For this thought-provoking webinar, we were joined by three HR leaders to discuss how their businesses and their roles and responsibilities have changed dramatically over the last 12 months. We found this webinar to be interesting for everyone working within an established business and not just those working in the Human Resource sector.
The Current pandemic has affected everybody and every business in different ways. It was very interesting to speak with these HR leaders about the effects of the pandemic on their working life and their own health and wellbeing outside of the work environment as well as the common hurdles many HR leaders found during the pandemic and the movement towards a “normal” way of working.
We were able to take away some values insights in the HR world and covered the following key areas of interest: Candidate attraction and retention, their companies branding and values, what has changed in their business throughout the last 12 months, and what will possibly change or what they have put in place to alter the way they work over the next 12 months.
The three guests
Sheryl Godwin-Jones - Peoples Operation Manager at ANS group. ANS are a Cloud and digital business that is changing rapidly. Cheryl has been part of the ANS journey for 5 years now, working towards the people’s function changing from personnel to people’s operations.
Sarah Hetherington- Head of People at Boxxe. Sarah is responsible for everything to do with people. They have been transitioning from HR to a People Function and they have lots of change happening within the world of people over the last 18 months.
Charlotte Batters - Head of Cooper Operations at CTS and Cloud M. Her function covers both recruitment, and HR areas. As a business they have not seen that much change in their HR function as people have always been imbedded in their culture. But with the current pandemic the business has seen a lot of change over the last 12 months.
Working from home
For many working from home has become the new normal. The pandemic has meant businesses have had to change and adapt drastically to be able to keep their businesses running at an optimum level. Many businesses have found the pandemic to have harmed their working life and have had to implement unusual strategies to continue to exist. We were keen to find out from our panel of leaders if the pandemic had forced people to begin working from home and at what point was the trigger of the catalyst that moved their businesses along to operate differently?
Because we live in a virtual world with the advancements of technology aiding a lot of the corporate world, remote learning and working from home, as Cheryl and Charlotte agreed, was not a huge change. Cheryl discussed how their business already had the fundamentals in place that prepared them for this and meant they were already adapted to working virtually. Charlotte agreed on how it was not a difficult transition for their workers at CTS to pick up a laptop because they were already a tech-based company.
On the other hand, Sarah had a very different introduction to a company-wide work from home protocol. CTS were mainly office-based with everyone mainly on desktops, this meant a very rapid and urgent change was needed to be made overnight to get a laptop for all employees who needed them! It was agreed across the panel that this way of working developed a change in working culture, and they found themselves having to adapt especially when it came to hiring new employees.
The hiring process has become one of the many difficulties during the lockdown, as it has meant interviews and inductions have moved to online, which puts increased stress on businesses to hire people without meeting them! Charlotte talked about how important it is for companies to adapt to this change because new starters need face to face interactions. Pre-pandemic, new starters would usually be introduced to everyone, would be shown around the office, and how this is a key part of their journeys because of first impressions.
Alongside the task of ensuring new starters are adapting to new company life whilst working from home, it has also been a challenge to ensure the actual recruitment process is working as efficiently. All of the leaders on this panel have had to adapt their recruiting style to include introductory videos, tech testing and video interviewing. But as the market moves fast, the volume is continuously high, which means timing is holding them back from being able to process CVs and accept them quickly, which is an issue she feels is aided by outside recruitment companies. Rob quips how “speed element is crucial!”.
Making people happy
Employees are like the foundation of a building- without them, the business would have no structure, and they are therefore the driving force behind the corporation’s successes. In order for the business to thrive, workers need to enjoy what they do in an encouraging environment. This is where incentives are very powerful in motivating employees to work effectively and to a high quality. All three guests reiterated the importance of creating and encouraging environment for their workers’ wellbeing.
Cheryl highlights ANS’ initiatives, such as a ‘Means together’ campaign where everyone is put into teams to encourage working relationships, with their results included in a keeping fit leader board. They also have a ‘spread the love’ programme whereby people in the company recognise others’ hard work and commemorate them and a programme called Microsoft Beaver, which is powered by Microsoft and allows the employees to conduct discussions about wellbeing.
For CTS, it is the communication that has remained the same throughout the pandemic. On Fridays they have business updates, where they discuss how they are performing, what people are new to the business, any change within technologies and interesting projects made for clients. Within ANS, communication is also key, they use pulse surveys which means they can concentrate on feedback which they do quarterly. They also place emphasis on the importance of social media and LinkedIn with social engagement, and how the importance of marketing and branding the businesses makes them stand out in, which in turn results in a high interaction with possible employees.
Moreover, the importance of diversity in every workplace is at the top of most businesses ideals and is very important in today’s society to engage with all people across the working spectrum. An important part of Boxxe is how now more than ever, they are shining the importance of diversity in the business and want to attract more female talent into their technological team. Interestingly, a statistic that reflects this is how men go for jobs where they can only achieve 56% of the criteria, whereas criteria that women cannot fully attain will not apply, the discuss lead to an agreement on the fact job adverts need to be less intimidating and more welcoming.
Preventing isolation at work
The pandemic has not only effected businesses and the way of operation, but also with the workers, more so with the strains of working from home. Many businesses either previously had or developed new ways in which they could relieve the isolation of lockdown work life by introducing new programmes and incentives.
At CTS, they have an ‘Employee Assistant Programme’ which allows their workers to talk to someone outside of the business if they feel they have a crisis, or to vent their worries and concerns in a safe and attentive environment. They also offer a mental health package for private health insurance where they have connections to psychologists and counsellors. Charlotte also reiterates how this practice has always been in place even pre-Covid and shows how “people are the business” and how important it is to look after them.
“A problem with working remotely is everyone is stacked with back-to-back meetings and constantly on video calls” and at CTS, they prioritize the importance of making engagement interesting and fun, and the tool they use for this is Google Workspace, which is where anyone in the business can create ‘online rooms’ such as book clubs or even to pop in in for a chat.
Sarah at Boxxe revealed their “radical” idea of actually speaking to people on the phone rather than video calls. Their managers have been encouraging walking meetings to ensure people are getting up from heir desk and getting some fresh air whilst having a meeting over the phone.
Moreover, at ANS, they have champagne Fridays, which sounds very exciting and is an employee initiative to which is a way of thanking and treating their employees. Furthermore, a communicating tool on the HR system at Boxxe includes a homepage to shout out workers, where they put up pictures for new starters about their personal lives and she sees this as almost the same as walking around the business as it simulates an induction day.
Overall, there is hope the bounce back will be quick from lockdown, and how all businesses, need to be reviewed down the line to see if they are working effectively and efficiently. This has been a very trying time for all businesses, but this webinar reflects how businesses have adapted to working virtually and from home and have had to put in practices to make sure their workers are being supported effectively and fingers crossed we will all be back to normality soon!
We’ve got plenty more fantastic industry experts lined up for 2021 to take part in our webinar series. If you’d like to find out more or to get involved as a speaker yourself then please get in touch with Robert Taylor.