In this Q&A, Gary Browning, group CEO at Penna Consulting, shares with Katie Richard how Penna has maintained a position on the Sunday Times Best Companies To Work For list for six years and how HR has positively impacted the business’ bottom line.
What does your role entail?
My official title is chief executive, and as Penna is a plc I have all of the usual responsibilities associated with that role. I do, however, consider myself more of a chief engagement officer and I like to spread my time equally across employees, clients and investors.
You’ve been on the Sunday Times ’100 Best Companies To Work For’ list for six years. How have you maintained your position?
Fundamentally Penna values its people, which means we invest in communication, development and engagement of our own team. This has become part of our culture. We believe pride is a major driver of engagement and that we are privileged through the work we do – with over 2,000 organisations – to know that we’re making a difference to the lives of individuals and the organisations they work for.
What makes Penna a great place to work?
Penna is a people business. At our heart we passionately believe that people change performance. We believe the only asset we have is our people, who we view as “investors”. We’re aware that in choosing to invest their time with us, our people have a choice and deserve a return on that investment, which goes beyond remuneration. We are passionate about people and strive constantly to create a “great place to work”.
Rather than talk values, we talk behaviours – accountable, collaborative, inspiring and supportive. Behaviours are measurable and we monitor them through feedback, personal performance contracts and a recognition scheme. They are reinforced at every opportunity and through all internal communications, to the extent that they are embedded in everyday actions.
How do you feel employee engagement and wellbeing affect your bottom line?
We’ve been tracking engagement levels since 2005 for both employees and associates. When these are plotted against company profits over the same nine-year period, we can demonstrate a direct correlation between the two. In fact, the data shows that improved company results correspond to positive changes in engagement levels and vice versa. It’s because of this that we can conclude, unequivocally, that employee engagement is the single biggest driver of the company’s financial performance.
How do HR and the business side work together?
As an HR services group, good HR practice and processes are embedded across the business. We operate a business partnering model, providing support and technical advice to the teams.
How will you maintain your position on the Sunday Times list?
By maintaining the most important and valuable aspect of our business – our culture. We will continue to focus on nurturing and communicating company culture and ethos across the business, but will also keep reviewing the ways we engage our staff and keep them feeling happy and motivated. As a global HR services group ourselves, we know that companies must always stay on top of engagement strategies and flex them in line with what’s happening within the business – so it’s critical that we do this ourselves, too.
What are your top tips for other organisations that want to be an employer of choice?
Build a culture enshrined in trust and respect for your people. Treat everyone across the business equally and as adults. Communicate openly, be fair and honest, and perhaps most importantly, do all of the above authentically and for the right reasons.
Penna is a medium-sized global HR services group, established in 1974. with just over 300 people providing services around the entire employment life cycle. We help clients attract, source, assess and select the best people, develop, motivate and engage their talent, and redeploy and assist with career transition. At the heart of our culture is a belief that people drive performance, especially those who are passionate and fully engaged. Investing in people is investing in the bottom line.