Third Sector Excellence Awards 2012: Best Employer - Winner: Phoenix Futures

Awarded to the voluntary organisation that makes the best use of its human resources policies to create a satisfied and productive workforce

Phoenix Futures
Phoenix Futures

Many charities help unemployed people to find work, but only some actively turn their clients into staff.

The drug and alcohol charity Phoenix Futures has done so: 11 per cent of its staff and 10 per cent of its senior management team have been through one of its programmes. But the initiative to recruit former service users is just one of a number of employment schemes that the charity runs.

Phoenix Futures has a total workforce of about 700 people, which comprises employees and volunteers spread across 70 prisons, residential and community services from Scotland to Devon.

One of its latest developments is an apprenticeship scheme where trainees are provided with training and support and, ultimately, the opportunity to secure a permanent job at the end of the programme.

The charity is using the scheme to help increase the number of staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The charity says it takes its role as an employer extremely seriously and is always trying to find new ways to support its workforce. This includes its in-house human resources team providing regular training sessions on topics such as managing absence, stress and wellbeing.

It offers a wide range of benefits for employees, such as enhanced annual leave, childcare vouchers, subsidised gym membership, a cycle-to-work scheme and season ticket loans. The charity also invests in staff training, with all managers and front-line workers being given the opportunity to gain externally accredited qualifications.

It also holds an annual competition called Innovation Factor, which encourages staff to suggest ways that the charity can improve its effectiveness. The winner receives a £1,000 cash prize.

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England and one of the award judges, says: "I was particularly impressed by the statistic that 11 per cent of staff and 10 per cent of management have graduated through the service. It was strong on volunteer involvement and staff flexibility and wellbeing."


Rosie Chapman, independent charity adviser, Belinda Pratten and Rosie Chapman Associates

Joan Coyle, HR director, Save the Children International

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive, Volunteering England

Joe Irvin, chief executive, Navca


- Forum for the Future

- St Giles Trust

- Teach First

- Water Aid

- Read about the winning entries

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