A Special Report is content that is edited and produced by the Special Reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report, but who do not have editorial control.

Working well: What makes a place to work such a great workplace?

Core Media, Lidl Ireland, Newsweaver Odeon/UCI, Vodafone, AOL and Woodie’s have all developed great ideas


Great Place to Work Team: Core Media
Ireland’s largest marketing communications group, Core Media, is justifiably proud of the achievements of its Great Place to Work Team. Since 2008 the team has been central to the company’s journey in becoming a great workplace. It does this by systematically following up on survey findings and converting these into actions that address improvable areas. This, in turn, enhances the employee experience.

The team works closely with the board to gain buy-in for their suggestions and recommendations. This has resulted in the design of a number of flagship policies covering areas such as remote working, return to work for both mothers and fathers, and flexible working hours. The team has also been highly creative in the formulation of new employee incentives. Its commitment, achievements and contributions over nearly 10 years is recognised by this award.

Great Place to Work Ambassador: Clare Sheridan of Lidl Ireland
This award acknowledges an individual who contributes significantly to the understanding of the Great Place to Work model and methodology. Clare Sheridan has worked ceaselessly across all areas of the business to assist line managers in building a great workplace. She has also leveraged this activity to enhance critical business areas, improving customer experience and workplace safety in the process. Furthermore, she has shared this experience with many others both within the business and outside of it via social media channels.

Newsweaver: Swot to Strategy
Newsweaver, the fast-growing internal communications support and provider, wanted the views of employees before preparing strategic plans for the next two years. In particular, the company wanted their perspective on areas they felt were in need of special focus over the period. An offsite meeting was held in July, when senior leadership team completed an analysis identifying the key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (Swot) facing the business.

However, this only provided the senior leaders’ perspective of the business. In order to gain a complete view, representatives from every department were invited to join chief executive Andrew O’Shaughnessy in a Swot workshop. In all, six feedback sessions were run and more than 60 per cent of staff attended.

Once all the feedback sessions were complete, O’Shaughnessy shared the resulting master Swot with the entire company and showed how each strategic plan targeted every identified strength, weakness, opportunity and threat. This allowed every single employee the opportunity to feed into the strategic direction of the company. In turn the strategic goals developed from the Swot were cascaded into team and individual goals.

Everyone can now see how their effort plays a part in advancing the goals they helped to formulate as well as in the overall success of the company. This Swot to Strategy programme is based on Newsweaver’s core values, and the company hopes it will be on the fast track to global leadership.

Odeon/UCI Cinemas: Region Storybook
In February 2016, the Odeon cinema chain saw the need for a clear strategy to relive, embrace and build upon what makes their cinemas such a fun place to work. This result, the Region Storybook, travelled from cinema to cinema across Ireland – 1,051 kilometres – to gather the stories about the amazing things happening in the different workplaces.

With the help of the country team and general managers, the Region Storybook began in Odeon Charlestown, Co Mayo, and finished in Odeon Cavan. The resulting storybook was converted into a digital format to be shared with all the cinemas. Odeon Newbridge in Co Kildare was selected by the other Irish cinemas as the regional winner for best content, design and inspiring story.

Vodafone: Bring in Your Parents
As a communications provider, Vodafone recognises the importance of employees’ personal lives. This includes appreciation for the fact that, over the years, their employees’ parents have been a great source of support, offering career advice and countless words of wisdom.

So last November Vodafone hosted its first Bring in Your Parents event, allowing parents a glimpse into what their children do at work, to meet their teams and senior managers, and provide an opportunity for their children to say thank you to them.

Parents were welcomed with an office tour, which included a stop at their purpose-built “thank you wall”, where employees hung family photos and left thank you notes to their parents. A keynote speech was delivered by HR director James Magill, who spoke about the business, the strategy and how people are central to everything Vodafone does.

This was followed by a panel discussion with the senior leadership team, which gave parents an opportunity to ask questions in an interactive setting. The panellists also shared their own personal stories about how their parents influenced their lives and careers. Parents were then invited to network around the building and were introduced to team members and managers. The event received very positive feedback from all involved.

AOL Technologies: Cultural Ambassador Programme
AOL Technologies is the software design and development division of AOL. The Cultural Ambassador Programme was created to help attract and select extraordinary talent to the company: individuals who are the best at what they do, have passion for their work, and will thrive in the AOL culture. The programme motto is “Being the Culture, Living the Culture and Driving the Culture”. The programme empowers existing employees to become cultural champions and assessors in the evaluation of external talent against AOL’s cultural pillars.

Cultural ambassadors conduct cultural assessments with external candidates, using a specific set of questions and evaluation criteria. Cultural ambassadors are independent from the hiring team. They represent and protect the interests of all AOL employees, maintaining a consistently high bar for talent across the company.

Woodie’s: Social Network for Thanking
The nationwide hardware retail group has two primary communications channels, enabling employees at their 34 outlets to keep informed of the latest developments. They are the company intranet (Tap) and the Kudos app.

The latter was introduced in 2015 to make all communications accessible to everyone throughout the business. All general information and updates about the business are stored on Tap and Kudos for everybody to see. (The only exception is information deemed to be commercially-sensitive.)

More than 93 per cent of colleagues have signed-up to Kudos since its introduction. Whether it’s thanking colleagues for a job well done or celebrating a special event, Kudos is the go-to place for recognition at Woodie’s. Themed hash-tag campaigns are run throughout the year to encourage the act of thanking at Woodies, such as #workmammy, #sharethelove & #eurmyfavourite. These campaigns add an element of fun to the working day.