East Anglia Air Ambulance win Employer of the Year at the Norfolk Business Awards

  • Picture East Anglia Air Ambulance
Judith Pugh

2020 has brought many challenges to our region and it is never been more important to celebrate how our region’s businesses are making a difference. Throughout this year many organisations across our region have demonstrated how adaptable they can be, responding to challenges, grasping new opportunities whilst ensuring staff are safe and supported.

With our partners, Birketts LLP, we were delighted to co-sponsor and judge the Employer of the Year category at the 2020 Norfolk Business Awards. The judges were looking for how Norfolk’s businesses were making a difference in three key areas – care for employees and stakeholders, adaptability and being innovative.

Pure’s Executive Director Lynn Walters said “The quality of entrants this year has been exceptional and it has been truly humbling for the judges to witness the extent to which employers have gone above and beyond to innovate, look after their people and adapt under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Whilst we were sad that we were unable to celebrate with the finalists and winners in person, we are delighted to share with you why we felt East Anglian Air Ambulance, Rosedale Funeral Home, Saffron Housing and Panel Graphic, were worthy of the recognition that they worked so hard to achieve.

The judges were incredibly proud to announce East Anglia Air Ambulance (EAAA) as Employer of the year at the Norfolk Business Awards.

WINNERS - EAST ANGLIAN AIR AMBULANCE

This year is EAAA’s 20th anniversary and their people have shared the journey as they have grown from very small beginnings operating one flight per week to a 24/7 operation. The extent of their innovation is phenomenal and runs through the DNA of the organisation. In 2020, not only did they adapt all their normal operational procedures, but they delivered extraordinary innovation and care when it came to looking after their people, including inventing purpose designed PPE. Making the time to communicate each day, recording their ‘desert island discs podcasts’  from their staff, creating ‘furlough families’ and involving everyone in fundraising from cleaners to pilots, which enabled them to beat their fundraising target three fold, were just some of their achievements.

They paid attention to the small everyday things that affected individuals as much as the big operational challenges and their energy, compassion and belief is testimony to the incredible leadership. They excelled at staff wellbeing and through their efforts, generated huge loyalty from their team who adapted and innovated, enabling them to redesign the front line operational procedures as well as keeping team spirit high whilst most were working remotely.

Lynn Walters said, “As close runners up in last year’s business awards, we already knew that EAAA are exceptional employers, but the scale and pace of their response to COVID-19 has been incredible. They demonstrated a relentless focus on their people, ensuring everyone felt involved, connected and important regardless of their position and personal situation.”

WHY DID THE OTHER FINALISTS STAND OUT?

Rosedale Funeral Home is a privately owned, family run funeral home operating from 6 locations across Norfolk and Suffolk, employing ‘a family of 50 people’.

Nominated by their employees, the judges were impressed with how the Directors, Anne and Simon, run Rosedale as one big family business. They have worked relentlessly, leading from the front, to ensure their team were listened to, involved, and personally supported through the pandemic. With over 25% of their employees, being in the vulnerable category, they had to innovate fast to ensure they could continue to provide the exceptional care when families need it most. Through a combination of initiatives, they have enabled their team to work differently, developed new services and support for families and communities, looked after their staff’s wellbeing and still managed to have a virtual company away day to celebrate everyone’s achievements.

Panel Graphics is a privately owned manufacturing company based in Loddon that supply high quality plastic parts used for information display to companies across the world. It has been in operation for 21 years and employs 40 people.

In 2020, supporting their staff was at the top of the business agenda. Chief Executive, Steve Earl, wrote to every member of staff to assure them they did not need to be worried about finances or job losses as the company had set up a fund which staff could call on for support. The company stayed in touch with staff to ensure they were coping and not feeling isolated through monthly socially distanced coffee mornings, providing updates on company performance and discuss health and wellbeing. The business also paid for staff to have a cooked meal for their families at least once a week. They adapted their facilities to design and produce PPE in particular face shields for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, County Council and local firms, producing 10,000 masks per day. The company hired many more local volunteers and local businesses were very supportive of the efforts and provided food and other local produce to staff. Panel Graphics are a great example of a team being creative not only in designing new products but involving their staff and making a huge difference in difficult times.

Saffron Housing are a fantastic example of how a business should engage its people in a national crisis and bring them along on the journey.

As the saying in business goes, ‘you can never over communicate’ and Saffron’s approach to this has been impressive. They quickly increased communications in a range of innovative ways including virtual coffee mornings and drop in “huddles” to allow staff to consult and question business leaders, keeping staff entertained as well as informed. Saffron identified the need to support people’s mental well-being by doubling their trained staff first aiders and providing access to an Employee Assistance Programme. They set up and signposted a new Staff Engagement Platform and encouraged everyone to take regular breaks. Staff sentiment was  measured regularly by pulse surveys and the responses to their surveys enabled them to  address requests for long term flexible and home working options, and for a full redesign of their offices (a village hall concept) planned to complete by Christmas.

The management team lead strongly and continue to be aware of the ongoing challenges to wellbeing, as we come through the COVID pandemic and have created an engaged, relevant and positive working environment for the future.

Sponsorship of the Norfolk Business Awards ‘Employer of the Year’ category is part of our Best Employers Eastern Region initiative. Find out more at www.best-employers.co.uk 

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