03 November 2022

In response to pandemic

Rural business owners in Northumberland are being invited to a series of workshops starting this month designed to help firms evolve in order to attract, retain and engage employees.

Developed in response to the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic, the Future of Work for Rural Employers programme is to help businesses prosper in an increasingly competitive market.

The workshops – beginning with ‘Culture and Communication’ on 15 November at the Rivergreen Centre, Stannington – are free to attend and will be led by a team of human resources, culture and employee engagement experts.

One business signed up to the programme is Alnwick-based re:heat which provides renewable heat consultancy, design and installation services.

Evolve and adapt to meet the needs of employees and customers

Director and co-founder Neil Harrison (pictured) said: “As a rurally-based employer working in the fast-paced environment of renewable energy engineering and consultancy, we’ve had to evolve and adapt systems that enable us to meet the needs of both our employees and our customers as our business has grown.

“The increased use of IT platforms to facilitate communications and manage real-time data from widely-dispersed customer sites, home-based workers and peripatetic field engineers has certainly helped, but there are still many challenges associated with managing and supporting staff that need a more human touch.

“The Future of Work Workshops are providing our team with some fantastic insights into how culture, systems and communication are all dynamic elements which need to be planned and actively managed so that in a complex business like our own, our staff feel included, supported and focused.

“The availability of this kind of support for small and medium-sized enterprises and other employers is really important, and we’re looking forward to learning more in the workshops.”

Attracting the best talent

The second workshop is on ‘Flexibility and Fairness’ on 24 November at The Catalyst, Newcastle, and the third is ‘Employee Mental Health and Well-being’ on 1 December at a venue to be confirmed. While it is hoped that business owners will attend all three, it is not a requirement, and they can attend one or two.

The workshops have been organised by the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project working in partnership with Di Gates of Stick Theory and the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE).

Di said: “Covid-19 led to a monumental change in the workplace with working from home, or a mix of home and office working, increasingly the norm for many employers. But how does this impact on businesses, particularly those in rural areas, which need to have some workers on site to carry out manufacturing, agricultural or customer-facing roles? And how do these firms attract the best talent when people living in the local area can work for a company based some distance away from the comfort of their own home?

“These workshops will explore these issues and help businesses nail their culture and communications in a hybrid workplace, deliver flexibility and fairness whilst improving performance and ensure the wellbeing of its employees.”

For more information and to register for the workshops, see here.