Moore & Smalley is a firm of chartered accountants and business advisers. With an annual turnover of just under 6m, it employs 120 staff and has an HR team of two. Headquartered in Preston, the firm has recently opened a new Blackpool office and draws the bulk of its client base from local businesses across all sectors.
About five years ago, HR manager Adrienne Collinge decided the firm needed to do something to address mounting recruitment and retention problems. She says: "The quantity and quality of people entering the profession is declining and we struggle to attract the best people because of our location. The high-fliers tend to be tempted by the salaries and lifestyle that firms in Manchester offer."
According to Collinge, accountancy firms depend on the quality of the people they employ. If clients lose faith in the new people working on their account or became unhappy with the lack of continuity, Moore & Smalley would soon lose business. In short, making itself more attractive to staff was a matter of survival.
In 2000, Collinge saw some research that suggested graduates rated work-life balance more highly than any other employment factor. This persuaded her to apply for funding from the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Work Life Balance Challenge Fund, and in October of that year, she was awarded 25,000 to implement changes.
Her initial task, however, had been to persuade the 12 partners that it was a good idea to apply for the award.
"Our culture back then was founded on the belief that time is money," she recalls. "If people arrived at one minute past 9am, they were late."
However, at that time, a key member of staff had just returned from maternity leave and the importance of work-life balance was making itself more apparent.
Once Collinge had the backing of the partners, she sent out a questionnaire to every member of staff asking how the firm could improve work-life balance. There was a high response and a great deal of enthusiasm for the scheme. In fact, one of the main challenges for Collinge has been to manage levels of expectation from staff.
She implemented three pilot schemes.
The first was 'hot-desking' - implemented after a space utilisation study by BT Workstyle had discovered that the firm was only using 23% of its space.
The second was loca