Anna Whitton, WDP’s chief executive officer, explains how and why WDP has revolutionised its workforce benefits and the importance of staff wellbeing to improve outcomes and support their service users.
What inspires me about what we do at WDP is the way in which the people that we support transform their lives. This is not easy for any individual, but it is powerful, positive, and significant in so many ways, including the wider impact it can have on friends, family, and local communities.
To play a role in and witness that change is a huge privilege and is what keeps our teams motivated and connected to what we are here to do. That said, the work that our teams do is really challenging and frontline roles in particular have become increasingly complex.
It may be an obvious thing to state, but the wellbeing of our staff is key to delivering great results. Happy, healthy, and connected teams make better decisions and perform more effectively. In supporting people to make changes to their lives, it can be easy to lose sight of our own health and wellbeing – I know that from personal experience, and I think a lot about how we, as an employer, can help to create the conditions that support people to thrive at work.
I joined WDP in July 2020, at a time when we were working hard to understand and respond to the health and wellbeing needs of our staff in a pandemic context. Our teams rightly pushed us to reflect on what we could and should be doing differently, starting with reviewing our approach to pay and reward. Committing to that review and to making changes was important because we genuinely care about our people and the difference we can make when those people are at their best.
Our new terms and conditions represent a first and significant part of how we can deliver against this. We’ve spent time thinking about the diverse needs of our current and future workforce, the important times in people’s lives, and how we recognise the hard and important work that they do. We’ve looked at what other organisations are doing – drawing on what we think is great practice from organisations like Hilton and Dimensions. Most importantly, we’ve listened to our staff, explored what is important to them, and challenged our own assumptions about what is possible.
What we have ended up with feels like it reflects our values. Staff feedback tells us that’s the case and that people are both surprised at the final outcome (in a good way) and positive about the offer, regardless of whether every element applies to them. For example, our offer for parents includes a day off for a child’s very first day of school (thank you Timpson – that’s something we loved in your offer). We’ve also introduced time off for other important times in people’s lives – like moving house, getting married, the death of a beloved pet, or IVF appointments. We’ve introduced domestic abuse leave (thank you Villiers Park Educational Trust for your articulation of the importance of that) and leave for gender transition, miscarriage, and other significant times. So, not everything will feel relevant for everyone, but the offer tells you who we are – an organisation that cares about the individual and diverse and changing needs of its people.
The thing that no one expected us to do was to make such a radical change to our sick pay. We are now offering six months full-pay, six months half-pay from the start of someone’s employment. This wasn’t what we originally proposed, and I hadn’t anticipated the challenge we’d give ourselves to push that benefit so much. But when we thought about the impact and why sick leave exists, we knew that it was the right thing to do. The key principle is this – when someone is suffering from a significant health event, do we want them to have to worry about their finances? The answer is no.
And finally, we haven’t forgotten the importance of development and connection in what we now offer. Volunteering leave is included, as are study opportunities and time with our senior leaders in a coaching and mentoring capacity.
There is much, much more that we have included in our new employment offer but key to the whole thing is our commitment to review. We want to make sure that what we offer supports us to continue to develop and strengthen a strong, diverse team. That means that we’ll continue to listen, explore, and understand how we can best deliver the conditions that attract, retain, and support an exceptional workforce.
To read more about WDP’s new benefits package and view current vacancies, visit www.wdp.org.uk