Why taking part in Best Employers 2018 could help boost the whole region

Mark Shields, Business Editor. Staff byline. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mark Shields, Business Editor. Staff byline. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Learning more about how East Anglian companies can become better places to work stands to benefit us all, writes Mark Shields.

When you thought about your return to work this week, was it with excitement and enthusiasm? Or were you one of those who turned the calendar over to the new year with a heavy heart?

And if you are a manager, do you know how your employees felt?

When you're stuck in a job and a workplace that doesn't motivate you, it can be hard to remember that there are better employers out there.

And yet there are – many hundreds of them in our region.

Places where staff feel excited to come to work, where they feel the drive to work hard, and can see the rewards of their efforts. Places which challenge and motivate them, where they feel supported and stretched by their leaders and understand what goal they are working towards.

Employee engagement has become something of a buzzword in recent years, with all of the baggage that entails. But in practice, it means creating an environment where employees want to work and want to do well.

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When that happens, they give that little intangible extra for the business – the extra pride in looking after customers, the staying late to complete a big order, the personal touch to exceed a client's expectations, the recommendations to their friends.

Of course, there are as many ways to create that engaged workforce as there are employees. For some, it's knowing that they have their manager's support and that they are trusted to make their own decisions. For others, it's having a clear career path laid out for them with goals and challenges set along the way. It could be that a workplace has a healthy social life where colleagues spend time together outside of the office – or it could be that it encourages a healthy work-life balance where employees don't take their work home with them.

There's no magic formula that works for everyone. But nor is it a dark art.

There are common themes and simple steps towards change that every business can take to get on the right path. Often they are simpler – and less expensive – than you think.

For example, making clear to employees that managers are receptive to their ideas, or are willing to explain their thinking, does not cost a penny – but when done genuinely, it can change the mood in a workplace within days.

The ambition with Best Employers, which has teamed up with Archant this year for the first time, is that by highlighting the excellent employers we have in the region, we can show the way for others to improve.

By building a reputation for East Anglia as a place where ambitious people can build successful careers and enjoy their lives, we can attract even more talented people to help our businesses to grow. That can only be a good thing.

The first step is finding out what you could do better – and that starts with listening.

Find out more about Best Employers here.

• Mark Shields is Archant business editor in Norfolk and Suffolk.