Why HLM Architects is ripping up the rule book when it comes to reward strategies and ways of working | Guest blog

Employee-owned company HLM Architects, which was listed as third best architectural practice in the UK and in the top 100 best companies to work for in the Sunday Times, has studios in London, Sheffield, Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff and a workforce of 190. Managing Director Karen Mosley – who joined the company as an apprentice at 17 more than 33 years ago – details how and why it is ripping up the rule book when it comes to reward strategies.

We know that a feeling of belonging and sense of reward can be achieved or indeed eroded in so many ways. At its most basic, reward has been about pay structures and progression and for many years we have seen packages slowly evolve to include a whole host of innovative, tangible extras; but what about the intangible?

Time and energy are scarce and can either be on our side or take us to the edge of burnout. That is where we should focus our attention now – having come through the Covid pandemic. We’ve got this once-in-a-generation opportunity to learn from what has happened.

The legacy of the pandemic is going to live with us forever there is no doubt and, as we enter an era of undoubted continuous change, we’ve got to stay nimble and responsive to what might lay ahead.

The pandemic should really make us rethink, not only about what we’re providing in terms of rewards, but more importantly ‘why?’.

Hybrid working a silver lining of the pandemic

There is no one-size-fits-all anymore. A reward strategy needs to recognise the employee as an individual and it needs to be of value to that individual.

We’ve seen reward packages slowly evolve over the years, but how many of us really empowered our employees to make a choice about how and when they worked? Trusted and empowered our team to do what was needed to get the job done in a place where they could be at their best.

I think a silver lining of the pandemic has clearly been the adoption of hybrid working. We’re now viewing flexible working as the foundation of a good reward strategy, because research shows that individuals achieve their best when they feel trusted, in control, have a sense of balance and belonging, and a choice in the way they work.

But a mindset is needed that working from home is not second rate. Productivity over presenteeism is the focus.

Pilot to empower everyone to choose how they work

Our big change at HLM post-pandemic is we realise you cannot write a policy for ways of working that is an easy fit without making it too rigid. We have had to rip up the rule book and be flexible, which is why we are trialling a pilot for six months called SmartBlend.

It is about managing people’s energy, focusing on output rather than hours put in, celebrating achievements and success, and allowing individuals to continue to work in whatever environment they feel they can be at their best.

We cannot write a policy because we do not have the answers, so we are running a pilot based on principles. Our SmartBlend pilot combines the principles of smart working and the choice or where and when work is done as our aim is to empower everyone to choose how they work to enhance their wellbeing so they can be at their best.

The success of our pilot will rely on everyone working together, respecting our values and each other, being understanding and having empathy, with open and transparent communication driven through its core. It’s going to need a shift in everyone’s mindsets.

By all of us working together we should hopefully achieve a win-win situation for everyone, but we’re taking our time before we set things in stone as we want to create the space and time to learn.

Employee ownership trust model ‘tailor-made for post-pandemic world’

Our mantra at HLM Architects is everything is connected. When we transitioned 100% of our shares to an employee ownership trust (EOT), it meant not only is everything connected; everyone is now also connected as a beneficial owner.

Moving to the inclusive structure of an EOT was a natural step in realising an energising and inspiring environment, giving employees a sense of ownership and a common purpose, a say in their direction, and rewarding everyone for the part they play in the future success of the organisation.

The EOT model feels like it has been tailor-made for a post-pandemic world. The underlying principles have all been critical ingredients for any business to not only survive over the last 18 months, but to operate effectively and successfully in our new world of work going forwards.

Karen Mosley spoke about the changes being made at HLM Architects on day one of the virtual EOA Annual Conference 2021, the sessions from which are available on demand for 60 days after the event. To find out more or to register, click here >>