Could your business be one of Eastern England’s best employers?

Could your business be one of the region's best employers? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Could your business be one of the region's best employers? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

When everyone working in a business is happy, engaged and motivated, great things start to happen. Taking charge of that process starts with the 2020 Best Employers Eastern Region survey.

The business cohort accredited by the Best Employers scheme in 2018. Picture: David Johnson Photogra

The business cohort accredited by the Best Employers scheme in 2018. Picture: David Johnson Photographic - Credit: David Johnson Photographic

Everyone likes to think they're a great employer. Especially HR teams. That's particularly important in times of turbulent trading and tough markets, as the success of a company rests on the performance of the individuals who work there. Better still, being a great place to work not only gets the best out of people but also attracts more talent.

How do you know your company really is a great place to work? In our region it starts with Best Employers Eastern Region survey, founded by Pure and ERAS. Conducted every two years, it provides a unique insight into current levels of employee engagement and lets you benchmark your business against others in the region - and maybe be crowned one of the best employers in the region.

It's also a way for employers to share best-practice, starting with the launch conference at Tattersalls in Newmarket on March 18. Previous winners and industry experts will explain their success and how to create inspiring, engaging workplaces.

This year's keynote speaker will be David Smith, pictured below, who was HR director at Asda in the supermarket's crucial turn-around years. "Whenever people hear me speak on this topic they say the same thing: you've taken something very complex and made it simple," he says. "The advantage is that this isn't theoretical. We're looking through a window at what actually happened with Asda. Really, I'm a storyteller and everyone can learn from stories."

Keynote speaker David Smith

Keynote speaker David Smith - Credit: Archant

David cut his teeth in the troubled mining industry in the Eighties, gaining invaluable experience of change management. "Culture can move quickly when you have to make dramatic changes - when you're having to make mass redundancies and close sites. It moves very quickly when it's a negative change," he explains.

"But making a positive change can take years. And creating a positive culture is one of those things that will decline if neglected - unless you're actively working on making a positive culture, it will naturally decay."

Most Read

His HR team at Asda managed to produce a culture where people, productivity and, ultimately, the business flourished - so what was the secret? "Over the 15 years that I was at Asda, we tried many things. Some of them worked and some of them didn't. But I was able to identify seven principles that worked," he says - and these will form the heart of his speech at the Best Employers Launch Conference. "They're tangible things people can take away and use. That's what practitioners need: the clarity to know they can go and do this, and it will work."

Changing the culture of a business can be demanding, so how does David suggest starting? "Bringing the management team with you is critical. I was lucky at Asda that the CEO was Archie Norman, who was very bright and really understood what needed to be done," he says. "Until you have that support from the top, you shouldn't even start."

The scary part, though, can be getting the top team on side. "It isn't something you can do in a meeting - take the CEO aside and get them on board," David says. "What nobody ever tells HR professionals is that sometimes you have to be brave enough to say you believe in the change so passionately that either the CEO buys into it and supports you... or you go. I've had a couple of these brinksmanship-type conversations in my career and they are always cathartic."

This committed approach is also effective. "I've been talking about this for 10 years now. I've spoken to countless audiences, to CEOs, I've consulted with different businesses," David says. "Nobody has ever said, 'That wouldn't work here.' Whatever sector you work in, we all employ people and the principles of doing right by people are universal. The evidence of 10 years doing this is that these seven principles work."

Hear David Smith explain the seven principles of creating a high-productivity, performance-based culture at the Best Employers Launch Conference on March 18. Book your place here.


This day-long event at Tattersalls in Newmarket on March 18 will be packed with insight, information and solid, actionable advice. The topics the speakers will cover are:

Tipping points on growth and engagement (CJ Green, Brave Goose)

A Best Employer story (Jon Woolston and Amanda Ninham, Larking Gowen)

Achieving accreditation (Tracey Locke, Mace Group)

CEO panel (Alistair Clabburn, Liftshare; Jeff Ward; Centurion; Sharon Allan, Arthur Rank Hospice Charity; Peter Mitchell, Holkham Estate)

Creating a highly productive, performance-based culture (David Smith)

A Best Employer story (Andy Wood, Adnams)


The 2020 Best Employer survey is your best chance to gain a unique understanding of employee engagement and get recognition for your business. You can also earn Gold or Platinum Best Employer accreditation, as well as being in with a chance of scooping one of the prestigious awards that reward and showcase the best employers in the East of England. For further information, click here