Penguin Recruitment: What makes a 'wonderful workplace'?

Written by: Jennifer Jackson
Published on: 6 Jun 2018

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We spoke to Matt Fraser, team manager - planning, at Penguin Recruitment, about what makes a wonderful workplace in the planning sector and how to find out if a company’s culture is right for you.

Why do you think it's key for planning consultancies and local authorities to communicate their career opportunities and working culture?

The planning market is competitive, so each job seeker often has several options to consider. Therefore, in order to attract top talent, companies need to communicate things like career opportunities and the working culture from the outset, as ‘lack of career progression’ and stale or unambitious cultures are some of the top answers given for why candidates move on. 

You spend 40-50 hours per week in work so candidates want to feel there are opportunities to progress, whilst fitting in to the dynamics of the office culture and enjoying their work each day.

What are some of the best organisations you work with doing to attract top planning professionals?

We have seen some companies offer a signing on bonus or a bonus once you become chartered. This isn’t common and so stands out when candidates are considering offers as it shows how companies are thinking about new ways to reward their staff. Companies also offer flexible working which is a big factor for those with young families. Some companies are offering flexible benefits packages, allowing the candidate to pick the benefits that align with their family, social life or values.

In your experience, what do planning candidates really want from a great employer?

Good communication from the leaders of the business to its staff always rate highly on surveys. You spend a good chunk of your waking life at work and so candidates look for an enjoyable working environment, often where there is the ability to progress within the organisation (and the process is clear and achievable). Further to this, being recognised for your success or hard work is key. Ongoing training and support is a big factor also and naturally, a competitive salary and benefits package helps! 

How would you describe a great team culture?

Successful teams are full of positive, supportive, honest and encouraging people.  It’s where the leadership team has clearly outlined the objectives that help everyone focus on the task and support them in achieving their targets (professional and personal!). Creating a culture where feedback is listened to and valued helps keep bums on seats.  ‘Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say’ (Andy Stanley).

"A good reputation is important, low staff turnover indicates happy staff, an interesting and challenging workload keeps your academic brain ticking over, and a sustainable commute to offer a healthy work/life balance."

What should planning professionals look for in a great place to work?

A good reputation is important, low staff turnover indicates happy staff, an interesting and challenging workload keeps your academic brain ticking over, and a sustainable commute to offer a healthy work/life balance. Most planners we speak to or work with are driven (at least in part) by progression and so opportunities for promotion with the associated increased benefits brings about loyalty.  

Planners have commented that strong leadership teams with clear company objectives assist in settling staff along with companies that coach or mentor them to achieve their personal and professional goals.

And how can they find out whether they're likely to fit in before they join?

It’s important for any job seeker to complete the relevant due diligence on the company and so researching the company website and other sources will help obtain a fairly comprehensive understanding of the business. The next step is to meet with the company to assess whether it’s a good fit.  

Pre-interview conversations and post-interview calls are valued and can help break the ice or answer any outstanding questions. In addition, meeting with staff members outside of management or previous members of staff within your networks can help provide further insight.

Sum up what you think makes a 'wonderful workplace'

A place of enjoyment, encouragement, support and challenge.  All wrapped up with good people, opportunities to grow and good work recognised and rewarded for a job well done.

Explore planning career opportunities with Penguin Recruitment