UKFast is renowned as one of the best companies to work for in the UK. In 2016 the firm gained three star status – the highest possible – in The Sunday Times Best Companies To Work For list, placing 33rd in the Sunday Times Top 100 Best Small Companies to Work For.

The firm has received further honours, scooping the Employer of the Year Award at the North West Business Masters and placing 5th overall in the medium category of the UK’s Best Workplaces list 2016.

The 350-strong company now receives nearly 1000 job applications a month, with only the strongest prospects securing positions.

During the summer, CEO Lawrence Jones MBE had 120 tons of sand delivered to the office car park to build a beach for his team to enjoy the good weather in at lunchtime and after work. UKFast is well known for treating employees to Beer Fridays, ski trips in Switzerland, and even went as far as renting out an entire zoo for the day for employees, friends and families.
Perhaps the pinnacle of UKFast’s employee events to date took place in September this year, as Jones put on a full-scale music festival for employees and their friends and families. Two days of live music , free food and drink, fairground rides and a 100ft inflatable assault course were enjoyed by all of the UKFast team, many of whom camped for the whole weekend.

UKFast has over 275,000 followers across its associated social media accounts.

Many businesses are looking to capture the magic of UKFast so we caught up with UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones MBE to get his top tips for how companies with poor engagement and no benefits should get started with a culture of reward and recognition.


Employ the right people

People like working with strong individuals who fit the culture and see the bigger picture, so recruiting the right people is essential to remain positive and productive. Employing the wrong people, on the other hand, can often be disruptive and costly. Recruiting someone, bringing them in and introducing them to the team only for it to not work out can compromise the energy within a business and the effect this has cannot be underestimated.

At UKFast we recruit on values. Ultimately, we believe that it is not the skills on a CV that enable us to see who is the best fit for a role; it’s about getting to know who people really are. We use a psychometric test to profile candidates and see if they have the kind of caring and supportive traits we are looking for.

Following an application, we’ll do a pre-call, followed by a group interview – designed to promote team building, generate energy and see how each candidate interacts with others – followed by chats with team leaders, the MD and the CEO. By the time an applicant comes through our recruitment process we feel we know them extremely well.

Never hurry the process. We’ve used recruitment companies during periods of fast growth in the past and have found that it simply doesn’t work for us. Many of the hires we’ve rushed over the years haven’t worked out.

Don’t limit yourself, listen to what is being asked for and think outside of the box!

We work hard to listen to feedback from the team. Most of the crazy ideas that create the great energy in the office have come directly from suggestions from the team or are things they’ve just started doing off their own bat, because they feel empowered to do so.

We’ve introduced yoga, changed the maternity package and worked on our pension. We’ve flown more people than ever over to Switzerland to stay in the ski hotel we bought for the team, and we’ve begun work on the redevelopment of our Snowdon training ground. We’ve almost finished phase one of the office and the gym classes on-site are now in full swing – from kettlebells and spinning to running club and personal training.

But you don’t need to be a huge company or spend massive amounts of money to create a great culture. Take your team out for fish and chips on a Friday or go for a hike up Snowdon. You’ll be amazed how quickly it can bring people together. We used to go on camping trips when we were tiny and it cost us next to nothing.

Focus on training and development

When I began my journey in business, I believed that money would be the single greatest motivating factor for a workforce. But I have since learned that this is not at all true. Money only motivates people for a finite period of time, then they become disengaged if you don’t drive them to their next challenge.

We invest in training and development to ensure that people always feel that they are moving somewhere; they’re growing and developing. This is the greatest motivational perk we offer, in my view. We employ five full-time teachers to deliver this training and have created a dedicated training space and exam lab within our office to give people the best possible chance to develop, fast.

You will make mistakes

Of course you will make mistakes with recruitment and with employee engagement, but business, like life, is about learning lessons. It’s not about how many times you fail, it’s about what you learn and how quickly you recover from failure.

Track the benefits – but not too much

One of the most commonly used phrases in UKFast is ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure.’ This holds true in the case of employee engagement, but it’s not always about the bottom line, or what you can see on paper. It’s about the energy and momentum you generate from an incredible event like UKFest or the loyalty you gain from ensuring your team know that they are appreciated. We pay £10,000, tax free, when someone has been with us 10 years, and that is a bargain, when you thing what that person is worth to the company and how much it would cost to replace them.

Accountants would – and do – tell me that I’m mad to spend what I do on these rewards and perks, but I see the benefits in action every day, and it’s a truly small price to pay to see the smiles on my team’s faces.

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