Challenge of returning to ‘UK Best Workplace’ list pays off during lockdown for recruiter

May 1, 2020

Innovative Bristol recruitment firm ISL has appeared in a prestigious table of the UK’s best places to work for the third time in four years.

ISL, which employs 25 people, was first ranked in the Best Workplaces list compiled by Great Place to Work in 2017.

It reached fourth place in the table in 2018 but failed to get in at all last year – a fact that shocked its directors into taking action to implement a number of employee trust initiatives and communication programmes.

This pre-emptive work not only helped ISL, which specialises in IT and engineering, return to the ranking this year in 11th place but also put the firm in a strong position to react early and effectively to the coronavirus lockdown.

The directors believe the strong company culture brought in by the changes is one reason it is now successfully managing its remote teams, including a furlough rota that keeps employees in touch with the business as well as giving them time to rest during what has become a stressful period.

ISL co-director Alan Furley, pictured, right, with co-founder Henry Keeys, said: “The work we chose to focus on from a people strategy perspective after not getting on the list in 2019 has undoubtedly made a positive impact on our organisational resilience during lockdown.

“By using the survey data to identify areas where we were lacking, we were able to act and put in place a number of initiatives that brought us closer together.

“We went back to our core strategy – which was to hire for cultural fit and develop a caring, diverse and supportive workplace and communicated much more clearly and consistently on what this meant.”

As a result, the firm now has a good bond in the team during these very hard times, he said. 

“Recruiters have high expectations of themselves and so it can be really hard on them when they are doing all the right things but maybe not getting the same results.

“Having an open channel of communication and a supportive mindset I think has helped us get through this in a much more human way and I’m sure will serve us well in the future.

The team realise we may not always make the right call, but they trust we are doing our best and being transparent with them about the challenges we all face.”

ISL’s two best score areas were in providing a caring workplace and hiring impact with others being around developing people and celebrating success, which in turn raised trust and engagement within the teams.

At the end of last year ISL brought in a four-and-a-half-day working week, resulting in productivity and revenues rocketing in the following three months.

Recognition in the Best Workplaces table is coveted among business owners and employees as the survey is anonymous – staff get to say exactly what they think with no fear of retribution.

The table is compiled by specialist workplace culture consultancy Great Place to Work.

Its UK managing director Ben Gautrey said: “Trusting your workforce has never been more important as remote working is now the norm. Unquestionably, as ISL has shown to their credit, building bonds and open communication creates business resilience.

“This means organisations can not only weather storms but develop into them and get through the other side having learned a lot and become stronger in the process. We wish them every success in the months to come.”

ISL was founded in 2007 by directors Henry Keeys and Alan Furley out of a desire to challenge what they saw as a stereotypical ‘robotic’ recruitment.


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