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All Together’s monthly CEO Circles are an opportunity for member CEOs to come together and discuss a particular business issue. Hosted by a Volunteer Advisor, but intended as active learning groups, these sessions are confidential open spaces for consulting like-minded colleagues. This month, guided by the exceptional Ed Perry, CEOs tackled the 8 key steps to making it onto the Times 100 best companies list.

In a recent blog post, Volunteer Advisor and CEO at Moneypenny Joanna Swash suggested that a business’ employees should be considered ‘just as important, if not more important, than its customers.’ Her attitude explains why Moneypenny has enjoyed recognition as a Times 100 Employer for over a decade, but for a little more detail on how to join the ranks, we turned to another All Together stalwart. Ed Perry is the co-founder and CEO at COOK, another universally recognised top employer.

8 Steps to Success

Kicking off the discussion, Ed outlined the 8 key factors an employer should be nailing if they want recognition as a best place to work. Alongside, we’ve gathered Ed’s own tips for successfully approaching each one…

  1. Leadership

    • ‘Business is a contact sport.’ Ed was pretty clear on this one, suggesting CEOs get out of their office, interact with their teams and, importantly, stay in touch with them.

  2. Giving something back

    • ‘Make your team is part of something bigger.’ Give teams something beyond their day to day to feel part of. Something tangible and visible.

  3. My manger

    • ‘Engagement is won and lost in middle management.’ 80% people leave a job due to a manger – not a company. Make sure your management teams are good and review them constantly.

  4. Personal growth

    • ‘Promote Within.’ People need to see where they can grow in the business. This will make progress visible.

  5. Fair deal

    • ‘Pay and benefits.’ Getting pay right is important – pay the most you can reasonably afford to, not the least you can get away with. And don’t underestimate the value of perks.

  6. My company

    • ‘Begin and end the week with updates.’ How well connected are people to what you’re doing? Having good internal communication is vital to engaging and motivating teams.

  7. My Team

    • ‘No rotten apples.’ However good someone is at their job, a bad attitude isn’t worth keeping them on – it will spoil the barrel.

  8. Wellbeing

    • ‘Master the organigram.’ As soon as people feel stretched or stressed their wellbeing suffers. Master the organigram to ensure workloads are right throughout the business.

Manage your own stress as priority

As Ed turned to the group for their thoughts on his approach to the 8 key steps, one CEO in attendance honed in on ‘wellbeing’, asking for tips to help manage the stress levels of their employees. Ed was straight with his advice: ‘The single best thing you can do leading a business is to manage your own stress levels. If you don’t look after yourself, it will permeate out to your business. Take time to ‘check in’ with yourself, and take holiday like any other employee.’

Another member of the group suggested offering mindfulness classes throughout the company, and rather than asking a simple ‘how are you?’, suggested asking employees to rate how they are feeling out of 100 every day. They found this was a better indicator of employees’ mental states, and enabled you to treat them accordingly. Ed suggested checking in with the team individually at least once a week: ‘If you can help yourself and your employees to feel calm and happy at work, you’re onto a winner.’

Values are everything

With #WFH having become the norm for many, this presents a challenge for your business’ culture, especially where values are concerned. Values drive behaviour and this creates culture, which is at the core of a business and will feed into your ‘Best Companies’ metrics. Your values should inform all decisions and hold you accountable to them. They should also be memorable -‘Churchill’s Pig’ is COOK’s first value, meaning to look colleagues in the eye, as equals.

According to Ed, values are much easier to foster in person, rather than through remote working. Several attendees reflected his concerns, outlining how their teams are split throughout various time zones worldwide – what was the answer to culture then? Suggestions included full team get togethers (even if this is only once a year), a slack channel for daily wellbeing updates, weekly round robin calls, a value building workshop… All of these can make the team feel more connected and help foster the culture needed to be a Times 100 employer.



COOK’s Values:

  • Churchill’s Pig (it’s ‘we’, not ‘us and them’)

  • Be remarkable

  • Have fun

  • Care

What else was discussed?

Perks or benefits?

Even something extremely small can have a big impact. Ed suggested that for COOK, giving all workers their birthday off was simple but extremely effective. Real perks, rather than just ‘benefits,’ should just come as standard. Ed recommended looking at Timpson’s as market leaders here.

The value of exit interviews.

Speaking honestly to employees when they leave can be a fantastic mine of information, particularly when it comes to what isn’t going so well. Ed had a few tips on how to maximise the information you get:

  • Catch up away from the office.

  • Don’t ask questions – encourage the person to talk about their experience at your business.

  • Don’t let their manager hold the interview – you won’t get the truth.

  • Genuinely thank them for their contribution first.

Put bonuses in the bin. Everyone agreed: it is very hard to get a bonus system right. Rarely is everyone happy, and often they leave people disgruntled. Instead, at COOK they chose to pay everyone an increased salary, regardless of their role. To the surprise of the group, Ed put this decision down as the best they’ve ever made.

* * *

Thank you to our Volunteer Advisor and Circle host Ed Perry for his exceptional insights in another advice-filled gathering. The Best Companies survey offers a great opportunity to learn more about your business, and with Ed’s tips, to improve upon it. Huge thanks goes to Ed Perry for hosting the session and to our attendees for their insights and questions throughout.


2022-12-01T10:27:59+00:00October 28, 2021|
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