John McCabe, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, writes for BUSINESSiQ


GOOD work and good business can mean a good new year for everyone in our region.

And I do mean every single one.

The past 12 months have been the most challenging I can remember for the North East but I believe it has started a sea change in how we do business.

There is a far greater appreciation of how hard staff have worked to support their employers and in turn how many businesses have looked after their teams.

Going forward into 2022 I urge companies to build on this by using our Good Work Toolkit which sets out how we can create a fair North East economy that rewards employees, while ensuring it makes sound financial sense.

We’re lucky that we have some fantastic examples of regional businesses putting good work into practice.

Read more: Half of people unclear on what Levelling Up means

Six years ago our Chamber Partner member County Durham-based Hodgson Sayers was the first North East company in the construction sector (and only the second in the UK) to become accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.

The motivation for this was to be the best possible employer but also to see benefits for the business, such as well-paid staff being motivated and more productive.

There’s the added advantage of a fair approach of increased staff retention which significantly reduces training and recruitment advertising costs as well as long-serving employees helping to create strong teams.

Hodgson Sayers’ managing director, John Sayers has made clear the reasons why the business embraces good work.

He said the economic reasons were important factors, but uppermost in his mind was the fact that embracing the Living Wage was simply the right thing to do. It chimed perfectly with the company’s values that guide all its transactions - honesty, decency and integrity.

In John’s view they didn’t want people coming to work and worrying about money and whether they have enough to get them through the week.

The wellbeing of their staff is as important to him as it is to them. He appreciates the business has a responsibility – a duty of care.

One of the region’s major employers has also shared their approach to good work in our toolkit.

Northumbrian Water which has its head office in Pity Me, rose to the challenge of Covid and established new working arrangements and introduced a range of innovative ways to support employees.

Read more: We can blaze a trail, says NEECC chief exec John McCabe

The company recognised that for many colleagues working remotely felt less like ‘working from home’ and more like ‘living at work’, so it reinforced the importance of self-care and disconnecting from work.

Many employees were parents, so resources and activities were developed including the Parent & Family Zone and Parents’ Network for parents to offer peer-to-peer support to each other.

I think these are great approaches to running a business.

Our Chamber President Lesley Moody’s business AES Digital Solutions has long-championed flexible working and being a Good Work ambassador.

She recommends being supportive of people’s personal circumstances and believes the economic benefits are tenfold from employees as a result.

Her view is that in this new normal work environment, employers should grasp the opportunity to use the learning and experiences of the last 18 months to help our staff achieve a better work-life balance.”

The Chamber is promoting good work to encourage all regional employers to ensure they invest in their workforce, reward people fairly, commit to lifelong training and support the wellbeing of employees.

If we create a network of good businesses, we will build a stronger, future-proofed economy, underpinning a better, fairer and greener society.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, we need to build an inclusive economy where everyone can have an opportunity to work and enjoy good health.

What a waste of talent if our region has people who are not able to contribute to our success due to lack of training or skills.

In the coming year I am urging everyone in our region to be collaborative wherever they can, across private, public, arts, health and voluntary sectors to benefit us all.

We have tremendous resilience and resolve in the North East and I have every confidence we will build an inclusive economy with fairness at its heart.


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