As a small business owner, one of the things I really want to be able to do is provide my staff with the sort of resources they would expect to find in a big firm. Coupled with our ability to be flexible in a way larger companies can’t (or won’t!) be, I think this goes a long way to having a happy workforce. We do this in a lot of ways – a CPD budget of around £500/year per person, investing in new equipment and providing 26 weeks of maternity leave on full pay (not to mention enhanced paternity leave). But one thing which has always concerned me is the lack of an in-house employee assistance programme (EAP).
Having made use of such a programme over twenty years ago in my first job, I knew how valuable that kind of resource can be for people. So when I realised CIEEM offer access to a Member Assistance Programme (MAP), which mirrors the EAPs you can expect to find in bigger companies, it was a big tick in the ‘pro’ box of getting all our staff CIEEM membership as soon as possible after they join us. To use it, you just have to be a member of CIEEM at any grade.
It’s one of the things we highlight to people at the interview stage – working for a small business means there’s often no formal HR department and no buffer between staff and the people who make the hiring decisions. That dynamic can lead to people being reluctant to speak up about issues at work, and it also means there’s often nowhere to ‘sense check’ a gut feeling about whether something is ok or not. Having the CIEEM MAP offers them a neutral third party to speak to about all kinds of things they might not want to raise directly with us. We hope that offers some reassurance that we care about them as people, and that we recognize some of the challenges inherent in working in a smaller company and want to try and mitigate them.
Ecological consultancy work can be tough, especially in the early years of people’s careers. Having a resource they can turn to for advice on all kinds of topics from work life balance to family and relationships to health and well-being concerns I think is invaluable. We all know stress is cumulative, and giving my staff some help to navigate the myriad challenges which come with life (and can be exacerbated by work) is hugely important to me as an employer. One of the particular benefits of the programme is the fact that it offers six free therapy sessions a year – to me that more than repays the cost to the business of the CIEEM membership, even without all the other benefits of being a member.
The past few years have been hard on everyone, and now we’re in a cost of living crisis. Having the kind of high quality, free advice that the MAP provides is really important to us, because it allows us to signpost our staff to resources which can help their well-being and help them navigate challenges they may be facing outside of work. I think doing this because you care about other people succeeding in life should be incentive enough, but in case it isn’t, there’s a huge number of business benefits too. Staff who feel supported are less likely to leave, will produce higher quality work, and will feel more job satisfaction.
Providing this benefit is a really important thing that CIEEM have done to help support freelance ecologists and the staff of small businesses. It’s completely anonymous and is totally free, making it accessible to everyone with no chance of repercussions from management. To me, this elevates our company to being on a par with bigger companies in terms of the benefits we can provide, which I hope makes the company more attractive when it comes to recruitment. There’s even a Managerial Consultancy Adviceline for people with supervisory responsibilities, which I think is extremely important in our industry given how many people end up managing others without any formal training in the subject.
I’d encourage everyone to check out the information provided – whilst the helpsheets are good, I think it’s the expert helplines and professional therapy offerings which really make this stand out as a useful membership benefit.
Please click below to learn more about CIEEM’s Member Assistance Programme.
Tilly Tilbrook (she/her) is a Chartered Ecologist who has worked in the industry since 2002. Her background includes working for local government, Natural England and small and large environmental consultancies. She founded Integrated Ecological Solutions Ltd in 2009, partly through a desire to work more ethically. Over the past 14 years, she has employed many freelance workers, and the company now has a second director and two permanent members of staff.
Blog posts on the CIEEM website are the views and opinions of the author(s) credited. They do not necessarily represent the views or position of CIEEM. The CIEEM blog is intended to be a space in which we publish thought-provoking and discussion-stimulating articles. If you’d like to write a blog sharing your own experiences or views, we’d love to hear from you at SophieLowe@cieem.net.