We are Age UK Wirral, a local independent charity working across the Borough to help older people live better lives. We currently employ 150 staff, and our work is supported by an incredible team of over 500 volunteers.
We are passionate about changing lives. As a non-profit organisation, we describe our profit as the difference we make to people’s lives. And how we make that difference is through the work of our people, who are our greatest asset.
As a charity, we don’t offer the best salary packages in the world. We aren’t able to match many of the employee benefit schemes in the private or public sector. Whilst we have a turnover of approximately £3.5million per annum, 80% of our expenditure is on payroll costs.
Without our people, we simply would not exist. Being person-centred is one of our core values. This extends to our relationships with each other as colleagues and as ‘Team Age UK Wirral’ and our relationships with people in the local community we serve. And investing in the relationships with our people and the experiences people have during their time with Age UK Wirral is vitally important to us.
Partnering in the early 2000s
We first started our relationship with Investors in People in the early 2000s. For local charities at the time, accreditations mainly were limited to sector-specific ones. Still, there was a growing need for charities to demonstrate compliance with industry recognised accreditations to score points in competitive tendering processes. And that was our initial expectation from Investors in People – that it would tick a box for us in evaluation exercises.
Perhaps back then, we were naïve. Or both Investors in People and Age UK Wirral may have matured together over the last 15 years because today, Investors in People is not an audit regime but a measure of ongoing continuous improvement.
We see our relationship with Investors in People, and Jenny Trickett, our fantastic current assessor, as a journey of continuing support, development, and encouragement, as we strive to get even better in what we do and how we do it.
The Investors in People framework puts people’s experience at the heart of things. It recognises the culture in which we have invested so much energy in co-creating with our colleagues. It quite literally ‘feels’ the whole organisation.
Many of us probably spend more time with our work colleagues than with our friends and family. We want that time to be good quality time for people – we want to make work better. And Investors in People helps us with that. It measures our progress but identifies the next steps. It helps us check we are getting things right and then do even more to make things better.
The standout moment in 2020
In our relationship with Investors in People, the standout moment for me was in 2020, in the early stages of the Covid-pandemic. We were weeks into the overnight transition from our entire workforce being office-based to almost all our people working from home.
We were still getting our heads around what MS Teams was, and words such as ‘unprecedented’ had not yet become meaningless through overuse. The catchphrase ‘you’re on mute’ had not at this point been adopted as a business language across all sectors.
When the email landed to say our Annual Review was due in July 2020, my heart sank. How could we expose ourselves at such a vulnerable point? We’d worked so hard to achieve Investors in People Silver – we couldn’t possibly maintain this in such an extraordinary situation where people had no idea what was happening in their personal and professional lives.
And I was close to not committing to continuing our accreditation. But I quickly had a change of heart and decided what better temperature check about how things were going in such a time of change than an Investors in People review.
Investors in People keeping the organisation going
The impact of that experience, I genuinely believe, kept the whole organisation going throughout the height of the pandemic. Not only did we maintain accreditation, but we moved to Investors in People Gold, and following this, were shortlisted as one of the Top 10 Gold Employers (50 to 249) in the 2021 Awards Shortlist.
Our strategic ambition is called BEST – Bringing Everyone’s Strengths Together. We place a lot of value on ‘team’, and we collectively share success – it was phenomenally rewarding for everyone that how everyone works in the organisation had been recognised. Everyone felt a sense of ownership in the achievement, and quite rightly so.
In the same way, as a good leader never stops learning, a good investor in people never stops improving. Not content to rest on our laurels, we have already embedded lots of the recommendations and insights from our Gold report into everyday life.
Some are easier than others. Some require resource investment that is difficult for us to mobilise, but we will continue the journey with a little bit of creativity, thought, and innovation!
As Investors in People turns 30, we look forward to the next 30 years of our partnership and the journey we will go on together.