From virtual onboarding to wellbeing, how the CIPD has been supporting its people during COVID-19 #HRtogether

Brad Taylor is the CIPD's Director of People, OD and Workplace, responsible for employees across the UK, Ireland, Asia and Middle East.

Every business should have a strong, well-rehearsed business continuity plan... 

Yet rehearsals typically centred on bomb threats and power outages. Dealing with a pandemic? It had been a while since we’d thought about that one. Yet, quickly businesses have adapted. We’ve all had to. Like many organisations, in a short space of time we at the CIPD had redeployed all of our people to home-working, with our HR, IT and Workplace teams working hard together to get laptops and equipment out to those who needed them. Our HR team played a key role in co-ordinating the CIPD’s internal response; from quickly gathering insight about people risks and capabilities, through to the workforce planning needed in response to the uncertainty the crisis has created. The CIPD has offices around the world in London, Dublin, Dubai and Singapore. The majority of our people are based out of our head office in Wimbledon. In the second week of March we ran a two-day resilience test in response to the emerging pandemic; to see how our organisation could respond to a full working from home scenario. Thankfully, it went well.

A move to home working

By the following Monday, in response to the escalating pandemic, everyone working for the CIPD switched to working from home for the foreseeable future. We learnt fast that much can be done remotely thanks to technology and greater empowerment of people. The beliefs about the ‘way work has to be done’ were being challenged to the core, and a new normal seems to be emerging. In fact, this has resulted in our people adapting to new collaborative technology much faster than we would ever have been able to achieve previously.

We established and communicated some early principles to our people to help navigate the emerging crisis:

  • Operate flexibly to deliver as many of our key services as possible which our members and customers rely on, albeit sometimes in innovative ways.
  • Look after our people whilst running the business responsibly.
  • Act decisively and with as much clarity as possible – escalate issues early and seek advice where necessary.

Wellbeing was a significant part of our planning and response to the situation.

Our OD team established a focus on the following areas, to build community, support wellbeing and enable performance:

  • Building Remote Working Skills: Microsoft Teams training, a Homeworking toolkit and a ‘How to Huddle’ guidance pack for managers (effectively a meeting-in-a-box for remote managers!) 
  • Wellbeing: mindfulness classes, HIIT and Yoga classes, EAP and supporting our Mental Health Champions, producing a wellbeing conversation guide for managers and a ‘managing wellbeing’ pack for managers.
  • Building Community: a new starters network, and our Book Club and Choir were moved onto virtual platforms. Our CIPD HR and OD teams, led by Georgina Powell and Dee Raval respectively, have worked tirelessly to support our people around the world. New people joining the organisation remotely have been provided with virtual inductions and ongoing support from their HR Business Partners.
  • People Data: teams have carefully monitored our people data analytics to observe levels of engagement and where people are seeking support and guidance.
  • Here to listen: we’ve been on video calls and listened as people talk about their personal challenges; ensuring we’re there for them when they just needed to think things through with someone who cares.

In building our future, health, safety and wellbeing remains our priority. We have surveyed all of our people to better understand the types of technology they are using, how that has affected productivity and their attitudes and opinions about where they would like to work in the future. We anticipate that a very small number will come back into our offices in the next few months, but for the majority we will continue to enable them to work from home.

We are hearing our people tell us that they feel more connected and our engagement scores have increased

The organisation and its people have risen collectively to the challenge. We have also worked with our people managers to come up with flexible solutions that both encourage personal responsibility and also ensure people are being looked after. These include encouraging use of holiday allowance sooner rather than later, but also the ability to have extended carry-over options because of disrupted holiday plans this year. Through open, honest and pro-active approaches with our people we have an organisation that has risen to the challenge admirably. As a result, the CIPD has been there to support and champion its members during one of the biggest challenges we have seen in our lifetimes.

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