Principality: The Importance of Fair Work - Business in the Community

Principality: The Importance of Fair Work

How Fair Work practices have ensured employees are fairly rewarded, heard and represented at Principality.

Principality Building Society is the sixth largest building society in the UK but is a distinctly Welsh building society. It is a mutual building society providing savings products, including mortgages, across the country. There are 53 branches in Wales that provide face-to-face saving and mortgage support to customers and members.

Inclusion Manager, Dan Priest, has been with Principality for over five years and has seen the organisation continually grow and develop with the changing times. During these changes, employees have always been put at the forefront and one way Principality has ensured this is by adopting Fair Work practices.

Principality logo, red text on white background.

The Importance of Fair Work

Fair Work practices ensure that employees are fairly rewarded, heard and represented, secure and able to progress in a healthy, inclusive working environment where rights are respected. Dan elaborates: “As a mutual building society, we’re member-owned and we reflect this in the way we treat our colleagues as well as our behaviours and approach to the community and society too. We’ve always been aligned with the principles of Fair Work and a lot of the elements are things we’re working to attain or have already been delivered.”

How Principality Implements Fair Work Practices

Informal tools such as an internal intranet page and Yammer group have continued to be used since the pandemic now that some colleagues are fully hybrid as a way to build community. Formal processes are also utilised such as a union, as well as hosting town halls across the directorates which gives colleagues the opportunity to hear from and question their chief officers. Hybrid events also take place with colleagues across the entire business, where they get to hear directly from the CEO and ask questions.

Several different colleague groups called “Networks” have also been created to support Principality’s employees, from the Race Network, Pride Network and Mental Health Network to the Planet Friendly Network and Grow Network. Dan explains: “These colleague networks have regular catch ups to provide support to colleagues, but also allow concerns to be surfaced and feed into some decision-making processes.” As a result, these groups have created greater cohesion and sense of belonging throughout the organisation and improved upon overall employee satisfaction. As well as this, the networks have influenced policies to be updated and improved in line with their thoughts and needs, so Principality’s policies reflect the types of people they employ.

Another benefit is that flexible working is a day one right for Principality employees and this is made clear in job adverts and during the interviewing process. This is an essential policy to Principality as “we recognise that people have existing commitments that they may want to bring with them to us. We currently have approximately 550 different working patterns across the organisation to support colleagues and their lives outside of work.”

More flexible working benefits have been adopted by the business such as no minimum requirements to be in the office, with some colleagues working as far afield as Northumberland. Of course, some colleagues and branches are not able to fully adopt at-home working, but it is made clear when people need to be in the office and why.

As well as the choice of where and how to work, Principality has an in-house learning experience team who have been finding new ways of providing development opportunities to employees while also improving traditional learning and teaching methods such as onboarding. Hybrid working policies have meant that lots of learning has become digital; pre-pandemic, employees may have needed to travel to Cardiff for training that was up to four days long, but digital learning has stopped travel expenses and works around the employees’ commitments.

Online training is also used as an opportunity to promote inclusivity, Dan elaborates: “We’ve been able to hold webinars from a variety of people. Recently, we had someone with autism come online to discuss neurodiversity. We are now able to invite over 1200 colleagues to attend virtually which makes a huge difference in terms of developing learning and culture within Principality.”

Ensuring employees are comfortable sharing their stories within the organisation is essential as it raises awareness of issues colleagues may be facing in today’s society. Dan continues: “A big cultural shift for us was when a senior leader opened up about their mental health and shared the story of their mental health journey. It’s shown there is a psychologically safe environment for people to feel that they can talk about their own experiences, which is great progress.”

From a legal perspective, Principality is also working through reviewing all policies and ensuring they are as enhanced as possible. A wide variety of policies are in place to protect employees, such as anti-bullying, anti-harassment, disciplinary agreements and equality, diversity and inclusion, to support employees regarding their legal rights. Principality is also an accredited real Living Wage employer, and their internal audit process ensures that applies to everyone.

As well as having the real Living Wage accreditation, other employee benefits such as an enhanced paid parental leave is available. The name of this benefit has been changed from maternal/paternal leave to parental leave to further instil inclusivity within the organisation and recognise the different types of parenthood.

Key work is also being carried out on the employee value proposition, such as establishing more Network groups and creating a sense of belonging at all levels of the business. Another way this is being achieved is through gender decoding all current job adverts and making it clear that Principality aligns with the six pillars of Fair Work to attract new talent.

A big cultural shift for us was when a senior leader opened up about their mental health and shared the story of their mental health journey.

Dan Priest, Inclusion Manager, Principality

The Outcomes of Being a Fair Work Employer

By adopting and improving upon the six pillars of Fair Work within the organisation, Principality and its employees continue to reap the rewards. Dan confirms: “Our attrition rate is, and continues to be, relatively low. So we don’t see a huge amount of staff turnover and that’s because when people come to work here, they want to stay here. Our engagement score on our colleague survey is consistently in the 80s, and an engaged colleague workforce produces better outcomes for customers too.”

As Principality looks to continue being a fair employer, it will also continue to utilise its relationship with Business in the Community (BITC). As a BITC member for a number of years now, Principality has used BITC with regards to supporting the community itself as well as for help in shifting focus to the race advisory space. Dan elaborates: “We’ve been using the race advisory team to support our Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Heritage Network. And we’ve also had sessions delivered by the race advisory group on raising awareness of race issues.”

When it comes to other businesses starting or expanding their Fair Work journey, Dan recommends: “Don’t see it as another piece of work to be done. In many cases, you’re probably already doing this stuff; it allows you to identify where you’ve already made great strides and internally publicise that while also providing information on where you can make improvements and do things differently for the betterment of your employees.”