2020 has meant something different to everyone, but most would agree that it has been a year of moving goalposts.
From furlough schemes to temporary closures, businesses have had to demonstrate agility to navigate the changing tides.
Unfortunately for many, there are more challenges ahead before we emerge into a new permanent landscape.
For Great Annual Savings Group (GAS), the goalposts are moving in front of a backdrop that was already experiencing a seismic shift.
The group is nearing the end of an eight-month transformation project, exceeding £3.5m of investment, which has continued to gain momentum throughout the pandemic.
This has presented challenges of an entirely new scale and nature for the leadership at the Seaham cost reduction specialist.
The new HQ
Craig Shields, head of operations at GAS, said: “A common phrase we use with our colleagues and clients when it comes to cost reduction is to ‘focus on what you can control’.
“Over the last eight months in our transformation, that is what we have done – despite that phrase seeming to cover less with every week.
“Progressing from SME status to becoming one of the region’s larger employers meant we needed to increase the size of our premises.
“We are coming to the end of the fit-out of our brand new Sea View HQ building on Spectrum Business Park. This began in the spring, meaning that we have had to pivot to ensure the project delivers a building fit for a socially distant world.
“Obviously this came at extra cost, so we had to get creative to ensure that we still delivered our vision of a world class facility while keeping our colleagues completely safe and Covid-compliant.
“Make no mistake, it has given me plenty of sleepless nights, but the finished product is set to be something to behold.”
Creating opportunities for all
Victoria Walton, head of resourcing and talent at GAS, has an enviable but difficult role in leading the team tasked with filling the group’s 300 vacancies.
On the surface, the figure represents impressive growth for a company planning to double its size. But a glance beyond the numbers reveals a pandemic-fuelled motivation to make the roles available to a wide range of people in the region.
“We always wanted to make a proportion of the roles accessible to people looking to get into our industry, or simply to start their career,” says Victoria.
“Over the summer, the chief executive forged a new partnership with East Durham College with the purpose of making a larger proportion of those positions apprenticeships.”
“There are going to be people out of work and education, in a shrinking jobs market, who are looking for an opportunity to train and open up new career options.
“We have, therefore, created a Performance and Development Hub exclusively focused on providing support, training and routes into a range of professions within the group.
“Brad [Groves] shared his vision of creating employment opportunities in a post-covid landscape.
“Now the group is able to help people access traineeships and apprenticeships at a time when opportunities are at a premium, he feels it is our duty to do so. That includes guaranteeing permanent jobs for any person who completes the EDC/GAS apprenticeship.
“We are still recruiting experienced sales professionals from our industry and other sectors, too, who can hit the ground running and set aspirational examples to those in the Performance and Development Hub.
“We have set ambitious targets, but the market-leading opportunity GAS represents is more than enough to attract people at all stages of their career.”
Victoria’s comments are supported by the group being named joint second on the independent Glassdoor list of the best work-life balance companies in the UK in November.
GAS will be embarking on this latest phase of growth during December and roles will be made available for applications in December and January.