Bennett Christmas bridges the generation gap
Young staff at Burgess Hill Insurance Brokers Bennett Christmas are changing the way management thinks.
They’ve been given their own ‘junior board’ to hothouse ideas for taking the company forward.
Known as the Futures Group, it comprises 8 Bennett Christmas employees under the age of 25, who make up almost a third of the total workforce across the firm’s retail and wholesale divisions.
And from sorting out the inequality of car parking spaces to developing groundbreaking mobile apps, the young execs are proving wisdom doesn’t just come with age.
CEO Mark Bennett said the aim was to give younger staff ‘a voice at the top table’ and help senior management better understand what motivates and engages the next generation, both inside the company and out.
“We need to understand what drives these younger people because they are the future business leaders, maybe even the future leaders of our own business,” he said. “It’s important they are given a voice at the top table in a structured way and for them to know they are heard by management.”
Twenty-four-year-old property underwriter Matthew Fisher said the Futures Group gave junior staff licence to suggest that things could be done differently.
“It’s not just about starting, but also stopping things,” he said.
“The younger staff have a different view on life – a bit more energised perhaps. We’re all keen to get our ideas across, but we probably would never have put them forward if there hadn’t been a specific agenda and channel for it.”
Meeting for an hour and a half once a month, responsibility for chairing the group and minute taking rotates among members. Minutes are uploaded onto the company’s networking platform for feedback from all members of staff and the best ideas are worked up into a formal presentation to the full board.
Ideas to have already tumbled out of the group include a car parking buddy system so that no spaces go unused while staff are on holiday; pairing staff across generations and departments to share top working tips, including IT shortcuts; and less reliance on phone calls between the retail and wholesale divisions to encourage people to use the stairs that separate them, burning calories and improving rapport.
“There were a number of silly suggestions as well,” said Matthew. “Two company-sanctioned ‘duvet days’ on top of your annual holiday – I think that was mainly for hangovers; a company goldfish that everyone took turns feeding; and Terrible Tie Tuesday, which wasn’t such a bad idea because it could be used for charity fundraising.”
While duvet days might not make it to board level, work has already begun on a Bennett Christmas app for clients and a company Instagram account has been introduced.
“I didn’t need to persuade my fellow directors of the advantages of having such a group. Everybody saw the benefits,” added Mark. ”It’s an opportunity to engage younger staff in the business management process as much as anything. Being part of a family business 25 years ago, I was lucky enough to be mentored in a similar way.
“Some ideas might sound a little daft initially but with a bit of guidance and tweaking they could just turn out to be the best we’ve ever had.”