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As I embark on my first time off in 2020, I look back over the last five months and find it difficult to believe just how much it has been possible to experience and learn in a relatively short space of time!
From the initial shock of lock-down, fear for loved ones and my business, to the uncertainty of what we now face moving forward, there have been moments of despair, elation, gratitude, pride, challenge, inspiration and learning that will shape me as a person and business owner for a long time to come.
Heading off on holiday is nerve wracking for so many reasons but I learned yesterday - “don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm” so I know it is important to take a break. Running a business, navigating cash-flow, furlough, home schooling, and keeping a family fed, allows very little down time. I always feel privileged to have my own business and the element of control that gives me over my life, along with the possibilities, but I must admit, I’m ready to re-fuel and have some of that ‘said’ down time.
Whether good or bad this has been a time rich in learning - so what has the corona-coaster taught me?
During this period, I have found strength in personal and business relationships both new and old that have enabled collaboration, support, and learning.
Working in the world of HR Recruitment, relationships have always been important to us but never more so than now. Having a network of people who want to help, gives me a warm feeling and sense of pride in our network who have risen to the occasion for us.
We have been running regular networking events for HR & business professionals and the feedback we have received makes me thankful that, as a team, we have also been able to pay that forward for other people too.
The number of people who have contributed to our events, giving up their time and expertise to help others has been an absolute joy to witness. Clients have checked on us, wanting to know how we are doing as a business and offering to help, and I feel so thankful for them all.
Even my WhatsApp exercise group has provided motivation and a sense of togetherness, friendships made that will endure, even though we have never met!
We may be zooming rather than meeting but the benefits of good relationships go far beyond the little square I occupy on a screen, beaming out into the real world like a beacon of support and inspiration.
Consideration, authenticity and honesty go a long way
As a business, we have always responded to applications. We’re a small business that prefers a personal approach, so we don’t always get everything right, but this is something we try very hard to do.
In these uncertain times, we have received so much positive feedback when we acknowledge an application, provide a small amount of constructive feedback, keep people updated or just spend time speaking with someone when they need it. The feedback we’ve received shows how hard it can be to be looking for work right now and taking the time just to respond, even if it’s not the most positive of news, still goes a very long way.
As a business owner, I’ve seen the value in open, honest, regular two-way communication with my team, and I hope they would say the same. We have, and continue to, navigate these uncertain times together, and that only makes us stronger.
Building back better – the world goes on
There was a time when I wondered if we would ever have roles to recruit for again – but guess what, we do. Certainly not as many as before lock-down, but each one feels like a blessing, and oh the joy of calling someone with the right role! This is why we love what we do.
Throughout lock-down, we’ve had time to review how we work as a team and make some changes that will stay with us as we move forward. Always a team that enjoyed meeting people, technology has allowed us to keep this up and highlighted how much time we spend driving from one meeting to another and commuting. That time is now re-purposed, enabling us to speak to more people and be more efficient.
We’ve also used this time to learn new skills, like recording and editing podcasts (even launching our own called ‘It’s a People Thing’), developed new passions for D&I and Wellbeing, and we’re now able to focus on these our networking conversations. And, it’s not just work that has changed. I’m at my desk (well, dining table!) more hours than ever but I still have more time. A life devoid of daily commutes has given me more time to exercise, eat better, enjoy time with my family and realise what is important. Of course, I can’t live life in lock-down forever, but I will retain elements of my lock-down life because I owe it to myself and my family (and to the woodpecker and red squirrel that now visit daily because I’ve been around to fill up the bird feeders!).
If this period of time has taught me anything, it’s to be thankful for what I have and to live in the moment more (something I am terrible at usually).
What am I most thankful for?
· My family, friends, and my team (who feel like family anyway!)
· Living in a beautiful area with space and sky around me
· My house, which has become my sanctuary rather than just where I lay my head
· The financial planning I do when running the business and the great start we had to the year – this has given us the breathing space to look to the medium to long term
· Clients who have given us work and supported us
· Our HR network who have continued to support and engage with us (we’ve really had such great conversations)
· My Pilates instructor for taking our classes online
· Wifi, Netflix & Disney +
· Outlander novels
· Mallow & Marsh raspberry and dark chocolate marshmallows
So there we have it, my corona-coaster leanings. I’m now signing off, leaving things in the capable hands of my amazing team. If you need me, I’ll be somewhere up a mountain in Snowdonia!
6th May 2020
Over the last couple of weeks, as part of our “Planning in a New World of Work” online networking sessions, we’ve had the privilege to talk to (and to see into the homes and to even meet the pets of!) over 60 senior HR professionals. We’ve shared how we’ve all had to react to the COVID-19 pandemic and the different challenges that it has presented to us; what it has meant for our organisations and the people within them; what it has meant in terms of our roles as practitioners; and the focus which will be needed on the future challenges in relation to the world of work.
It has been fascinating and inspirational to see how different organisations are meeting the unprecedented situations that the pandemic presents. It is also clear that we can all gain in strength from sharing our good and bad experiences, the uncertainties and challenges that we face, the solutions we have each come up with and our hopes (and fears) for the future.
Everybody who has taken part in the discussions so far has been happy for us to share our learnings more widely. This is the first in a series of blog posts that we will produce over the coming weeks and months to do so. If you enjoy it or find it of any use at all, please do share it with your networks. Please also feel free to comment and to add to the pool of ideas and views that we hope to create.
We’ve also committed to facilitating and keeping the dialogue going for as long as there is felt to be a benefit.
So, what are the common themes that have come from our discussions so far?:
The sessions have, so far, been an opportunity to share experience, ideas, challenges, and hopes. One thing is certain, no-one has been in this position before, and as the situation constantly changes, sharing of expertise will be key to leading people through these unprecedented times. Whilst the details vary from organisation to organisation, may of the key themes and challenges are consistent so collaboration, at this time, will be a key enabler.
It’s vital to move the conversation forward in order to keep pace with the changing political, social and business position. We’ve identified the key themes during the initial session and are now pleased to open the following sessions for registration:
Tuesday 12th May
People Focus – The importance of Engagement, Communication and creating Psychological Safety in an evolving, virtual world.
Ryan Tahmassebi, Director of People Science at Hive, David Barber, Owner of Spark Consultants (experts in helping organisations communicate with their people) and Julia Smith, Owner of People Science Consulting will lead this interactive session
Thursday 14th May
Planning Focus – Planning for the ‘Comeback’ and the Importance of Strategic Workforce Planning. Practitioner Insight.
Sharon Findlay, Global Talent Anticipation & Future of Work Leader and Margo Slattery, Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Sodexo will share their experience of ‘back to work planning’, expertise in strategic workforce planning, and how to maintain inclusion when managing the important process to help predict an unpredictable future
Tuesday 19th May
Project Focus – Leading Toward a New Future. Practitioner Insight.
Lindi Teate, Corporate Services Director for NBS shares a robust, and collaborative project management approach to preparing the organisation and their people for the post-pandemic world.
Thursday 21st May
Legal Focus – Considering the legal structures around managing change.
Chris Maddock and Lisa Kelly of the Muckle LLP employment team will share their views and answer questions on the next phase of challenges employers are likely to face in relation to the management of change within their businesses. (Attendees will be able to submit any questions in advance for this session if they wish)
Tuesday 26th May
Leadership Focus – The importance of culture, working collaboratively with Leaders and supporting the development of Managers in an evolving, virtual world.
Emma Cotton, MD of Innovation Central will share her experience of developing Managers to be successful in a virtual world, and how to use this experience to shape future people & business plans.
Please contact email@example.com to register your interest.
Blog 2 - Planning in a New World of Work - The conversation continues....
29 May 2020
Over the last three weeks we’ve continued our weekly series of webinars, with a range of contributors, to keep discussions going and provide peer support for senior HR decision-makers.
Huge thanks go to:
- Ryan Tahmassebi of Hive and David Barber of Spark Consultants;
- Sharon Findlay and Margot Slattery of Sodexo; and
- Lindi Teate of NBS
- Emma Cotton of Innovation Central (Further blog to follow of this session!)
who all helped to lead the discussions in webinars that focussed on specific areas of the challenges that we all face which have in turn contributed to this blog.
We’re keen to share the discussions from those sessions and to continue to build on the key themes that we see in the way that HR and OD leaders are responding to the varied management issues that the all face. Before we look at the specific learning from each of the sessions, from the start of our discussions in early April a number of words keep coming up in everything that we have talked about, which need to be ongoing watchwords for all business leaders:
- TRUST (By far and away the most commonly used word across over 20 hours of discussion to date!)
People Focus – The importance of Engagement, Communication and creating Psychological Safety in an evolving, virtual world.
This session was led by Ryan Tahmassebi, Director of People Science at Hive and David Barber of Spark Consultants (who are experts in helping organisations communicate with their people).
The discussion points to come out of the sessions were:
- There has never been a more important time than now to keep connected with colleagues and the way in which businesses communicate with and support their people is key to future success. People will make bigger judgments about the integrity of their employer than ever before and those views will live long in the memory;
- The test of any relationship is how strong it is in the bad times, as well as the good and employers need to listen to employee feedback (even if it is not always what they want to hear);
- Throughout the response to the pandemic a good thing to constantly think about is the day to day experience that your people have – what can you do to support or influence that?;
- Authenticity and consistency in communications, must be core to the employer’s approach;
- Understanding the neuroscience is important – as humans, we need certainty, so we need to treat our people as adults and provide as much clarity and as little uncertainty as possible (even if at times we will need to say that we don’t know all the answers at the moment!);
- After several weeks of lockdown and teams being dispersed, some people are running low on energy or experiencing communications fatigue– the consensus from the discussions were to speak to your people about what information they want, how frequently and in what format and adapt the strategy around that.. We need to continue to build on the freedom given to many employees to manage their workloads and continue to flex which should help counter that tiredness;
- Communication is all about building trust and security and needs to be a dialogue as far as possible;
- Concentrate on the Why? If people can understand decisions and why they have been taken, with leaders showing empathy in their decision-making, then employees are more likely to accept the difficult decisions;
- There is the need to avoid the paternalistic approach and to forge a “two way” dialogue by asking your people “What do you think?”. Constructive input should be invited wherever possible and remember it is ok to make mistakes if you learn from them;
- Even if you do not have anything new to communicate to your team, communicate something, even if it is to say there is nothing new to report. In times of uncertainty, a void in communications often leads to people coming to their own conclusions;
- Honesty and humility were described as the “gold dust” in managing engagement;
- The importance of leaders as role-models has never been more important – leaders continue to need to be visible and show that they are listening.
Planning Focus – A Practitioner Insight on Planning for the ‘Comeback’ and the Importance of Strategic Workforce Planning.
This session was led by Sharon Findlay, Global Talent Leader and Margot Slattery, Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Sodexo. They shared their experiences of ‘back to work planning’ and their expertise in strategic workforce planning. Sodexo have 400,000+ people across the World including 30,000 employees in the UK. Given their global footprint, they have been dealing with the Pandemic since its origins in China back in January.
The shared learning and discussion points to come out of this session included:
- The importance of personalisation of messaging and understanding how your people will access that message and what understanding they will take from it. Ensuring employees feel they are being addressed individually, with a tailored message, pays huge dividends in terms of engagement;
- Remembering inclusion and that not all employees will have the same circumstances or capability to manage work and home life demands is hugely important. Caring for the individual employee and that “every employee needs to feel that we have got their back” was a key message for many;
- One approach to planning has to be to ask yourself “What are your people afraid of?” and to what extent can we as employers help address those concerns as part of our planning;
- Long-term workforce planning has switched to immediate and shifting workforce planning. Good questions for any employer to ask themselves are:
o Who is essential to bring back in?
o What are the safety elements around that?
o What is “our contract” with those employees?
- Finding out as much as possible (and then adopting) the client perspective on what will be needed is important for many to inform the workforce plan that will need to be adopted and how that will need to flex and adapt over time;
- The language of leadership is important – first and foremost leaders must understand that not everybody feels the same. The “New Normal” for many creates a sense of social anxiety and the appetite for change is different for all – think about business decisions on the basis “How does that feel for all of our people?”
- Employers need to “cut the initiatives, cut the noise” and to continue to focus on the fundamentals of the business messaging;
- People leaders have needed to engage like never before and will need to keep that engagement going and they too need to constantly consider the “contract” between them as manager and the employees that they are responsible for. People leaders need to consider allocating more time for catch ups, to ensure that they don’t become transactional and people have more time for discussion and that the circumstances of each individual can be considered;
- Some organisations are facilitating these discussions by adapting their normal return to work interview processes in order to understand any issues and concerns and how these can be addressed;
- Keep asking yourself how your culture feels? Ensuring employee feedback and the ability to speak up is another core need for many;
- Now more than ever, think about your internal talent pool – what can you do across your business to relocate people to other areas?
Project Focus – A Practitioner Insight on Leading Toward a New Future.
Lindi Teate, Corporate Services Director for NBS shared her collaborative project management approach to preparing the organisation and their people for the future.
The discussions to come out of Lindi’s sessions included:
- Reference was made to a recent interview with Harvard Business School’s Francis Frei who talks about 3 successful components of change:
o Honour the past
o Provide a clear and compelling mandate for change, which COVID-19 has given us all
o Having a rigorous and optimistic view of the future. This session was focused on this component of change.
- No matter how uncertain, having a framework for the planning needed and trying to cross-corelate views is important to inform those plans – think 3, 6 and 9 months initially?
- HR needs to be empowered by the senior leadership team to focus on the change management processes;
- Lindi’s personal approach has been to manage all communications consistently on the basis of:
o Removing any assumptions
o Keeping to the organisation’s values
o Building trust
o Putting employee wellbeing front and centre
- Don’t be to afraid to over-communicate, but always ensure that you engage with your people as adults;
- The importance of great quality conversations and the value of asking your employees questions and listening to their views;
- The polarization of staff and their opinions around a return to work/the circumstances affecting them means that a blended approach is likely to be needed for managing the return to work premises and means the need for holistic planning.
- NBS have used the CIPD’s advice to guide their decision making when it comes to brining people back into a physical workspace:
o Is it essential?
o Is it safe?
o Is it mutually agreed?
Across all sessions, regardless of topic, the need for effective and engaging communication has been a central theme with organisations that get this right, creating opportunity to build back better.
To hear more about this, listen to the ‘It’s a People Thing’ podcast with Maureen Brown, Julia Smith. Dave Barber and Ryan Tahmassebi.
Michael Nicholas MBE
So this is me……
I was born into a working class family in London’s East End. Surrounded by what many would refer to as ‘deprivation’ today. I must say I never felt deprived. I was raised in a community that was illuminating in its diversity – although I didn’t know that!
I was comprehensively educated – or maybe not. With few qualifications, I worked in various environments and for the most part, earned a living. I was a trained painter & decorator and for a short while, self-employed. I have been a deejay and a club promoter in a past life too. The first ‘institution’ I worked in was the Royal Mail and I loved that community too.
I became a father in 1989 and so decided I needed a job with better ‘prospects’ so I applied for the London Fire Brigade, at the behest of a mate who was a ‘fireman’ and told me they were looking for more black people. It was the first time in my life that the colour of my skin was ever mentioned with regards to one of life’s important factors – employment. My application was successful, and I started as a black firefighter in January 1990. I retired as a black fire service manager in October 2018. Confirmed – I was definitely black…..
In the 28yrs and 10 months of my service I did a few other things. I was a senior trade union official on diverse representation, a member of the TUC’s General Council and Race Committee. I was a Labour councillor for 8yrs in the London Borough of Newham. I worked with government to transform the fire service – which still has some way to go. I was the ‘first’ in many roles and positions – most of which were in the 21st century. I was nominated for and received an MBE in recognition of my efforts on diversity in the fire service and to my local community. Well that is what the citation says!!
Most of my working life has been in the public sector, which for a long time was a leader on diversity & inclusion. The private sector seemingly had no need for such ‘initiatives’ until it was proven to impact on their ‘bottom line’. Some in the sector now want to make a change but ‘what is the right way to do the right thing?’
I have an undimmed passion for diversity. Only inclusion takes us forward. Ensuring that we make a genuine effort to look after each other gives us back more than we ever have to give out. My greatest achievement is a great partner (wife) and five children – of whom three are now thankfully adults. Just two more to go…lol.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts and experience with you as we continue the conversation and work together to strive towards real inclusion in work and life.
Diversity and Inclusion
Join the conversation, be the difference
Thursday 30th July 10am – 11.30 (via zoom)
Join us and our amazing panel as we continue our series of Diversity and Inclusion conversation.
Our panel are passionate about promoting Diversity and Inclusion, making opportunity as universal as talent. They will share their passion and expertise, talking about their own experience, what drives them, and answering your questions.
Meet the panel…
Stacey Copeland – Founder, Pave the Way
Stacey Copeland has represented her country in two sports, football and boxing. In 2018 she made history when she became the first ever British woman to win the Commonwealth Boxing title.
In 2017 Stacey founded the Pave The Way project to challenge gender stereotypes, she delivers talks in schools, communities, businesses, and last year spoke at European Parliament and the United Nations about women in sport. She also presents a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Manchester.
Ross Linnett – CEO, Recite Me
Recite Me believes in accessibility for all, allowing everyone the opportunity to use the internet in the way that it is intended. This dream started In the late 90’s when Recite Me CEO, Ross Linnett was diagnosed with dyslexia at university.
Ross was provided with personal assistive technology, but this was limiting as it was based on just one computer. Hence the idea was born for Recite Me.
Approximately one billion people globally have a disability and they can often face barriers when visiting inaccessible websites that prevent them from taking an active part in life.
Recite Me is a cloud-based web accessibility assistive toolbar solution that allows website visitors to customise a site in a way that works best for them.
At a touch of a button, the Recite Me toolbar can be launched providing text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading support aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and many other features.
Recite Me is now a global leading Enterprise SaaS accessibility solution providing support to millions of users in all industries around the world.
Sharon MacArthur – Founder and Menopause Educator, Miss Menopause
Miss Menopause has been created to fill the void of educational services needed by working women as they reach the menopause.
It’s estimated only 3% of companies across the UK are educating their workforce about the symptoms menopause may bring.
100% of women will go through this life event with the average age being 51, however symptoms may begin many years before. Mental health issues can often arise due to menopause as well as a host of other symptoms.
All women want is to be able to work through their menopause. Ignorance can no longer be an excuse.
Sharon has appeared on National TV and is a regular on BBC Radio, making what could be a difficult subject fun and engaging.
Michael Nicholas MBE – Diversity & Inclusion Specialist
Michael was born into a working class family in London’s East End. Surrounded by what many would refer to as ‘deprivation’ today. He became a father in 1989 and so decided he needed a job with better ‘prospects’ and so applied for the London Fire Brigade, at the behest of a mate who was a ‘fireman’ and told Michael they were looking for more black people. It was the first time in his life that the colour of his skin was ever mentioned with regards to one of life’s important factors – employment. His application was successful and he started as a firefighter in January 1990. In the 28yrs and 10 months of his service he did a few other things. Michael was a senior trade union official on diverse representation, a member of the TUC’s General Council and Race Committee. A Labour councillor for 8yrs in the London Borough of Newham, Michael worked with government to transform the fire service and was the ‘first’ in many roles and positions – most of which were in the 21st century. He was nominated for, and received an MBE in recognition of his efforts on diversity in the fire service and to his local community.
With an undimmed passion for diversity, Michael talks passionately about how only inclusion takes us forward.
To book please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org