Case study: Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Operating across half of Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) employs a dispersed workforce of approximately 300 staff from Shetland in the north to Argyll in the south. HIE’s unique integration of economic and community development is central to its mission to generate sustainable economic growth in every part of the Highlands and Islands, particularly in fragile areas where many of its staff live and work.

HIE encourages a family friendly, flexible approach and seeks to employ people with different ideas, styles and skill sets, each able to contribute in unique ways. This diversity engenders a richer, more creative environment where HIE’s staff develop and their clients are served better.

The results from regular staff surveys underpin the organisation’s family-friendly culture and enduring support for flexible working. This allows staff to accommodate changing caring responsibilities they may have over the course of their employment, such as childcare, eldercare and foster care.

HIE’s support for adoptive parents, carers and flexible working can accommodate a range of flexible working arrangements as well as special leave provisions for times of short-term urgent or unforeseen need. Staff are also able to take advantage of support for volunteering e.g. contributing to voluntary, charity and community organisations. Staff on maternity or adoption leave have access to 10 paid ‘keeping in touch’ days to maintain contact with the organisation and their work teams.

Following extensive consultation, the organisation’s carers’ policy, introduced in June 2015, covers all staff and a ‘carer’s champion’, based within HR, provides a central point of contact and ensures fair and consistent application. Anyone with a significant caring responsibility is considered, not just those caring for a close family member.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is also establishing a carers’ passport scheme to document needs at work and help identify solutions, navigating the carer through their time with their line manager and HR team in a confidential manner.

The organisation’s flexible working policy includes a variety of options, such as compressed hours, and the ability to work from various locations.

This has been enhanced recently with the introduction of MS Lync, similar to SYKPE, which has revolutionised the ability to communicate across all office locations coupled with the ability for staff to access all office systems remotely where ever they are, at any time.

During April-Oct last year, a total of 456 colleagues participated in knowledge-sharing events, 71% of those doing so via Lync, meaning that staff who are based in remote locations, are better able to participate and engage more fully with colleagues across the whole organisation without the requirement to always travel.

Island-living senior development manager Donnie, who has recently experienced personal and family health issues, said: “I cannot stress too strongly how much having the flexibility to continue working throughout my treatment has helped me through a difficult time.

“Having the flexibility of working hours meant I didn’t feel under pressure at any time. Flexible working options included home working/remote working, working from the Inverness office – and adjusting workloads.”

Senior manager Rachel said: “I have found HIE’s positive culture in promoting gender equality, delivered through many employee policies, extremely empowering, enabling and motivating. HIE has enabled me to develop a very fulfilling career and break through that proverbial “glass ceiling” that exists for many women in Scotland.”