We are a workers cooperative; Investment in our members is one of our core principles. Training and development form an intrinsic part of our business operation. Our cooperative structure means we foster open discussion around workload, and a reliance on using our initiative, alongside light touch supervision. This in turn means we, as employees, can explore different ways of working, whilst knowing we can ask for readily given support from our mentors and colleagues.
We see knowledge sharing as a vital source of education and training, which helps our Architects and Engineers provide optimum solutions for clients. Knowledge sharing sessions take the form of monthly presentations, or sooner if deemed important, and are often presented by senior leadership. These might take the form of an end of project review, sharing lessons learned, which feeds back into a cycle of continuous improvement. Due to the length and breadth of our senior members experience and knowledge, we are able to invest time and expertise in mentoring. But the flow of sharing good practice works in both directions, with younger members often bringing fresh ideas and knowledge of new practices, research or software. This has led to our investment in new software regarding BIM, AutoCAD, Revit, newer hardware and the requisite training. It is our practice that the coop member cascades their training, by setting up seminars, valuing their understanding and increasing their confidence and deeper level learning.
We maintain internal ‘wiki’ sites; constantly updating resource banks relating to technical topics and business operations. Updates to these are shared at monthly team meetings so that all are aware of any changes.
All of the above has continued unaffected during COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions. What has become even more important during this time is our support of members’ wellbeing. From the outset, we established daily online catchup meetings and weekly one-to-one calls between colleagues, to maintain channels of communication and help avoid possible isolation. Virtual social events have taken place (murder mystery, escape room) and as soon as we were able, we met for outdoor activities (walks, project visits, bike rides). We arranged a monthly online yoga class which continues through 2021, and work continued (within guidelines) on the LEDA allotment, where coop members work to grow fruit and veg for consumption at home.
Our members are rightly proud of our cooperative status. We were recently featured in a promotional video by Cooperatives UK to promote Cooperatives fortnight.