Good work case study: North of Tyne

Caroline Preston from North of Tyne Combined Authority and Holly Shiel-Redfern from Explain Market Research discuss what 'good work' means to them and what can be done to support it at a local level.


About North of Tyne

The North of Tyne Combined Authority describes the areas covered by three local authorities – North Tyneside, Newcastle Upon Tyne, and Northumberland. The combined authority has a directly-elected Metro Mayor. The region has a population of 833,200, a local economy of over £18m, and is home to more than 25,000 businesses. Most businesses in the region are micro (88 per cent) or small (10 per cent) enterprises, operating mainly in the sectors of professional, scientific and technical services, construction, retail, food and hospitality, agriculture and fishing, manufacturing, business operations, and information technology.

Interview with Caroline Preston, Economy and Policy Advisor, North of Tyne Combined Authority

What does ‘good work’ mean to you?

We have our Good Work Pledge, which was developed with businesses and other key stakeholders. It’s made up of the five pillars of good practice; valuing and rewarding workers, promoting health and wellbeing, effective communication and representation, developing a balanced workforce, and social responsibility. A key aspect of our Pledge is a flexible approach to business assessment and we have 56 business signatories at all stages of growth. Future plans include the development of a network of Good Work which will help businesses to connect, share best practice and embed a culture of continuous improvement and learning.

What can be done to support good work at a local level?

The development of a Good Work Community over the next year will provide networking opportunities for all the businesses who sign up. It will offer learning opportunities and resources that will support businesses to help each other. We also plan to work with enterprise agencies to engage smaller businesses. In terms of how we market our offer, it is really important to network and use promotional techniques to promote the pledge brand so that its seen and recognised. We’re also working with partners to cascade information on what we’re doing and why.

What are the main challenges and how can they be overcome?

Activity to attract, reach and support businesses to these schemes can be costly and this is something to consider. A scheme like this needs to be high quality, they must have something businesses respect and value. There is a quality and a monitoring consideration. For example, our pledge membership initially lasts two years, then revalidation is required to ensure members’ are sustaining or progressing ‘good work’ values. We want businesses to continually improve, not just gain a sticker.

What is your top tip for local government?

Think long-term, because it’s not something that happens overnight. Think about different segments and clusters you want to target – each will require a different approach. Think about what resource you can ringfence and how many people you need to do it properly. Think from the business perspective – they are giving up their time and you need to be clear about what they get out of it too.

We want businesses to continually improve, not just gain a sticker.

Caroline Preston, Economy and Policy Advisor, North of Tyne Combined Authority

Interview with Holly Shiel-Redfern, Partner and Commercial Director, Explain Market Research

Explain Market Research is a co-owned SME business based in the North East with over 50 staff delivering market research projects to clients across the UK

What does ‘good work’ mean to you?

The five pillars really resonate with our own business structure, which centres around value and reward, effective communication and representation, a balanced inclusive workforce, and sustainability. To us good work means aligning our personal values to how we grow and develop the business to support the team. It’s the people in the team that make and drive the business, so providing good work means being an employer that has a human and person-centred approach.

What can be done to support good work at a local level?

Being a good employer is key to retaining really good quality people in an SME business. From recruitment to the development of individuals’ careers, we actively work with our staff to shape their pathways. Recognising that each person in the organisation is an individual is really important. You need a balance between a fair and transparent approach, recognising that each person has their unique needs and ways of contributing to the business.

What are the main challenges and how can they be overcome?

In relation to the Good Work Pledge, a challenge for small businesses looking to grow and doing large scale procurement, is the level of governance and due diligence and the level of handholding that they may need to create policies and to understand processes. It’s essential that the Pledge doesn’t become part of a tick-box exercise, just another part of the procurement process. There is the risk that the more social value becomes a prescribed necessity, the more you lose the foundation of why you’re doing it.

What is your top tip for local businesses?

Pay attention to the community element, your business' position within the wider local community. Look outside your own environment, what are other organisations doing in terms of best practice and innovation? It would be great to have a learning network with other organisations to draw on – the good and the bad, and how they are overcoming challenges.

Providing good work means being an employer that has a human and person-centred approach.

Holly Shiel-Redfern, Partner and Commercial Director, Explain Market Research

About the Good Work Project

You can read more about the Good Work project – which aims to help councils support good work in the local areas – via the link below.

Good Work Project