Yorkshire’s professional services firms rank among the nation’s best, so wouldn’t it be a smart move to work together?
This simple idea has formed the foundation stone for the Collaborative Professionals Network, a body poised to enjoy significant growth in 2020.
The network that bangs the drum for Yorkshire’s world-class professional services firms will expand this year after securing support from a number of major academic and business organisations.
The CPN was established in 2016 to shout about the large numbers of professional services firms that have established a base in Yorkshire. It acts as a forum for discussing the challenges and opportunities faced by all professional services firms. It holds four events each year, which act as a sounding board for the region.
The group is chaired by Karen Eckstein, a Leeds-based legal director at Womble Bond Dickinson, who believes CPN can deliver tangible economic benefits.
he said: “Yorkshire has a wealth of talent. We want to discuss how best to identify, develop and manage that talent, to make us all more successful.”
She added: “The CPN is an umbrella organisation, seeking to put on events and provide services to the various member groups within its remit. The CPN aims to collaborate for the greater good of the individuals within the wider membership of CPN. Working together, we can build a greater Yorkshire.”
Over the last three years, the CPN has shone the spotlight on the economic benefits of collaboration. It has also lobbied hard on behalf of those who believe it pays to treat staff with courtesy and respect.
CPN has also provided a forum for debate about issues facing the regional economy, such as the importance of protecting employees’ mental health.
Last year, CPN hosted a series of events around the theme of “Being Kind”. It highlighted the importance of looking after the wellbeing of your staff and making sure you lead by example.
There is urgent need for CPN’s work. A recent study found that the total cost to the British economy of staff turning up for work despite being ill could be as high as £26bn a year.
Around 15 out of every 100 people at work have a mental health condition, according to Government estimates.
An event hosted by the Collaborative Professionals Network heard that “presenteeism” – a culture in which people are expected to work when they are unwell – was making the UK economy less competitive and causing misery for many workers.
Ian Garner, an experienced businessman who acts as an ambassador at the Institute of Directors (IoD), quoted analysis from professional services firm Deloitte which found that the total annual cost of presenteeism was estimated at between £17bn to £26bn a year. The total annual cost of staff absences was estimated at £8bn a year.
Mr Garner said: “That people working in an unfit state costs more money than absence is a wake-up call for any company which thinks a low rate of staff absence means that mental ill health is not an issue.”
Another of CPN’s guest speakers, Dr Richard Smith, the managing director of the Surfachem Group, told the audience that they should treat their staff in the same way that they would expect to be treated
He added: “At every new employee’s induction meeting with me, I tell them why it is important to talk to ‘the business’ whenever they have a personal issue that may develop in the future, with the caveat that if we know about it we can help.”
Mr Smith added: “We give employees time off to care for sick children, and line managers are compassionate and considerate. We also support employees who are sick themselves or have mental health issues by helping with phased returns to work, flexible or reduced hours if needed and working from home flexibility.”
He said this togetherness might have played a role in boosting the firm’s financial results because it posted a record performance in 2017 and 2018.
Each year around 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their job, which is much higher than the rate for people with a physical health condition.
The network also hosted an event which featured presentations from Luke Ambler, the entrepreneur and award-winning mental health campaigner, and Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council.
Mr Ambler, a former Halifax professional rugby league player, has earned plaudits from around the world for his campaigning.
The 28-year-old set up the charity Andy’s Man Club, in memory of his brother-in-law Andy, who tragically killed himself in 2016. The group aims to raise awareness of mental health issues among young men.
Mr Riordan told the audience at Leeds Beckett University about his work to support the roll-out of mental health first aiders.
Ms Eckstein added: “To have organisations like Leeds Community Foundation, Leeds Beckett University and the Yorkshire Asian Business Association and Ascension (a women’s business networking group) joining us is great, as it shows our reach is getting bigger as more business organisations are joining us.
She added: “We are delighted that other bodies have wanted to join us – this is in line with our overarching aim of working together for the greater good of businesses and professionals in Yorkshire. The more bodies that join us, the greater our reach, and we are delighted that other bodies with similar aims and ethos have wanted to work with us.”
She added: “Next year we are hoping to reach out to other business and network groups who have similar aims, with a view to expand our reach further so that we can increase collaboration and impact across Yorkshire.
“We are a not-for-profit umbrella grouping – a very small committee who give up our time freely to work together to put on events that we hope are useful to the members of the respective bodies and organisations which make up CPN, and which encourage debate. I think we achieved that this year.
“Next year the focus is on ‘build for the future’ – we want to hold four events again. The topics and speakers will be looking at how to develop businesses and delegates with the future in mind, all with a collaborative theme, which is the hallmark of CPN events.”
Ms Eckstein believes 2020 will be a landmark year for CPN: “This year we have decided to support Leeds Community Foundation at each of our events.
“So they will be given the opportunity to speak at each event and there will be a charity box for donations, in the hope that CPN can raise funds for a good cause as well as supporting our members.
“CPN has grown over the last year and we hope to grow this year.
“Together we are stronger and make Yorkshire the best place to work and live.”