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Engagement, Well-Being and Performance

The European Coffee Club Series – key takeaways

With travel and face to face meetings on hold, the ChapmanCG Europe team have been busy recreating the opportunity for HR best practice exchange virtually.

Recent gatherings for our HR communities in the UK, Holland and France will be followed by more over the next few months in Switzerland, Ireland, Germany and the Nordics.

Thank you to all those who have attended and shared openly and honestly on challenges, successes and what the future might hold.

The conversation has been wide-ranging and we have attempted to summarise some of the key soundbites below. These are a collection of ideas and insights into the challenges, trials and successes of the last 12 months and the next 12 months as we move into an unpredictable future. This is intended to be a snapshot of ‘what is on people’s minds’ around the region regarding these pertinent topics.

There has been an overwhelming consensus that new practises are still very much trial and error and HR leaders can be pivotal in this innovation. But the emphasis is on piloting, iterating and looking at progressive options for the future. The pandemic has shown we are adaptable and this should be celebrated.

The Future of Work – Returning to the Workplace

  • What this return to work looks like will certainly evolve over time. Whatever decisions are made now could change again in a month, 3 months, 6 months, a year. Agility is therefore paramount and flexible scenario planning for each market.
  • Many employees are now saying that they want to be back in the office, possibly fuelled by the swift move to the extreme end of virtual working so quickly.  However, it’s clear that organisations need to rethink the purpose of the office.
  • There is a need to create a value for being in the office. What makes it different from being at home every day. If it is to be stuck in front of a computer and not talk to anyone what is the point?
  • Office days should be about face-to-face interaction, socialising and team collaboration so as much as possible the whole team should be in collaborating rather than constantly “on the phone”.
  • “Team Spirit” – some teams have been successful, even remotely, at keeping things together. Others now need the office opportunity to bring that back. It is vital to get this sense of team back before cliques and additional separation occurs.
  • Re-designing the office may have to wait until new structures and processes for the office have settled over time. When it does happen, the concept of hybrid working will need to be taken into consideration. Office space will be about collaboration rather than having a desk.
  • As the return develops, Town Halls and catch-up group meetings will be even more vital to ensure that everyone is kept up to date with what is happening.
  • Companies need to think about whether a return to the office is suitable for all. Can roles be done remotely and if so, do those people want to be in those roles? What can be adapted that suits the individual as well as the company?
  • Moving to flexible hours that are required for the role and the job. So, if time off is needed to collect children, go for a walk, get some exercise, it doesn’t necessarily get taken out of the working day. The traditional 9-5 was on its way out and already seems somewhat archaic.
  • There is a real challenge between how we communicate to office-based employees and those that are on the ‘shop floor’, for example retail, manufacturing, supply chain. The well-being and support considerations are different and it is important that this is reflected in the communications so that no one is excluded and it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’.
  • Some companies have established a wave system and trialling capacity over time. This helps ensure that the setup works but also manages the expectations of the business as to how many people can be and will be in the office.
  • “Open working” was a popular concept giving employees the true flexibility to choose – 5 days a week is no longer necessary as the norm.
  • Flexible holiday – We are already seeing this in some of the progressive organisations, where the set quota is removed and employees are able to take time off when they need it. The real impact here is ensuring that people do take proper time off and you have a culture where it is not looked down upon.

Well-Being Evolving as a Function

  • There is more emphasis on the leadership to drive top-down support and that helps the implementation of initiatives.
  • It’s equally important to foster dialogue from the ground up – initiatives like the Mood & Morale chatbox. People are willing to share as they don’t feel judged. Everyone has been affected differently in the various lockdowns so their needs from a well-being perspective will be different. It’s important to listen to the individual.
  • Tactically we are seeing allocated periods of time where there are no zoom meetings such as ‘’zoom free Fridays” to allow for normal work / time away from being “on” all the time.
  • When it comes to well-being, there is a human need to make up for the fact that you’re not visible and this has an additional impact on the mental health of the individual.

Engagement and Performance

  • Being fully virtual is also affecting general employee engagement but it is also increasing why people want to return to the office to reignite the engagement.
  • Learning is missing – employees aren’t as engaged as they once were with online learning. Mentoring and personal development aren’t the same. Those more senior hires over the pandemic have managed to find their way through onboarding and making connections but those just starting out are struggling.
  • Graduates and new joiners – many organisations were unprepared last year, so they need to ensure that there are processes in place ready for this year. Onboarding needs to be engaging and bring a sense of collaboration even if virtual. 
  • Revamping benefits moving forward – we can no longer talk about the gym membership, flexible working and bringing the dog to the office.
  • Leadership has evolved over the last 12 months but there is still work to be done to drive more joined-up thinking in certain organisations. There is a new breed of leadership needed through the lens of the pandemic and how this has affected people.  There is a need to encourage leaders back into a leadership role but in this changed world. The is a view that many of the senior teams don’t buy into the change – they still feel that this is an “exceptional” year. Coaching and leadership development will be important to guide middle and senior management through these times.
  • Global vs local – there needs to be a global approach but then more empowerment at the local level. Leaders need to look at the company culture and re-create the connection between the people and the business. It is clear that there is progression, but it varies between industries as well as countries and company maturity.
  • Data – there is now real importance in using the data to help frame the solution, whether that’s from pulse surveys or annual employee engagement surveys. Surveys based on values and key questions on the working environment can be used effectively to gauge sentiment and engagement

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Key Contributors:

Anna Taylor

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Anna Taylor

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Anna is a Senior Director with ChapmanCG. She works as part of the global team to identify senior HR leadership talent and build out ChapmanCG’s HR network worldwide.

Originally from New Zealand, Anna has worked in Auckland, London and more recently in France. With over a decade of search experience, she leads regional and global HR searches across a variety of industries. Having recently returned to New Zealand, Anna supports clients in the US and around the world.

Prior to joining ChapmanCG, she worked for a boutique technology search firm specialising in helping both multi-national corporates and venture capital-funded start-ups expand throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Anna has an MSc in Psychology from Canterbury University and enjoys travel, yoga and the odd half marathon in her spare time – although she can be easily convinced to postpone a training session for good wine with friends instead.

Graham Tollit

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Graham Tollit

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Graham is a Senior Director with ChapmanCG based in the United Kingdom. He is passionate about building long-term partnerships and his current focus is on European and global search mandates, working with the team to identify high-calibre HR talent across EMEA and internationally.

With over twenty years in executive search, Graham has a successful track record delivering across multiple industry sectors and specialist functions with many of the top global multinationals. He has a deep interest and knowledge of the HR profession, future of work and a big advocate of the importance around mental health and wellness in the workplace. Before a return to the UK in 2017, Graham spent seven years based in Singapore.

Graham’s personal interests revolve around his family and you could find him either on the golf course or exploring a new city or coastline somewhere.

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