During the pandemic organisations went through significant behavioural change as we all adapted to new ways of working. It led to many positive changes for the employee experience, but how can we sustain these beyond the pandemic?
British Business Bank and StepChange have both played an important role in the UK’s COVID response and have seen the way they work change dramatically in the last year. We invited them to share their experiences of leading organisational change during the pandemic and how they are engaging and motivating their colleagues.
Thank you to Helen Norris, Chief People Officer at British Business Bank and Sian Evans, Director of HR at StepChange for sharing their insights at our webinar ‘Sustaining behavioural change in Financial Services’.
Communicate, communicate and communicate again
When it comes to bringing employees through change, both Helen and Sian stressed the importance of effective and frequent communication. Tell employees what’s coming, explain its impact and benefits for them and give them an opportunity to share feedback. The pandemic has shown that rapid change is possible, but that doesn’t mean you have to get it right first time. Like Helen said, “There’s no right answer to what we should be doing through COVID.” So follow up with change, listen to what works and if it doesn’t work, change it until it’s right for your organisation.
Alongside communicating new ways of working, Helen highlighted the need to acknowledge what people are going through and help them to be more resilient, confident and optimistic. Ensure messages of care, empathy and honesty run through all your communications and admit that as leaders you don’t have all the answers. Sian shared that this sincerity from leaders has been recognised as a strength by StepChange’s employees.
To keep line managers up to date, British Business Bank created toolkits and virtual sessions to help them adapt to leading remote teams. Managers have also been encouraged to check in regularly with their teams. Simply asking “how are you?” shows you care about their situation and that they have a support system available.
Effective ways to communicate with colleagues:
|Virtual training sessions & conversations||Line managers||Build manager confidence in leading remote teams|
|1:1s||Line managers||Check-in moments for managers and individuals|
|New starter breakfasts||New starters||Connect new colleagues with one another|
|Thursday Fizz||All colleagues||Chance to socialise and reconnect with colleagues|
|SLTea||All colleagues||Opportunity to chat informally with the senior team.|
|Coffee Roulette||All colleagues||Connect with new colleagues for those ‘water cooler’ moments|
|Company-wide action plans||All colleagues||Communicate post-survey actions and timings.|
|“You Said, We Did”||All colleagues||Communicate changes made since employee survey – linked directly to employee feedback.|
Align what you say with what you do
Colleagues can become disillusioned with behavioural change when what they are seeing on a day-to-day basis doesn’t reflect what they are being asked to do.
This cultural mismatch is something StepChange have been working hard to improve in the last few years, and which has led to a significant increase in employee engagement. StepChange is a debt charity that offers free, expert advice to individuals struggling financially. They talk to clients about the importance of savings that can be used to pay for unexpected costs, but comments in their employee survey suggested that StepChange weren’t doing the same for their colleagues.
StepChange took action to embed their vision, mission and values into internal procedures and policies, so that everything they said externally was reflected in the employee experience. This led to a reassessment of their pay and rewards programme, ensuring StepChange were a Real Living Wage employer and that employees had an easy, accessible way to save for their retirement. And when the pandemic hit, StepChange continued their commitment by topping up furlough to 100% in order not to disadvantage colleagues.
This need for consistency between action and culture was also recognised by British Business Bank as they adapted to the pandemic. A healthy and inclusive work culture was critical to supporting their colleagues through lockdown and this was cultivated through leadership comms, remote working policies and changes to the employee experience. Many of British Business Bank’s existing benefits could support the work and personal challenges colleagues were experiencing, so a lot of work was put into communicating these and making sure colleagues were aware of the benefits available. British Business Bank also revisited their policies around annual leave, pay and recognition to ensure they could suit the current situation. For example, there is greater flexibility to carry over holiday days and parents and carers are given full pay for time spent caring for children or vulnerable relatives.
Support physical, mental and financial wellbeing
Employee wellbeing has long been a priority for organisations, but the toll of the pandemic on colleagues has accelerated the support on offer. Providing physical, emotional and financial wellbeing support has helped maintain engagement with rapid change, and demonstrate that organisations are putting people first.
Recognising the strains of lockdown and remote working, British Business Bank introduced ‘Wellbeing Hour’ – an hour every Wednesday, where across the business colleagues stop work to take some personal time whether going for a walk, doing exercise or connecting with a friend. While not initially embraced by everybody, this hour is now embedded into British Business Bank’s DNA.
Colleague feedback suggests that people are finding the current lockdown more challenging than those of 2020. Social activities and interaction have been key to keeping people connected and engaged, particularly for those living on their own. From quizzes to running clubs to virtual coffee breaks, social activities that encourage colleagues to take a break and reconnect have been crucial during the pandemic.
StepChange’s colleagues often take calls from clients in very difficult circumstances, so “Me Time” is a wellbeing initiative that invites colleagues to take some time out to process and decompress after such a call. StepChange also modified their sick pay arrangement, to allow full sick pay for all colleagues during the pandemic, and provided paid Time Off For Dependents, recognising the need for this amongst colleagues with caring duties.
Thank you to Helen Norris and Sian Evans for sharing their insights and experiences. Watch our Learn & Share webinar replay for more inspiration and tips.
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