Harnessing opportunity in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, Celtic English sought to implement an agile work environment with the support of the FairPlay Employer Team, improving communications, digitalisation and increased wellbeing.
Tell us a bit about who you are, what you do and the nature of your organisation:
As an independent, Welsh organisation, working internationally, the Academy has been growing since it was established in 2004. James Doherty, Owner, Celtic English Academy, has long held the motto of “quality, consistency and fairness for all”. He has always valued creating a workplace that takes care of its staff, who in turn take care of Celtic’s customers – from students and their parents, to educational tour operators and partners, homestay hosts and suppliers. When our study abroad partners have praised us for always replying promptly to emails during the pandemic, being flexible, forward-thinking and above all taking care of our students’ wellbeing, it is testimony to our workplace. For all Academy staff, students, and alumni, this is a proud moment to be shared together.
Celtic English is the first private sector company and first SME organisation in Wales, UK, to be awarded a Gold Standard FairPlay Employer Award by the inclusive working experts in the FairPlay Employer Team.
Shoko Doherty, the school’s chief executive officer and vice-chair of English UK, said: “We have worked hard to achieve the award by improving our HR and organisational culture and evidencing our solid commitment to fairness, inclusivity, wellbeing, and workplace flexibility. The changes have had many positive effects on the business. The award comes from an anonymous staff survey and benchmarking, so I am humbled and honoured by the genuine feedback and that we are one of only three gold award recipients in Wales.”
What were the steps you took to achieve your award and how long did it take?
Moving to agile working at CEA required rewriting job descriptions for each member of staff, reviewing team and organisation strategic goals, breaking those down into individual responsibilities and accountabilities, and creating team charters and service level agreements. These outline good practice and set expectations, for individuals and collectively as a team, for instance around email response times, and keeping colleagues informed about working hours. Each was created with full staff input. The new way of working has increased productivity, autonomy and dedication, creating a positive working environment overall for our staff and ultimately, customers, especially through some very challenging years.
“Everyone is working towards a common goal and result, and providing that is achieved according to your job role, staff can have flexibility around the hours they work, where they work and their daily routine,” said Shoko, adding: “That might include starting work early, having a longer lunch or being able to pick children up or attend an appointment without needing to take annual leave.”
“The implementation took approximately six months and so far it’s working really well. I feel genuinely supported by our staff, and they work together for us to be successful. Although most of our office staff have been working part-time, furloughed and flexibly, our partner agents have often asked me how we always replied promptly to their emails in the pandemic. I think it’s strong evidence that we are doing good things and maintaining high levels of service despite the pandemic, and agents are responding positively to that.”
“I must congratulate everyone at Celtic English Academy. To achieve a Gold Award the client needs to be of a very high standard and their staff must also believe in those standards and really live and breathe the culture across the business. It’s testament to their dedication that they have also become a finalist in the FairPlay Employer category at the Chwarae Teg Womenspire Awards 2021.” Stephanie Griffiths, Commercial Director, Chwarae Teg
“In ELT we all have a responsibility towards diversity and inclusion. We have made it a priority and we hope our journey can inspire others. Even with the Gold Award, we know we can continue to go further still to building a brighter, fairer and more sustainable tomorrow”
Shoko Doherty, Chief Executive Officer, Celtic English Academy