together. It has been brilliant to hear the comments from IIP, vocalising how well I know we’ve done in the past 12 months. I’m proud to share with you that John O’Sullivan, Investors in People Assessor, said ‘It was clearly evident from the recent assessment that APSE has a clear focus on excellence and an aspiration to be a world-class organisation. Staff feedback reflected inspirational leadership through an open, honest and trusting management style. There was also clear evidence of strong alignment to a public service ethos with people believing in and seeing themselves as custodians of APSE’s core values.’ These words of praise not only show the local government world how much we strive to make APSE an excellent place to work, but also prove that everybody at APSE has bought into our organisational vision. This is everybody’s achievement.
This journey first began for APSE in the early 2000s, but it became more important whilst writing the latest APSE business plan in 2014. APSE’s National Council, who embody our aims and objectives, saw a need for us to develop the investment we make into our staff. We had held the basic IIP accreditation for around 12 years and the National Council were very vocal in their insistence that building on this was a priority. Here, we began the pursuit to become a world-class organisation.
This change wasn’t easy. It depended on the hard work and determination of the entire APSE staff, including the APSE Scotland and APSE South/South West offices. It hinged upon a change of culture, which isn’t something that can be instilled overnight. An email and a meeting on office culture wouldn’t cut it – it was something that all of us at APSE had to work on every day we spent in the office.
Lindsay Towler, APSE’s Head of Business Resources, is right behind the ambition to work our way up the IIP ladder and she works hard to make staff feel happy in their role at APSE. Lindsay has been instrumental in creating vital strategies and policies within the company, like the new APSE organisational development strategy, the corporate social responsibility strategy and our new appraisal system. Whilst creating these, she ensured that all staff were given the chance to have their input; I know she strongly believes that every person at APSE is an integral part of this journey. More importantly, Lindsay makes sure that everybody is happy in their job, that they know their purpose within the organisation and how their role fits alongside everybody else, and she makes APSE a fun, inclusive and engaging place to work. Not only that, but our staff are encouraged to socialise together outside of work. We also encourage a healthy work/life balance in order to fully support their mental and physical wellbeing.
At APSE, we insist on continuously investing in training and developing all our staff. APSE is a knowledge-based organisation; the more we know as an organisation, and the more we learn, the better the outcome will be for our members. As such, we’ve tried to create an environment where all our staff feel they are supported in their role, encouraged to achieve bigger and better things, and feel that they are given the training that they require to do their jobs efficiently. How else could APSE succeed? It depends entirely on people.
Some people may think it’s not worth investing time and money into their staff, but it’s a false economy not to. Once the mind-set was established at APSE, and we’d created a happy, fulfilling workplace, the organisation itself began to reap the benefits. Last year, we saw a 9.6% growth across all our activities. I put this solely down to the excellent office environment we have achieved here. At APSE, everybody contributes to all parts of the organisation, everybody buys into the business plan. Nobody’s voice goes unheard. As a result, we work as a team to build this great and vital organisation into something that we are all proud of.
At the end of the day, this isn’t about gaining awards like IIP to boost APSE’s reputation. It’s about using that process of achieving the award for the purpose of building excellent organisational standards but, more importantly, developing a world-class working environment in which our staff and, as a result, our members can grow and thrive.