In the latest of our series of The Big Interview, we explore the challenges presented over the past few months by Covid-19 with Corinne Williams, HR Director at Prepay Solutions (part of the Edenred Group). Corinne has navigated significant change management during this time and shares her experiences below.
What role has the HR function played in enabling the company to face the pandemic?
I have had three key areas of responsibility. 1. Ensuring all employees are safe and stay connected 2. Ensuring all employees receive regular, helpful communications and 3. Heightened awareness of health & wellbeing and providing clarity on where to go for help should it be needed. These 3 things have remained and continue remain high on the HR agenda and are constantly reviewed against feedback from colleague workers across the business.
What have been the major challenges you’ve navigated during the pandemic?
In 3 stages – Lockdown, Continued Lockdown, Ease Out of Lockdown.
Lockdown challenges included setting up home working, providing the right equipment/access to systems/expense processing.
Continued lockdown challenges included provision of virtual leadership, moving training to be delivered digitally, health and wellbeing provision being moved to virtual delivery and working with essential workers who needed to continue their presence in the office for critical activities.
Ease out is ongoing but challenges include preparing and maintaining COVID secure work environments, continued adherence to Government guidelines/rules, ensuring personal circumstances are known and taken into consideration when staff start to return to work, staff rotas to ensure no one team mixes with another and that the 50/50 staff in/out is maintained in case of a second peak.
Provision of correct PPS for reception workers, review of relevant policies such as Home Working Policy, GDPR, Personal protection and Emergency leave policies continue to evolve and we need to reflect that moving element.
How has the business changed since lockdown?
We were lucky, the business only furloughed 2% of its workforce and now only has 1% on furlough leave. Some business channels have declined but others have increased due mainly to the improved and needed position to digital/electronic payments. The business has also realised that it could if it so desired, to work almost entirely remotely and therefore a new level of trust has been found.
What worked well and what would you do differently if you could?
We have recently surveyed our people and we have received positive feedback in terms of the handling/management of the pandemic. We immediately constructed a COVID team of relevant members who met every day to review/status monitor, people, processes and business critical activities. They worked well. What didn’t work so well and therefore we would do differently from an HR perspective is instant reporting, a more defined and on-line approach and developed more quickly a people status dashboard accessed by EXECO on a daily basis. This would have removed what is quite time-consuming reporting.
From your experiences, what advice would you give other HR professionals in sectors that are beginning to reopen as lockdown eases?
Every business has their own situation to face but my advice would be to:
- Engage with a 3rd party to complete your COVID secure risk assessment.
- Provide transparent and regular updates to your workforce to show the plans as they emerge and inevitably change
- Provide all the necessary equipment especially PPE and don’t underestimate the number of very granular questions that you will be asked. A Q&A document will work as part of your communications strategy.