Shining the Light on Creative Staff Engagement
At a recent Arts & Business NI Creative Staff Engagement business breakfast in Belfast Exposed Gallery, 50 guests heard from business leaders who have seen the advantages of taking a broader view in relation to engaging and developing their staff through creative partnerships.
Collaborations which have enabled the businesses to
- develop, educate and engage their staff in unique memorable ways
- attract and retain staff within a competitive marketplace
- go beyond simply offering a salary and instead offer a package of experiences that really satisfies their employees’ ambitions as members of a wider society – especially important for millennials
- engage local communities and stakeholders alongside staff
- embed staff mental health and wellbeing initiatives
Local singer songwriter Aidan Logan played original music whilst guests enjoyed breakfast before hearing from the gathering of inspirational speakers.
Sean McCready MD at Doyle Shipping Group shared some of his exciting collaborations with c21 Theatre Company. Knowing that his staff interact with customers who have disabilities on a daily basis – and that two staff members have children with disabilities themselves – Sean made a strategic decision to address the area and the issues around it. He had noticed some concerns among staff about the use of particular language and terminology around disability and arranged for them to take part in disability equality training.
Enlisting the help of his trusted long-term arts partner, c21 Theatre Company, allowed Sean to transform his vision into something exceptional. Together, they set about coming up with a way to use the medium of drama to educate and raise awareness about disability. With c21’s expertise, the partners produced a bespoke drama ‘It Only Takes a Minute’ about attitudes towards people with disabilities – performed predominantly by people with disabilities. c21 consulted with DSG staff on their experiences and incorporated them into the script. Initially performed at DSG’s offices, the show then toured to youth groups and schools across Northern Ireland as well as to one-off events hosted by Cedar Foundation and Disability Action NI.
According to Sean: “It’s not about putting thousands of £s into advertising, it’s putting TIME into the community; supporting your staff to get properly & deeply involved.”
This amazing project won the Allianz Arts & Business NI Staff Engagement Award 2019 at the awards ceremony in January.
Gerarda Morton, Legal Manager (Disputes) at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) shared details of their new partnership with Belfast Ensemble, a truly innovative staff engagement project entitled ‘Intermezzo’. 20 members of staff will be taught an orchestral instrument for one year, working towards Grade One, offering HSF people the chance not just to develop skills in the musical arena, but also to develop soft skills that are equally complimentary to their legal career such as collaboration, commitment and creativity. In addition, the project will reinforce HSF’s focus on mental health and wellbeing amongst their staff.
Running alongside this, the HSF senior leadership team will receive conducting classes, where they will learn what it means to ‘lead without words’, focusing on non-verbal communication and connection skills, broadening and challenging their perspectives of leadership. The project will culminate in a public performance, where the Belfast Ensemble will be conducted by HSF senior leadership team, and will be joined by the 20 trainee instrumentalists.
Gerarda commented: “Like most businesses, we want to minimise turnover of our people. As business leaders, we have to face the fact that young people in today’s market want more than just the 9-5pm office experience. As competition for good people strengthens, we firmly believe that our Arts and Business partnerships enhance the HSF working experience, and secure and enrich our future as a business.”
Nicola Laight, Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator at Farrans Construction spoke about their exciting ‘InsideOutside’ project delivered with partner Arts Care, as part of Farrans’ corporate social responsibility under the Considerate Constructors Scheme. One of its key objectives was to address mental health and wellbeing on construction sites and in the wider community. The Arts Care artist-in-residence conducted workshops with 10 different groups which resulted in the creation of 50 large scale artworks which were displayed on the hoardings around the construction site. To engage with Farrans construction staff, Arts Care set up a table in the middle of the site where they could come during their tea break, explore how to make artworks and express how they felt about working there.
“It was an environment where they were able to forget about everything and open up about mental health and stress,” says Nicola.“At first, they were apprehensive, but Bronagh (artist) facilitated things by making the process relevant to them and helping them to produce blueprints that related back to the construction site.”
It gave the staff involved a huge sense of achievement and pride to see their names up on the hoardings next to their artworks. One participant said that being given the opportunity to create a piece of artwork to display was like putting their own stamp on the building.
This project allowed Farrans to memorably engage their staff, stakeholder groups and the local community and won the Allianz Arts & Business NI Cultural Social Responsibility Award 2019.
Deirdre Robb, Chief Executive at Belfast Exposed, gave a brief introduction to Northern Ireland’s premier contemporary photography organisation and to the Arts Council of NI Photography Collection, on display within the gallery. Arts & Business NI are very grateful to Belfast Exposed for extending this exhibition especially for the organisation’s Creative Staff Engagement breakfast event.
If you would like to explore how you could introduce creative staff engagement into your organisation please speak to the Arts & Business NI team on 028 9073 5150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.