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Top employer award for HIE

Published: 22/08/2018

HIE was named best public sector employer, along with the Royal Air Force, in this year’s Working Families Best Practice award.

Now in their ninth year, the awards showcase and celebrate employers that offer flexibility for all their employees and go the extra mile in supporting parents and carers, and developing the young workforce.

HIE caught the attention of the judges for demonstrating commitment to being a family friendly employer. Policies are backed up by practical support and resources to help employees balance the demands of work and home. This might include for example, childcare, foster care, eldercare, young people, pre-retirement, or community volunteering.

Particular strengths include policies on flexible working that apply to all 309 employees, who are encouraged to work flexibly on an occasional/informal basis. They can vary start and finish times as well as work remotely as all HIE systems are accessible over WIFI.

In the 18-month period to June 2018, the number of staff working flexible patterns increased by 20% to around 100.

Staff retention is another strong point. Turnover in HIE is 6.25%, which is well below the public sector average of 14.7%. Work time lost due to sick absence among HIE employees (1.99%) is also below the national average of 2.8%.

Diversity among HIE employees is demonstrated with a workforce that is 63% female. CEO, Charlotte Wright, a strong advocate of a family friendly working culture, heads a leadership team with a 50/50 gender balance.

Graduate placement and apprenticeship schemes, introduced in 2012, ensure at least 5% of the workforce is age between 16-24. Developing the young workforce is carried out in the context of succession planning and retaining the knowledge, skills and experience of older employees.

A staff forum of 30 people representing all grades, areas and responsibilities, has been instrumental in helping to develop and articulate organisational values and principles that emphasise HIE’s flexible approach.

Helen Herd, senior HR manager at HIE, said:

“We believe agile and flexible working is essential to attract and retain talent required for a strong effective workforce. To that end we have many measures in place to maintain HIE’s reputation as a family friendly employer of choice.

“With a dispersed workforce, two thirds of whom are female, based across the Highlands and Islands from Shetland in the north to Argyll in the south, agile and flexible working is essential in talent attraction and retention.

“It is a real honour to be recognised with this award. Along with our high retention and low turnover of staff, this tells us we are implementing the right policies for the modern workforce.”

Helen Herd (3rd right) receives the award on behalf of HIE


HIE’s energy team has a high profile, influential role within the industry and Government. They work with stakeholders in the sector to enhance the economic development opportunities for the region. Key stats are:

  • Dispersed team of nine, working in Stornoway, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh
  • Six female, and three male (reflecting wider organisation profile)
  • Ages range from 26 to 62, and service length from two to 25 years
  • Eight are on flexible working, e.g. part time, compressed hours, remote working

At different times members of the team have benefited from support to accommodate caring responsibilities, deal with incidents of urgent domestic distress, as well as to pursue competitive sporting ambitions.

Director of energy, Audrey MacIver, said:

“Our experience over a number of years shows that having team members working remotely and with a range of different working patterns has been a positive experience for the team and for HIE.

“We’ve been able to accommodate different personal needs and enable people to balance their changing commitments with an achievable workload. On a personal level, I have found HIE’s working set up really supportive and have appreciated the opportunities for career challenge and progression while still being able to work flexibly and maintain a good work life balance.”

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