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A new chapter for BDO Guernsey

16 August 2020

BDO is encouraging its member firms around the world to #Rethink and harness key lessons from operating during a pandemic. As Guernsey exited lockdown in June BDO Guernsey’s board put the important lessons it had learnt into action to progress its corporate culture. Chapter one is the development of its flexible working policy. Managing Director Richard Searle shares how BDO Guernsey is approaching the #Rethink.

A lot can happen over 120 years. Since G.N. Read, Son & Cocke was established in 1900, the world and Guernsey have seen seismic social, economic, political and technological changes. BDO has a rich history here; we’ve always looked forward and planned how to continue to grow and thrive. Planning and forecasting is essential but recent events have reinforced that the unexpected is, paradoxically, the only thing to be expected.

COVID-19 certainly falls into the ‘unexpected’ category. Globally, the pandemic continues to transform how we work and live. In Guernsey, home working, the grounding of travel and restricted movements prompted us to move quickly to ensure our people were able to adjust into remote working patterns as individuals and teams and to ensure we looked after our clients and their priorities too.

Straight away we appreciated the need to take care of our people as people and offer as much flexibility and control as possible while the boundary between work and home life blurred. Our people policies were quickly refreshed to relieve as much tension as possible. For example, if employees cared for other people in their households or needed to flex their working days and hours for other reasons, we put in place ways for this to happen.

Crucially, we were also operationally fit so people could transition easily into home working. The expertise and support of our technology, corporate communications, human resources and financial operations teams meant that our people were able to work seamlessly and stay connected, and that we could maintain our culture.  

The experience offers a chance to do something different - to affect a significant culture change and write the next chapter in BDO’s long local history.

Collaboration leads to change

One reason we’ve been so successful in Guernsey for so long is our collective sense of identity.

The culture we have carefully fostered was proven by our teams embracing new ways of working together, devising creative approaches to challenges and adapting quickly and readily to totally unprecedented circumstances. 

Inevitably there were challenges during lockdown, but there were positive aspects too, and we wanted to keep hold of these plus-points while reinforcing our cultural identity and ensuring our people continue to be proud to work for BDO.

We regularly asked our people about their experiences of working remotely so that we had a firm finger on the pulse of the business and could improve things. The feedback indicated that there was an appetite for a new style of working and that this could be good for BDO.

Our leadership team agreed the key elements of our flexible working policy based on our core purpose and business values. Through the policy, which we launched in July, our people can explore the opportunity to work when and from where they are most productive, while upholding team collaboration and excellent service to our clients. 

A culture shift

Our policy is a radical one; it is a culture shift that reinforces BDO in Guernsey as a modern organisation that is in step with the expectations of our current employees and the future workforce.

We’ve abolished the traditional typical working day and opened up a 7am-to-7pm day instead.  Also, we have introduced ‘regular’ and ‘occasional’ options for home working within the policy.

All of these options are geared towards offering a working solution that suits a wide range of roles, of preferences in relation to how our people work at their best and ultimately leads to wider options in terms of work/life balance.

Clients’ needs remain paramount; meeting and exceeding these is a key component of our professional culture, so the policy hinges on collaborating with our clients in the way they prefer to work with us. Calls, meeting in person and video conferencing are all available.

Part of writing our new chapter is planning to write the next one. As part of BDO’s global commitment to carbon neutrality by 2025, we have already begun a new travel programme locally which is exploring how our people travel to, from and for work. During lockdown we all enjoyed less road noise and pollution caused by travel and traffic volumes, which had benefits for our community and environment. As an employer of over 80 people on island, we want to explore how we can all play our part.

Clearly working practices require movement – collaborating as a team and with clients and contacts still has a place – but we do recognise that we can re-evaluate how, when, and why we travel for work. We want BDO to have a positive broader impact and this was a valuable opportunity to put the foundations in place to achieve that.

A change for the long term

A lot has changed over 120 years but one constant theme during my 30 years with BDO is the importance of culture.

The essence of our purpose is to help people and businesses succeed and our values remain the same. Trust in our people is a foundation at BDO. Empowering our people and encouraging personal responsibility are part of what we value and are crucial to how we approach change.

This next chapter is the latest evolution of BDO’s culture in Guernsey and ensures we will be a strong presence that has a meaningful impact on our island in both the short and the long term.