DDN November 2021 November 2021 - Page 20



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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 .
‘ It may be an obvious thing to state , but the wellbeing of our staff is key to delivering great results .’
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 .
Anna Whitton is chief executive officer at WDP
To read more about WDP ’ s new benefits package and view current vacancies , visit www . wdp . org . uk