A NORTH-EAST building society has been awarded an “outstanding” rating in a national accreditation programme for its support of employees during the pandemic.

Darlington Building Society has been given a 2-star accreditation by Best Companies, an organisation that specialises in measuring staff engagement, and supplies information for The Times ‘100 Best Companies To Work For’ list.

The 2-star rating – limited to employers making an outstanding commitment to creating a happy working atmosphere – was based on a survey of Darlington Building Society staff in November.

The Society’s Chief Executive, Andrew Craddock, said: “This recognition will send a clear message to our people, members, partners, suppliers, and the regional community that Darlington Building Society understands the importance of workplace engagement, and genuinely values its people.”

Mr Craddock added that he was “proud and humbled” by the staff’s professional response to the pandemic, their dedication to serving members, and support of each other.

The Society has been accredited by Best Companies since 2017 and was flagged as “one to watch” for the past three years. It has now jumped beyond 1-star and into the 2-star category, with Best Companies describing the organisation as “well led and well managed…with outstanding levels of engagement”.

Niki Barker, the Society’s Director People and Culture, added: “It is a phenomenal achievement and comes as a reassurance that we are getting it right. That’s so important because we want people to know that Darlington Building Society is an employer that looks after its people.

“What came through from the survey was an overwhelming sense of pride in the organisation, and the way it was doing its best to support members, the community and the staff through an extremely challenging time.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Society gave staff an assurance that they would be kept on full pay, that there would be no redundancies, and that no one would be furloughed under the Government’s job retention scheme.

The Society adopted an “open for business” policy and continued to invest, with 35 new recruits taken on during the year, including eight apprentices.

During lockdown, the organisation initiated a Health Hub, comprising an intranet-based toolkit of resources to support mindfulness, including exercise videos, inspirational podcasts, quizzes and food recipes.

The Society also launched a company-wide “Be Kind To Yourself” initiative to encourage employees to take time for themselves and protect their mental health.

“It is clear that 2021 will be another very difficult year, so our aim is to maintain that level of support for staff, build on what we’ve done, and grow our reputation as an employer of choice in the North-East,” said Niki.