Is Cambridge a location of choice for employees?

West-CambridgeCambridge was recently identified by the Centre for Cities as the most innovative, skilled and equal city in the UK.  Their Cities Outlook 2014 report, the authoritative economic index of the 64 largest cities and towns in the UK, and predicts how cities will perform in the year ahead. The report highlights that cities like Cambridge, Reading and Bristol perform well on skills and employment.  They noted that Cambridge had more patents granted per 100,000 residents than the next five most innovative cities combined (Swindon, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Aldershot and Gloucester). It also had 3.5 times as many patents granted per 100,000 population as Swindon, the second city.

So how are individual employers rated in employee polls such as the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For 2014?  The Best Companies league tables are based on feedback from employees about their organisation… so it can be a bit like Tripadvisor but for workplaces.

Five businesses appeared in this year’s lists.  Four have appeared in previous years, but it is the first time that Cambridge Consultants has appeared in the lists.

Mid size companies table

2014 rank2013 rankCompanyBusiness descriptionUK headquartersStaffRevenue (£m)
19NEWBard PharmaceuticalsPharmaceuticalsCambridge453107.4
38NEWCambridge ConsultantsProduct developersCambridge35139.9
3968ColoplastMedical devicesPeterborough348209.6
6657Mills & ReeveLegal firmLondon86270.9

Small companies table

2014 rank2013 rankCompanyBusiness descriptionUK headquartersEmployeesRevenue (£m)
7954Trustmarque SolutionsIT servicesHuntington182130.3


So what have they been up to to be so well rated by their employees?

Bard (Napp Pharmaceutical) was well rated by employees for offering a fair deal, employee wellbeing and its social responsibility.   In terms of fair deal, Bard assesses its employees on how they “add value”, demonstrated the firm’s core values and desired leadership attributes.  Last year, 95% of people had a pay rise, and Bard also provides total reward statements, pay benchmarking against other firms, and recognition awards. 89% are happy with the pay and benefits they receive.  Bard also has its own lifestyle training programme – giving people advice on healthy eating, sleep patterns and how best to use their time as shift workers.  There is an on-site occupational health team to provide regular health checks, everyone can join a private medical healthcare scheme, and the sports and social club regularly organises subsidised football matches, cricket matches, theatre trips, and exercise classes for all.  As a result, 80% don’t feel under too much pressure at work to perform well.  In terms of social responsibility, Bard has an ”ambassadors scheme” to promote the business in the local community and help educate students in science and engineering. Each year there’s a budget for matching funds raised by employees for charities, and the company supports East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. It genuinely cares about the environment too sending zero waste to landfill.  84% believe the organisation has a strong social conscience.

Cambridge Consultants was best rated for employee growth, fair deal and how the business manages itself.  Each role in the business has its tasks and prerequisites outlined so employees have a clear understanding of the skills required for promotion opportunities and can link this to their annual performance review.  89% feel the experience they gain from their job is valuable for their future career. Employees are canvassed about the way the company is run and the Board closely examine the results and make continuous improvements.  As a result, 93% of employees feel proud to work for this organisation.  Cambridge Consultants run a ‘Nobel Prize’ scheme to reward extraordinary effort and/or achievement. Anyone in the company can nominate anyone else directly to the CEO who in turn makes cash awards with an announcement of congratulations in their monthly in house magazine.  78% are happy with the pay and benefits they receive.

Coloplast was highly rated for leadership, fair deal and social responsibility.  It is led by Sue Kernahan who creates time to discuss the business with her employees. Her 1:1 monthly clinics are very popular with employees at all levels of the organisation and this alone says something about her approachability, and her ability to listen and respond to employees. She has a glass fronted office and is passionate about the SMT going back to the floor to gain new insight.  She is a great advocate of Jim Collins and uses his “right seat on the right bus”. She is a great role model, coach and inspiring leader.  As a result, 88% of employees feel the organisation is run on strong values / principles.  Coloplast use PRIDE Awards (Person Responsibility in Delivering Excellence) to recognise those who have delivered beyond what would normally be expected. These awards are important because they showcase employees who are great role models and who want to invest in their business for a great future. Employees love the recognition, but it is also an opportunity for the SMT to tell stories about employees at company updates and through other communication channels, so that everyone gets the opportunity to hear, learn from and challenge themselves to make a difference everyday.  76% are happy with the pay and benefits I receive in this job.  91% feel the organisation encourages charitable activities.

Mills & Reeve is best rated for its social responsibility, wellbeing support and offering a fair deal.  The staff at Mills & Reeve are involved in a range of activities which aim to ‘help build thriving communities’ and they volunteer with small community groups and charities. Their involvement with ‘IntoUniversity’, a charity providing local learning centres delivering an innovative programme that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to attain either a university place or another chosen aspiration, has gone from strength to strength. 94% believe the organisation encourages charitable activities.  In terms of wellbeing, the ‘Managed Care’ initiative provides a dedicated team of named nurses to deal with all employees health worries via a direct phone line. These nurses are there for the employer to contact for advice on employee health related matters, and will speak to the employees directly about any medical concerns and to offer advice on how to manage their medical conditions in the work place. 74% do not feel their health is suffering because of work.  One way Mills & Reeve LLP reward employees efforts is through the firm’s bonus scheme. Each year they reward employees with two bonuses for their efforts. There is a summer bonus that is based on the firm’s financial performance in the previous financial year. All employees receive the same payment regardless of their position in the firm. There is also a smaller Christmas bonus as a thank you to employees from the partners for their effort during the year. Employees also receive an additional days holiday to take over the Christmas season.  65% feel happy with the pay and benefits they receive.

Trustmarque  is best rated for managers, personal growth and teamwork.  They structure their annual appraisals to ensure that development and support needs are identified, and these are followed up by the Learning & Development team. The organisation have rolled out 360 feedback for their sales team this year to support them in understanding where they are doing well, and where they need more development. Managers do not ask employees to do anything they are not prepared to do themselves; this gives a good understanding of the pressures faced by employees.  Managers assist employees in identifying individual development plans, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. 92% feel that managers talks openly and honestly with them.  In terms of personal growth, they have also designed a “Solution Sales Professional” programme for all those in account management, which covers both general sales skills and the specifics of selling their services product set; this combination of product and skills training equips individuals to do their current role, but also enables them to progress through a sales career structure. A modular programme of training and accreditations will incorporate generic content together with specialist modules (on topics such as video case studies, content generation and digital marketing) for advanced skills development.  91% feel the experience they gain from their job is valuable for their future.  For teambuilding, all teams have an annual budget for activities such as  karting or chocolate making. In addition, Trustmark hold an annual team building weekend called “Kick-Off”. This involves strategy presentations, motivational speakers, workshops, a team building activity (this year, a GPS treasure hunt), dinner, dancing and awards. Trustmark felt that it was important to involve employees to work together and across departments, outside of their usual working teams, to define what the values meant for them, and to truly bring these ideas to life within their workplace environment.  This seems to be paying off as 91% of employees feel people in their team go out of their way to help them.


Source: Best Companies 2014.