Sheffield-based accountancy firm BHP was recently ranked one of the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For. unLTD’s Sasha Mossman found out why they were the only South Yorkshire firm to make the list.

For a company established more than 150 years ago, BHP’s reputation as a ‘people-centric’ business continues to endure today. The firm is currently one of the top 35 accountancy firms in the country and for Head of HR Louise Allen, employee fulfilment is key to ensuring the firm’s success.

“Over the last ten years, BHP has increased turnover from £8m to more than £20m, and this success is testament to the firm putting its people first,” says Louise.

With more than two decades’ previous HR experience, Louise is dedicated to ensuring staff wellbeing is maintained consistently – overseeing the developments in the workplace designed to raise morale.

“We actively encourage our people to have a healthy work/life balance – the introduction of an e-mail ‘curfew’ last year has been particularly effective in helping people manage this.

“Along with this, we take an Agile Working approach, as we trust our staff to manage their time to ensure they maintain an excellent standard of client service whilst having the flexibility to do what they need to outside of work. Our ‘Dress for your Diary’ policy has also been well received as it enables people to wear what is comfortable in the office,” she adds.

Louise believes maintaining a solid level of trust in the workforce at BHP is crucial, and that equality – no matter your ranking in the team – should be expected in the firm.

“We have always strived for a more diverse workforce with a more participative culture,” says Louise. “Communication is at the heart of maintaining our company culture throughout the growth of the business. For the last nine years, we have held an annual conference where everyone in the firm gets together to share our experiences and to celebrate our successes.

“At BHP, we are very open about our finances with employees – which is very unusual for a business of our nature. The conference also invites the workforce to find out more about the senior people in the firm as people and other business leaders.

“We also use technology to keep everyone informed of what is going on around the firm including online teams and video conferencing, which we feel is vital given the geographical spread across the Yorkshire region.”

As a chartered member of the CIPD, Louise feels that giving staff the freedom to work alternative hours – as opposed to a regular 9-5 – are more beneficial to the company than one may initially expect.

“Nearly 20 per cent of the workforce work part time, across all levels and departments, which shows flexible working is no barrier to progression. It fits in with our core values – we will always support our people to develop through professional qualifications and personal skills training so they can achieve their potential, no matter their situation. Our main focus has always been on developing and supporting our people as this is what enables us to deliver outstanding client service.”

Increasing staff satisfaction is not an easy task, as Louise explains that several ideas – including some in the pipeline – can sometimes take some adjustment in order to hit the mark.

“Our staff are encouraged to support the community and charities they feel passionately about through an employee-led CSR strategy and everyone is given a ‘volunteer day’. Take-up of this has been slow to start with but we are looking at ways to encourage more participation in voluntary activities.”

With employee morale on the rise, it’s significant to note that staff feedback has been crucial to one of the firm’s biggest achievements of the year so far, as Louise explains:

“We carry out an annual staff survey to get feedback on all aspects of working at BHP, as well as online suggestion boxes. This year, we used the Best Companies survey and it is thanks to staff feedback that BHP has been recognised as one of the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For.

“Everything leads back to our key core value, which states: ‘We support each other. We trust, encourage and develop our staff, because we know that it’s our people who make us what we are.’”