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by Shona MacLennan
17 March 2022
Associate Feature: Benefiting from flexibility and diversity

Associate Feature: Benefiting from flexibility and diversity

At Bòrd na Gàidhlig, we have responded to the challenges of the pandemic and used these to drive our programme of continuous development.  The ability of the organisation to continue to deliver for Gaelic whilst all staff work from home has created new routes to recruitment and retention of staff.  Recruiting skilled staff in a specialist sector brings challenges to many organisations.  This is equally true for us despite the very rewarding and mission-driven nature of our work in developing and promoting the Gaelic language.  

When I was appointed chief executive – or Ceannard – I was the first women in the role and also the first CEO who had learnt Gaelic as an adult.  The importance of this diversity in reflecting and responding to the changing nature of Gaelic communities is central to how we deliver our work successfully.  So too are the range of flexible working policies which we have introduced and the strengthened internal and external communications to make these work more effectively.  They all contribute to making our organisation an attractive and people-friendly workplace.

In our continuous improvement drive, we had transitioned to cloud-based systems prior to lockdown.  An immensely successful result of that has been to open up recruitment to a far wider range of people as we are no longer restricted to our office bases in Inverness and Glasgow.  In fact, currently 20% of our staff are now based in the Western Isles whereas none had been there previously.  

Our flexibility of approach will continue, offering opportunities to those who – perhaps due to family circumstances – would not be able to re-locate or would prefer not to. Not only is this hugely beneficial to us with regards to recruitment, it also allows us to have staff living and working within communities across the country and enhancing relationships between these communities and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.  

We have embedded other practices which we believe support wellbeing in our team, and these have contributed to our achieving continuing improvement in staff satisfaction surveys. The most recent annual survey recorded a high of 91% for organisational mission and 87% for personal wellbeing. Currently a substantial number of our staff make use of our flexible working policies so that their working pattern suits their needs as well as ensuring that the organisation continues to deliver for Gaelic.  As a result, staff wellbeing and morale has improved and this too has an impact on productivity.

We regularly take soundings on wellbeing and internal communication and with the opportunity to return to offices, staff preferences for their work location and patterns.  We are approaching this on a whole-organisation basis to ensure that the best balance is achieved between all requests and the organisation’s needs.  

Our board is also involved in ensuring that women have a high profile in the organisation, with the gender split regularly being more females than males.  Mary MacInnes, our Chair, is the first woman in the role and is well-known for her work with community organisations, particularly those  supporting women into employment as well as Gaelic language and culture, and provides a role model for others.  

Our recent recruitment round for new board members raised the profile of our female board members through social media posts as part of the drive to continue to recruit more women.  The move to online board and committee meetings, as well as increasing openness and transparency, also makes it easier for those people with caring responsbilities to participate fully in our work and enables us to attract people from a more diverse range of situations. This can only be good for the organisation and for Gaelic.
 

This article is sponsored by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

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