I'd been with the Alternative Futures Group for a few years and was reviewing our vision of a world where people control their lives, when it struck me that in order to stay true to this we had to consider our staff as well as the people with learning disabilities and mental health needs whom we support.
Treating our clients with respect and dignity, and encouraging them to make choices and have rights and responsibilities, has long been ingrained in the way we work; but if we genuinely believe in our vision, then it is just as real for the 3,000 people who work for us. If our employees are not allowed to be in control of their lives, how can they be motivated to help our beneficiaries?
This realisation got me thinking about how we can reward and recognise the hard work that our staff do – in addition to what they receive financially – and allow them to take more control of their working lives. Our support staff are core to our work, but are not highly paid.
We have set up a partnership forum with elected staff representatives standing alongside trade union representatives to represent our employees' rights. We offer a range of benefits and we've also looked at creative ways to engage with and reward junior staff, such as working with a mental health charity in The Gambia and organising fully paid study tours to give them life-changing opportunities.
Rewarding our staff for their work and dedication is important to the AFG. If we focus on our staff, it has a direct, positive impact on the lives of our beneficiaries.