St Leger Homes of Doncaster - New Directions Programme

Championing an Ageing Workforce Award, Winner, 2016

St Leger Homes' older workers are supported to retrain and work flexibly so that individuals are not forced out of employment.

What the judges said

  • The panel was impressed by the power of the business case for action on age at work. Taking action to retain and retrain older workers clearly helped to grow the organisation.
  • St Ledger Homes of Doncaster has a powerful leadership in place, with a clear sense of direction and purpose, able to mobilise change.
  • Valuing people is genuinely at the heart of decision making in this organisation – clear and objective policies and processes are in place to drive change, in addition, leaders and managers are empowered to make decisions that are right for their people, to support them in working longer.

Good for society and for business

  • St Leger Homes protects the wellbeing of individuals and families by making sure they are not forced out of employment before they're ready.
  • By supporting older employees to continue earning the company is also contributing to the local economy.
  • St Leger Homes have found that by supporting staff they have reduced staff turnover and lower recruitment costs.
  • Skills and expertise of older worker are retained and passed on to younger employees, particularly in craft and trades.

St Leger HomesOverview

St Leger Homes' workforce is increasingly made up of people aged 50 and over. Although many older employees want to keep working they sometimes struggle with ill health or physically demanding elements of their work.

Many find they have increased caring responsibilities for elderly parents or grandchildren and need to work reduced or more flexible hours.

The New Directions programme includes several initiatives with the overall aim of maintaining and supporting their older workforce:

  • Regular 'career conversations' promote opportunities and support available.

  • Flexible support to retrain, enabling people to change career changes and stay in employment longer.

  • Redeployment Register for those staff requesting alternative employment.

  • Flexible retirement scheme for employees who would like to reduce their working hours but don’t wish to take full retirement.

  • Work experience scheme for tenants facing age as a barrier to employment.

By taking a flexible and supportive approach St Leger Homes enables their older workers to continue earning and learning new skills. This helps to deliver an improved quality of life, builds confidence, and contributes to the local economy.

St Leger Homes has also saved an estimated £26k in recruitment costs by supporting older employees to continue working.

Ensuring all staff know their options

All managers at St Leger Homes, from the leadership team down to team leaders have been briefed on the New Directions programme. They are then able to work with their staff and, where appropriate, help them to access the services offered through the programme. The central message is that everyone needs to know that they have choices.

In consultation with trade unions, the company has also produced a New Directions Guide, available for all staff to view on its intranet. The guide sets out all of the options that the company offers and outlines the policies and procedures in place to support staff. This guide is promoted through internal communications channels including the staff newsletter, by email, and in team briefings. 

Focusing on career development

Support options are also promoted through the company's new appraisal system of Personal Annual Reviews (PAR), annual meetings which focus on an employee's future, development, and skills. The PAR system was developed by a Leadership Support and Challenge group in consultation with managers and staff across the business to ensure the right outcomes.

In addition, the company is planning career conversation sessions to be delivered in partnership with the TUC. Eight employees have volunteered as local Trade Union learning representatives, and are in the process of receiving training which will enable them to be part of the career conversation sessions. 

The New Directions programme links up with St Leger Homes' World of Work scheme which aims to support unemployed tenants in the company's housing back into work. One of the major barriers tenants face is age. St Leger Homes offers work experience and full time employment opportunities for tenants, and encourages its wider supply chain to make the same opportunities available.

What the Chair of the Judging panel said:

“The bar has been set high for this entry and it was easy to follow and passion was shown through the presentation." - Marguerite Ulrich, Human Resources Director, Veolia

What St Leger's Chief Executive said:

“St Leger Homes is committed to ensuring it maintains an age diverse workforce, including recruiting and retaining employees over 50 who currently face significant barriers to employment. We recognise and value the experience and skills & expertise our older employees offer.  We are keen these are shared with our younger and developing employees.  In addition, as the majority of our workforce live in Doncaster, recruiting and retaining employees help support the local economy and delivers against our stated aim ‘to build confident communities.” - Susan Jordan, Chief Executive, St Leger Homes of Doncaster