It may sound trite to say that our people are very important to us, but at Pearson we know that we are only as good as the people who work here. We aim to hire the very best people, keep them motivated and inspired, reward them for what they do and give them opportunities to grow and learn. In doing this, we believe we can build a community of people who want to do their very best for Pearson and for the success of our businesses.
Our goal is to be the best company to work for and each year we get closer to achieving that. We provide benefits, incentive plans and opportunities that rival those offered by our competitors.
We maintain our policies to reflect a good work-life balance and introduce new initiatives to reflect the changing expectations of our people, and we continue to provide training and management development opportunities around the world to help people progress. We believe that all this helps to build a strong culture and reinforces our values of being brave, imaginative and decent.
We believe that our culture stems from the way we treat one another and the way we treat people outside the company. Our Code of Business Conduct sets out what we think is acceptable.
It is now in its third year. We contact Pearson employees each year to ask them to verify that they have understood and complied with the Code of Conduct, and to invite them to report any concerns or breaches of the Code to our group control team or via our confidential whistle blowing helpline. The head of group control follows up any reported breaches. This process goes beyond the requirements of corporate governance rules, which tend to focus on financial matters. Our view is that there is no point in having the Code if it does not have the trust and confidence of our employees. If it does not inspire that confidence, then we need to know why so we can do something about it.
All breaches of the Code are reported to senior management and the audit committee, and none of those reported in 2005 were considered to be serious. You can find the Code at www.pearson.com/community/codeofconduct.htm.
Communicating with our people is high on our list of priorities. We have an internal communications programme which enables us to reach people through emails, employee roadshows and visits from our senior managers. We try to listen as much as we talk so that we can act upon ideas, suggestions and views. We send out a regular electronic newsletter to all employees, with the latest news from across the company, and Marjorie Scardino continues to email employees with important news. Employees are encouraged to email Marjorie directly with their feedback.
Our goal is to provide the structure and environment which makes it easy for talented people to reach their potential. We do this by setting clear targets for what people need to achieve in their jobs and we offer training and support to help them get there.
Performance reviews take place in every part of our business each year to ensure that people know what is expected of them, receive feedback on their performance and set targets for the following year. All our people take part in a performance review at least once every year.
Career discussions may be part of the formal performance review process, or addressed separately. We don't believe it is our job to manage people's careers - we believe that people want to be in control of their own destiny - but we do what we can to help them reach their aspirations.
Training is provided to reflect the needs of specific job functions, regions or markets. We still do a lot of face-to-face training as it enables people to meet one another and share ideas; and increasingly we use technology to give people all around the world access to our core curriculum. Each year we assess where our training priorities lie and we constantly consider new ways to introduce familiar topics.
We believe that there's more to any job than simply delivering results, so we provide ways to help people see beyond their current responsibilities and understand more about Pearson.
We have mentoring programmes across the business. Some programmes are more formal than others but we have found that mentoring is an excellent way to connect people in quite different parts of the business, to provide an insight into previously undiscovered parts of the organisation, and to grow people's skills and aspirations.
We also help people move around Pearson. We have an internal website where people looking for a move can see all the available jobs across Pearson; additionally, senior managers identify people who would benefit from a move. Our talent management programme highlights where it may be beneficial to move people. Where a move involves relocating from one country to another, we have in-house expertise to help the transition go as smoothly as possible. Currently, we have 165 people outside their home country on secondment or permanent transfer and around the same number who are about to go on secondment or have just returned. Of our senior management group, over 24% have experience in at least two Pearson businesses or regions.
Moving people around the world can be a big step and for some positions where the job is focused on contacts or expertise in a particular market, it might not be appropriate. As a taster, we are keen to help people take a short-term secondment to another team. Our target is to introduce two new structured programmes to assist this initiative this year.
Whilst we're serious about what we do during working hours, we encourage our people to get the right balance between their work and home lives. We have introduced initiatives in different parts of the world to help people make the most of their life outside work. These include job sharing, a support group for returning mothers, flexi-time to help people with child and elder care responsibilities, sabbaticals which can be used for a variety of reasons, and summer hours. In certain countries, we are able to offer tax breaks on home computing equipment and home study courses. Pearson Education in the US has been recognised for the sixth consecutive year by Working Mother magazine as one of the '100 Best Companies for Working Mothers'. In addition, Work Matters magazine recognised Pearson Education's 'Prepare-to-Care' programme, which offers one-on-one counselling to those who provide care for elderly parents.
In addition to the training and development we provide in each part of the business, we have a number of cross-Pearson initiatives to help build the skills and knowledge of our people for the future. One of these is Pearson's senior leadership programme, the Senior Leadership Masterclasses. These are offered to senior leaders across the Pearson business around the world and so far almost all our senior management group has attended at least one.
Once a year, we bring together around 100 of our senior managers at the Brighton meeting to think about the world inside and outside the company and to consider how we can make both a better place. We also hold a separate meeting with 100 of our more junior high potential managers to address similar themes. This is called Forum and now boasts an alumni group of over 600 managers. We bring together the alumni group on a regional basis throughout the year and many new ideas have been generated from this group.
Building the skills base of our company also includes knowing who our very best talent are and how they plan to make the most of their skills to reach their potential. Each year, as part of the annual talent review, Marjorie discusses with the head of each business and function across Pearson, people who may one day have a significant impact on the company. We aim to create a development plan for each person so that we can retain people and develop them for the future. The talent review is built around an objective set of criteria called the Leadership Profile, which describes what's important for our leaders.
We see reward going beyond the issue of salary and - in addition to competitive pay - we follow a set of global principles to guide the way we provide benefits. These principles include recognition for excellent performance and innovation; encouraging share ownership irrespective of seniority; and fair treatment of all employees taking into account work-life balance. Individual packages are set locally but aim to include incentives, health, welfare and retirement plans and opportunities to acquire company stock. Benefits packages can be confusing so we've worked hard to make them clear and easy to understand. We have an internal website where all employees can check their personal details.
We will be running our biennial employee opinion survey during 2006. We take a sample of 5,000 employees - around 15% of our people worldwide - and ask them to complete the survey, which is useful in highlighting areas on which we need to focus in the years ahead.