Sarah Gomersall, Equiom's Chief People Officer recently chatted to Connect Magazine, detailing the company's journey towards becoming a more flexible, forward thinking employer.
Equiom, which is headquartered in Jersey and has offices all over the world, had just appointed Mark Porter as the new CEO when Covid-19 changed our lives forever. His arrival paved the way for a new direction which gave Sarah Gomersall carte blanche to re-write how the company operated.
'We had somebody who came in with an open mind but was very focused on putting the client at the centre of everything and enabling our people to serve the client. It gave me an open book to say, ‘how are we going to do this?’ It was enormously liberating.'
Sarah recalls as we discuss Equiom’s ‘Inspiring Action’ programme.
Tearing up the rule book on traditional HR policies meant a change in mindset that Equiom hopes will set it apart as an employer of choice in what is a very competitive industry. In Jersey, Equiom employs 65 people and is a leading provider of trust and corporate services to the private wealth sector.
'Everyone’s daily lives have altered. The mix between home and work has blurred in a way it has never done so before. People are worrying about different challenges and juggling more priorities. We gave everyone freedom to have a say about how we could change things to make lives easier, but it needed to work for everybody. Fortunately, we had that license to make it work.'
An employee forum called ‘Your Voice’ was set up across all Equiom’s locations, giving staff a greater say in company policies.
'There is a free agenda, so staff can be locally led with key issues that are important to them, which is then fed back to myself and my executive colleagues so we can implement and action key outputs. Our employees can directly influence change within the business; we can respond quickly and design the business with the employee in mind. There’s also a two-way aspect in that if there are key areas we’d like staff input on such as ESG, we can tap into the forum to gather feedback.'
When not at work, Sarah’s main interest is cricket. Being Yorkshire born and bred, the sport runs in her blood and she is a Non-Executive Director of Jersey Cricket and an active participant with the Lord’s Taverners. She joined Equiom four years ago using her experience in acquisitions in previous roles to help the business grow.
'One of the key things that’s come out of the staff forum is the introduction of a flexible benefits scheme. We’ve always had a market leading pension offering, but it didn’t meet the needs of everyone in the organisation.
The needs of a single person in their 40s may be different to those of someone with a family, or someone early in their career so staff now have more choice on how their benefits packages are structured.'
It’s a big expense for the employer but Sarah says it’s comforting to know that by giving people choice, it is being deployed in the right way.
'It flows into our broader strategy of freedom of choice and treating people as adults. We have complete flexible working which is all about where you work and when you work. And as long as it fits in with client needs and the team is staffed appropriately, they can generally choose when they want to work. It’s all about bringing our best selves to work, rather than us saying you have to work nine to five, Monday to Friday. This flexibility also better fits the needs of our clients.
Freedom and trust are at the core of the ‘Inspiring Action’ programme and Covid helped to prove that the model worked. Part of the flexible package is unlimited annual leave. Equiom has followed the lead that other much larger employers, such as Netflix, have adopted.
The freedom, empowerment and trust that we give our staff includes an expectation that people will use it appropriately, and for us, it works. Someone who is getting married might need more time off, others find it easier to pace themselves more throughout the year. Our approach has given people the security that they don’t have to worry if they’ve got a child who has been contact traced. They can choose to take all the pressure off by having a day off or use flexible working to accommodate their situation. Simple things like going to see their child play hockey and just knowing it’s not going to be an issue is a real game changer for our staff.'
Being an employer of choice does include an element of being a good corporate citizen, and Sarah says that’s something all employers should be aiming for. The programme also includes investing in their people so that staff are retained and build more of the expertise for the clients’ needs.
'We should all be striving to provide an environment where everyone can do their best, but it is also a differentiator. It’s no secret that it is very difficult to attract people in a crowded market. We’re all on the lookout for the same people; Jersey is a growing and competitive finance centre, so the more we can differentiate ourselves, the better. The clients feed into that too. They are continually evolving and increasingly demanding and with that, the more varied and exciting the work becomes. But it’s also about training and developing people. We’ve spent a lot of time this year developing the Equiom Academy. It has three faculties – commercial, leadership and technical – and this provides staff with a mix of online and face-to-face training, coaching, soft skills and support, leading to professional qualifications. As a business we have openly listened to our people and we are confident that we have developed a framework where our people can thrive in an environment that they are empowered to help shape.'