If you go up to the valleys today…..you’re sure in for a big surprise!

If you were looking for an example of a modern progressive working environment, then you’d be forgiven for first casting your eyes towards London, Silicon Fen, or maybe the trendy media areas around Manchester. Chances are, the former industrial valleys of South Wales wouldn’t be high on your list.

But sitting on the floor of the Rhymney valley, surrounded by monuments and reminders of the areas industrial heritage, sits a modern glass building that bears more than a passing resemblance to London’s City Hall. Housed within this building, Tredomen Gateway, is the Educ8 Group.

Lets get the accolades out of the way first: 6th in the UK Sunday Times Best Companies List, Best Employer in Wales according to the FSB, only the 6th organisation in the country to achieve Investors in People Platinum status (less than 1% of companies awarded IIP achieve Platinum status), Sunday Times CEO of the Year…….the trophy cabinet in the Board Room groans under the weight of over a decade of awards and recognition.

The Educ8 Group are a training provider, delivering mostly apprenticeship training that is funded by Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund. The company also has an expanding operation in England.

The Educ8 Group have been hitting the headlines in recent times, firstly with the acquisition of Bridgend based ISA Training, then by winning a whole series of awards during the early part of 2019 and more recently by appointing former Wales and British Lion’s rugby legend Martyn Williams as the business’s Vocational Skills Ambassador.

But it is the more day to day running of the company that has in many ways attracted even greater acclaim. Firstly, the company has signed up to paying the National Living Wage, which in an area with depressed wages like the Valleys, has a significant impact on the local workforce. Secondly, Educ8 has placed Wellbeing at the very core of relationship between Employer and Employee. Staff receive six monthly Wellbeing meetings where work/life balance, pressures, challenges and issues are discussed freely without fear of defensiveness of retribution. Free mental health counselling is offered to all staff along with lifestyle perks such as discounted gym membership, assistance with medical bills like dentistry, glasses and private health services come as standard for all employees.

The business takes a flexible approach to working, with employees measured on outcomes as opposed to time. If someone can do their job in six hours, then they work six hours, if it takes five, then they work five. Staff can work from home and fit their start and end times around family commitments such as school runs. Team work is built via quarterly Gr8 Days, where the entire 195 staff come together to discuss the future of the business and take part in fun activities like trampolining, archery or outdoor challenges.

Recognition is a key component, with monthly Gr8 Awards given to staff members who colleagues have voted have gone above and beyond and an annual Gr8 Award winner receives a significant financial reward. Holiday provision is generous, with paid leave given to all staff over Christmas that is not subtracted from their annual holiday allowance. A company bonus scheme, access to Perkbox and Westfield Health Medical Cover again all come as standard for all staff of all levels.

Sounds great huh? So what’s the point in all this largesse, what does the company gain?

Grant Santos, CEO: “Our people are our most important asset. It sounds like a cliché, and it is, but it’s true. We firmly believe that to be sector leading in terms of the quality of provision we give our customers, then we need to be sector leading in the quality of our staff. We invest heavily in our staff and the result is that we have high retention rates, many of our staff have been with us since we started the company. This depth of knowledge and emotional tie between the business and our staff isn’t something that can be brought in overnight. It takes years to build, years of investment, years of hard work, but the result is there for anyone to see for themselves. We are in the very top of the top tier when it comes to quality standards and our Learner and Employer feedback data is outstanding. I honestly believe none of that would be achievable without us having invested so much over the years in our fantastic team.”

High retention rates. Low recruitment costs. A happy workforce and results that show the company’s turnover soaring – maybe the key to success isn’t such a mystery after all?

It is with some irony that on the very foundations of old industries that were synonymous with the poor treatment of their workers, has risen a gleaming glass clad example of the very best of modern progressive working environments.

For many, a surprise indeed!

August 22, 2019
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