In Pursuit of happy staff: working a four-day week

| Nov 07, 2016

Working a four-day week but with full-time wages is a growing trend in Scotland. One of the first to offer it was Pursuit Marketing, a B2B telemarketing consulting firm. Now, they’re one of the finalists in this November’s Scottish Business Awards in the People Innovation category, sponsored by PwC in Scotland

Lorraine Gray, Operations Director from Pursuit, spoke about how the four-day week has worked out, why Microsoft has praised them for their approach and why they are trying so hard for their staff."

Flexible Working

Were there any concerns over the move to a four-day week?

“Pursuit has always encouraged and promoted Flexible Working, with a number of individuals already working shorter hours per week. Analysis of the associated results demonstrated that our business objectives could potentially be achieved more effectively within a shorter working week.

“Of course, this is only if a team are motivated and managed to maximise output during this period. For Pursuit, this is part of a wider Health & Wellbeing strategy and therefore with our processes, initiatives and incentives, the Board were confident this would be a successful model for our business, before introducing to our team.

"There are no shifts or exceptions, this applies to everyone. If anyone wants to work on a Friday to earn additional bonus, then they are welcome to come in to do this – however this is entirely optional."

Data drove the four day working week

Has the four-day week worked?

"Analysis of our performance and data reflected lower decision maker engagement on Fridays, and our team had always worked to achieve their weekly KPIs within the first 3 or 4 days of the week. Given that both company and personal objectives could be achieved within the shorter timeframe, any leads found on Fridays were treated as additional extras.

"Since changing to the new 4-day week, productivity has in fact increased by around 30% within the four-day week, more than compensating for the 20% reduction in working hours. An added additional benefit is the remaining productivity achieved through those who choose to come in on a Friday."

What motivated management to bring in these initiatives and were there any barriers to change?

"We are continually innovating to introduce new initiatives and programmes to enhance employee wellbeing, and maximise performance. Feedback from our team has contributed to the ongoing shaping and development of these strategies, and we have always found that effectively engaging and communicating change removes any barriers or concerns.

"The team were initially surprised with the change, particularly with no reduction in basic salaries, however they have all embraced this and we have had some incredible feedback."

Using hashtags to find new talent

You offer a lot to your staff – from financial to non-financial – were there nerves or jitters at doing this?

"The talent pool of experienced B2B telemarketing consultants is limited, and therefore to meet client demand and achieve our growth targets, Pursuit recognised we would need to differentiate ourselves as an innovative employer offering the most attractive working environment and employee benefits. The direct marketing industry has a reputation of poor employee engagement and high staff turnover rates. We needed to break down the barriers and remove any preconceptions.

"One initiative that works well in this regard is our #jointhewolfpack recruitment campaign which has helped to differentiate Pursuit Marketing as the leading employer in this field, attracting ambitious and driven talent to join our team.

"The #jointhewolfpack strategy - recruiting primarily on attitude, rather than experience – helps to allow us to identify individuals who are hungry to succeed in a competitive, target driven environment and have the tenacity needed to be successful in this space.

"We use #jointhewolfpack to communicate the personality and culture of our business, and the benefits all our financial and non-financial perks have for our team. We have never had any nerves or jitters around this, as wellbeing has been centric to our vision and values since inception in 2011 and our Board have always been confident this approach would optimise results."

You’ve been praised by the likes of Microsoft for your approach. How did that come about?

"Pursuit Marketing has been delivering successful telemarketing campaigns to UK Microsoft Partners for more than five years. The results from these campaigns were recognised by Microsoft’s Global HQ in Washington DC, who were keen to understand the methodologies and practices behind this success.

"Microsoft found that the focus on employee wellbeing and engagement was unparalleled in the industry, and commissioned a series of videos to capture the workplace environment, initiatives, incentives and wellbeing practices with a view to replicating these within their internal direct marketing function. The team at Pursuit were absolutely thrilled with this recognition, and delighted to hear that our innovative people management strategies could be rolled out in the US."

"Our staff work with us, not for us"

Do you feel that what you offer is cutting edge or should all firms be operating this way in the modern era?

"We recognise not all businesses can offer a 4-day week, with various client service levels etc., however we do believe there is a need for employers to innovate in this area and implement strategies which enhance the work/life balance of their personnel. Employee wellbeing initiatives and incentives should be viewed as an investment, not a cost. A respected, motivated and nurtured workforce will work with a business, not for a business, to achieve its objectives."

What comes next? How do you top what you are already doing and stay one step ahead?

"Pursuit will continue to innovate and lead by example in our industry to retain competitive advantage and to attract/retain the best talent. New initiatives for October have included fully-expensed hypnotherapy for smoking cessation, a healthy lunch club and holiday trading (our holiday year runs from January-December each year, and this scheme gives employees the chance to buy extra time off or free up cash by selling unwanted holidays back to Pursuit).

"Future initiatives in planning include subsidised childcare for working parents and further volunteering. Pursuit’s charity partner is The GK Experience, an organisation which supports the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children. The organisation relies heavily on volunteers, and therefore as part of the new 4-day week some of our staff had suggested using their free time to offer support.

"Based on this feedback and their experiences, we will request all staff commit 1 x Friday per year to volunteering for the charity to provide additional and much needed support. This would equate to around 4 x months’ resource per year for the charity, and further enhance employee wellbeing – due to the rewarding nature of this activity."

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