HGP and IIP: Our Story – Making work better for 18 years

By Vivienne Conway

Introduction

 

We are a collective of passionate architects and designers, promoting a balanced work-life culture and nurturing independent thought.

HGP Architects has a great legacy of work, an established presence on the South Coast and a strong contingency of long-serving staff. We create carefully crafted architecture that seeks to inspire people and places while meeting our clients’ ambitions.

Although we perform a service attributed to many, we are unique in our approach, delivery, and culture. We recently rebranded, and as part of that journey to hone a new identity representative of our ethos and philosophy, Praline, who developed our new brand with us, unpicked our current identity and re-built it around core themes and principles that arrived out of our social culture and our approach to working with our people, our clients and our industry.

The process validated that we value the experience of design we provide as much as the product itself. The satisfaction gained from that experience is attributed to our collaborative and inclusive working practices, which has evolved into a family-like culture to be celebrated.

Being involved with IIP cements the principles we hold in a recognised standard. IIP has helped us challenge preconceived notions of working in architectural practice, prioritise our efforts, and then address where we want to be positioned in the future as a responsible, supportive and progressive employer.

 

Nostalgia: 18 years of making work better

 

HGP has been aligned with Investors In People since 2003. As an architectural pioneer looking outside our industry to benchmark our practice (we were one of the first architectural practices to achieve ISO 9001 accreditation), pursuing IIP accreditation felt like a natural progression to reinforce the Directors’ beliefs and values at the time.

Architecture can be a challenging profession to work in concerning work/life balance. HGP has always sought to steer away from the industry norm in this element and address the balance positively. IIP concentrated our efforts to continually improve the cornerstones of our culture and stay ahead of our contemporaries.

Taking cues from the IIP ethos and our leadership values, we have built over time a philosophy centred around our people, which has become ingrained within the culture of HGP and shaped our business to achieve better levels of staff communication and engagement.

Appreciation: Innovating, moving forward and not becoming complacent

 

Having been part of IIP since 2003, the accreditation process for us now is less about implementing new principles and more a check to remain accredited by continuing to innovate, move forward and not become complacent.

The survey that all staff are invited to complete anonymously, we believe, is one of the fundamental components of the process. Staff at every level are given equal opportunity to have their voice heard.

The outcome of a simple survey has resulted in some significant advances for us, such as implementing an internal social media platform to improve our communication and engagement with each other.

So much of one’s day/week/year is spent at work, so it’s essential that we be the type of employer that provides an environment where people feel welcome and valued. Providing a workplace where each individual is afforded the space to progress relative to their own needs but feels supported by a greater collective is what people respond to.

Before the pandemic, IIP helped us instil a philosophy that all members can relate to and feel a sense of belonging. By being encouraged to strengthen our communication and collaboration, internal contribution and involvement have increased. Over a third of our staff have been with us more than ten years and over 10 per cent 20 or more years, which is testimony to our long-established beliefs around staff wellbeing.

We cannot single out a staff member for championing IIP more than any other, for the simple reason that IIP principles are now embedded within our management and general office culture. Many of our management and senior team have progressed and developed with IIP already invested within the business, demonstrating its success.

 

Relevancy: Getting the tools to be enterprising and reflective

 

Navigating the business through the last year with COVID lockdowns has, like many of us, caused us to consider the way in which we want to continue our practice and evolve. For us, the ethos of IIP is now relevant perhaps more than ever. During the lockdown periods and sustained Work From Home, IIP was instrumental in helping managers adopt a positive philosophy to remotely manage staff.

In a collaborative studio environment that the practice of architecture relies on, communication and being present with team members is key. The principles of IIP will continue to test our progress and ensure that in the post pandemic period, as a workplace, we remain relevant.

Over the years, IIP has given us the tools and encouragement to be enterprising and reflect on areas for improvement, such as key staff benefits. We are now aware we offer better packages than other firms which has helped to attract and keep talented people.

We’re confident that as a practice we embody all marks of IIP naturally however, being accredited provides external reinforcement that we are maintaining a workplace equal to or better than competitors.

Ambition: Investing in people isn’t a milestone, it’s continuous improvement

 

Reaching a significant milestone within an organisation naturally brings about reflection and realisation. We celebrated our 50th anniversary a couple of years ago, which was an incredible moment for our company to look back on all we achieved and the people we achieved it with.

We believe that investing in our people is not just about milestones. It’s a conscious decision not to stand still or become complacent. By reviewing and constantly evolving the standards by which organisations are measured, IIP aligns with our ambition to continually look for ways to adapt to our surroundings and positively move forward with our strategies to reflect emerging work and lifestyle expectations.

Over the years and particularly recently, IIP has challenged us to expand our perspective on what makes work better and reinforced the benefits afforded by changes we’ve introduced that better reflect our convictions.