The importance of keeping wellbeing front of mind #HRtogether

Based in Scotland, Nicola Hewitt is Head of HR at Common Thread.

Coronavirus. We hear it 100 times a day at the moment, but what did it mean for my organisation and my team?

Well, we are a residential childcare provider with some schools too, so the impact has been varied and a bit different from the norm. Firstly, we had to expand the number of employees available to work, as we needed to ensure the young people we support had consistency of service and would not be impacted by coronavirus related staff shortages. This meant as an HR team we focussed on ensuring we could safely recruit a significant number of new employees, while also supporting our existing ones who were under immense pressure and strain. The organisational focus was clearly set on how to make sure the young people we support were not impacted. In turn, the HR team had a clear focus on making sure our staff and teams were fully supported.

Our first port of call was to increase our recruitment efforts, particularly in relation to temporary workers

Commercially, we had to make sure we had enough staff to keep the organisation running safely. I am incredible proud of my team, including Learning and Talent Development, as we had to create a whole new way of recruiting safely while maintaining the integrity of our values-led recruitment. This meant designing and implementing training that could be done remotely while still being effective. Every single team member researched and worked hard to come up with creative solutions to the various challenges. There was lots of learning on the job as we undertook this, but that was part of the fun! Everything still had to reflect the values that our organisation holds dear, and ensure the young people (our customers) had the best experience. I’m completely confident that we got that right (with some tweaks along the way!).

The campaign and onboarding were successful, and I am so proud of the way we all were flexible and insights focussed, driving the change while working within a difficult environment ourselves. We recruited around 60 new staff members in a very short space of time – we are still onboarding some, but most are now proud members of the Common Thread family.

These measures helped alleviate the concerns of existing employees that they wouldn’t need to work endless overtime, but what else did we do?

To show people how we value them we looked more at health and wellbeing

Sometimes, this is a phrase with not much meaning attached. I was determined that this would not be the case. I repurposed some of our therapists to offer support to each of our employees. Myself and the HR team called every single person that was off sick (coronavirus related or not) every two days to check in on how they were and to offer support, we also directed them to a therapist who could provide additional targeted support if needed.

We started “TikTok” challenges across the organisation, shared pictures of bears in windows for bear hunts and shared our window-rainbows, we’ve also clapped for the other keyworkers each week.

We championed working out, offered Yoga and meditation sessions, sent out links to free resources and listened when staff said they wanted or needed something. We’ve also sent video updates from the HR team to deal with FAQs. Feedback was requested and is acted upon.

When we had to start to furlough staff who were shielding or their job was no longer required, we ensured that they still had access to everything we could offer them. They remain important to us and when it is safe and commercially viable to reemploy them, we will.

Importantly, as an organisation we were able increase our sick pay provisions to cover full pay for anyone self-isolating due to coronavirus. It was the right thing to do and demonstrated ethical practice, it also helped relieve the anxiety that a lot of our staff were experiencing.

Overall, I am proud of all the people in my organisation and their reaction and resilience to the pandemic. My team in particular have demonstrated that anything is possible when you make decisions that are ethical, evidence based, and values led. Well done! We are always #HRtogether

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