July 14, 2023

Being a Best Place to Work

This year we entered the Sunday Times’ Best Place to Work Survey. We were shocked to find we’d made the top 100. This is an attempt at explaining what happened (mostly to ourselves).

Empirisys is a tech-startup, data science & process safety consultancy, product development business and now, officially, one of the 100 best (small) places to work in the UK.

We’ve talked about creating our culture and about our four defining values in previous blogs so you’d expect us to have decent idea about how people feel about working in the business. (We’ve even built tools to help analyse organisational culture).

It’s fair to say that although we thought our culture was generally good, we had no idea that we’d be hitting the heights as one of the top places to work in the UK.

We’ve thought about what we may have done to get here. And while there’s probably no exact answer, this is our best stab at figuring out what happened.

Our company has grown, and so have our values

We have a clear set of values that we share and (try our best) to live by. And as the company has grown, so have the values. They’ve always had a consistent core though, and from the earliest days of the company they centred on four aspects: teamwork, courage and tenacity, creativity and fun, and learning and growth. While the core remains the same, we’ve fleshed them out a little further so they’re more distinctly ours. Here they are:

  1. Our strength is shared — our varied team is a massive advantage. We share our plans, our code, our availability and our time with each other to make Empirisy stronger than the sum of its parts.
  2. Our integrity is unwavering — we care about what we do and we’re courageous enough to keep going even when things are tough. We also know when to stop, challenge and to do the right thing.
  3. Our happiness is a team job — we have a culture of collaboration and respect for each other which we sum up with the statement “We have no egos, amigos”.
  4. Our knowledge is a two-way street — we continuously look to learn and also to teach others. We’re curious and interested in the world but accept that there’s never enough time to learn everything (although we can try).

Our mission is centred on a purpose — helping to save lives

Being a purpose-led organisation, particularly one that has such an impactful and personal reason for existing (the two founders’ personal links to serious accidents that changed their lives) means that a strong ethical element runs through the company.

picture of our banner in the office

This makes it easier for everybody at Empirisys to really focus on and understand what we’re trying to achieve. Our vision is to:

Create a world where high-risk organisations don’t have to put productivity before safety.

And in the day-to-day, that translates to us delivering products and services that help to save lives. Being laser-focused on such a meaningful objective is a powerful motivator.

However, having values and a purpose isn’t enough without actually putting them into action. We think this is most evident in how we trust everybody in the company, completely.

We trust our people to do the right thing

It’s easy to talk about trust, but what does that look like in practice? Here are a few examples.

We have a nominal 25-day holiday policy, but only because having an unlimited holiday policy means people are reticent to actually take leave. We don’t track leave — we trust our people to know when they need a break and figure out with their teams what works for them.

We have a beautiful office space at sbarc|spark in Cardiff, but have a fully remote-first working policy. It’s a great place for us to meet up — some of us work there every day, some visit once a month. We trust everybody to know what’s best for them. They know better than anybody where they’ll feel most productive.

Empirisys office space at Sbarc|Spark in Cardiff

We tend to work 9–5 but we’re happy for everybody to work at times that suit them. Some of us are early birds and some are night owls. Some of us have childcare commitments and others may feel Saturday morning is the best time to work on a project without any disturbances. We trust everybody to have figured out when they need to be available and when they’re not.

We allocate our people to projects that they express interest in and we feel would give them the greatest opportunity to develop, but admit that we sometimes get it wrong. So wherever possible, we let our teams organise themselves and work on the projects they find most rewarding. They know best where their skills can be best utilised, and where they’re best able to learn.

Lots of this stuff isn’t said explicitly. We don’t have policies for everything but we hope through the behaviours and examples across the team that our trust in our people is self-evident.

Things we could do better?

In the spirit of transparency (which isn’t officially one of our values but really cuts through everything we do), we’re aware of what we could do better that would make Empirisys an even better place to work.

Diversity in the sector isn’t great. We make an effort at Empirisys but we’re still unbalanced and want to do more. We’re linking up with some great organisations that can help us hire diversely, and we’re making an effort to put into place policies and procedures that are focussed on our people, whatever their background.

We’d love to pay more (and whenever we have the opportunity, we make efforts to increase salary and bonuses). Being a small mostly self-funded company means we can’t do this as quickly as we’d like. With growth, we hope to be market leading on salary as well as on working conditions.

A four-day working week has had some great results in other organisations and is something we’re exploring. Perhaps the next blog we publish about culture will talk about how we’ve adapted again.

The Empirisys Team, Cardiff 2023

Ultimately, what makes us a great place to work is probably care. The care we have for our purpose, our people and our clients. Everyone at Empirisys is here because they care about each other, and that’s the single biggest thing that makes it such a great place to work.