Barker Associates View from hard standing

Doubling turnover in just three years: How a strong people strategy helped drive growth at Barker Associates

In 2020, multi-disciplinary property consultancy, Barker Associates, had 50 employees and a turnover of £5 million. Three years later, with support from People Puzzles HR Director Lois Moore, they have more than doubled their turnover to £12 million, and grown their headcount to 140, demonstrating the power and purpose of a robust people strategy in a growing business.

When People Director Lois Moore joined Barker Associates in 2020, the business was growing at an unprecedented rate and recognised the need to enhance its people strategy to maintain growth forecasts and align with its strategic plan.  After conducting an initial diagnostic discovery phase with the business, Lois worked closely with the Barker leadership team to implement a comprehensive people strategy to help attract, recruit, develop, engage, and retain the best people that would drive the desired growth.

Three years on, Barker Associates Managing Partner, Stuart White, is delighted with the benefits that a people strategy has delivered.  “Through the work that Lois has done and the benefits of focusing on a strategic people plan, we are now in a fantastic position – securing the future of the organisation in the long term,” he says. “It also means we are now attracting the best people to drive our business growth.”

Every people plan is different to suit the unique needs of the business. For Barker Associates, Lois designed a people strategy to address the specific issues the business was experiencing to build the best foundations for sustainable business growth. The interventions she designed included:

1.Attract and retain the best talent by creating career pathways and development opportunities

In order to attract and retain good people, it was important to show how employees could develop their skills and progress their career at Barker Associates. Lois reviewed job descriptions and worked to align job titles within an internal grading structure and competency framework, with salary bands for each​. Lois is currently working with the business leaders to define employee career paths through the business, as well as a clear succession planning roadmap.

To develop employees’ key skills, the company now has a one-year modular management programme, which brings mutual benefits to the business as well as employees’ own learning and development.

Having these development plans laid out has proven to be motivating for people at all levels, giving them choice and flexibility about how to develop their skills and progress their careers, demonstrating how long-term organisational design provides multiple benefits for businesses and their people.

2. Improving employee engagement and motivation

Good communication is an essential part of positive engagement with employees. Lois established an employee communication framework to ensure that the ‘why, who, what, how and when’ was always communicated with any key announcements. An employee forum was formed to enable the business leaders to benefit from valuable new employee initiatives, whilst embedding their corporate values. Lois is currently working collaboratively with the business’s partners and HR team to source an engagement survey so that engagement can be benchmarked and monitored regularly.

Employee engagement and motivation are critical factors to increase retention, productivity and effectiveness, as well as wellbeing and fulfilment across the business’s people.

3. Helping people feel valued through improved benefits and incentives

A competitive ‘total reward’ benefits programme, as well as private health cover ​and life assurance, has also contributed to staff feeling valued and rewarded for their efforts. A reviewed appraisal system, which now includes wellness plans​ and a sabbatical policy allowing employees of five years or more to take a three-month sabbatical, shows staff that their wellbeing is a top concern of the business.

4. Attracting the best talent with a strong employer value proposition

By showing that the organisation is a great place to work, many of these improvements in processes and practices have helped to attract top talent. The business leaders are keen to go further, and Lois will help them work towards an Investors in People status.

Developing a strong employer value proposition (EVP) is crucial for making a business a desirable place to work and develop a career. In such a competitive recruitment market, it is essential for mid-market businesses to define and deliver a compelling EVP to attract and keep the best people in the longer term to sustain business growth ongoing.

5. Kick-starting a scalable recruitment drive

The business needed to recruit in greater volume than it had ever done before. To keep up with demand, Lois supported the outsource of some of the recruitment and is currently supporting the introduction of an applicant tracking system (ATS) to efficiently manage the volume of applicants and new starters.

A new onboarding process that incorporates welcome packs, engagement from team managers and a ‘buddy’ system​ has helped to ensure that new employees get off to a great start in the company, and having this process defined and structured in this way means it can continue to be rolled out at scale to support ongoing business growth.

6.Future-proofing HR processes and practices for long term business success

Lois helped to resource the new HR processes in the business by introducing an HR Officer role to support the Practice Manager and implementing a PeopleHR a new HR Information System that helps to manage and track key HR concerns such as headcount, attrition, absence and gender ratios. She also supported the roll out of a hybrid working policy for staff after the pandemic social distancing restrictions were lifted.

Lois is delighted with the progress that the business has made since the people strategy was introduced. “This is a really exciting, dynamic business who knew where they wanted to go – they welcomed the development of a people strategy aligned to their business strategy,” she says. Over the last three years, we have fixed the foundations of the people processes and systems. The business is in the strongest position it can be to attract and retain brilliant talent. This is a great place to work, and we are now in a brilliant position to progress our aim of achieving the accreditation of Investors in People.”

If you have ambitious plans to grow your business and need a people strategy to make it happen, call People Puzzles on 0345 646 5201 to find out more and let one of our experienced People Directors help you get the right people in the right places to drive success.

People Director, Lois Moore
People Director, Lois Moore

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