HR Stars is our series of interviews with prominent industry figures, who reveal the unique ways in which they’re fostering wellbeing in their workplaces. This time, we talk to GEMMA POWELL, MCIPD, HR Director at Centrick, “a company of knowledgeable industry experts with a joined up approach to all aspects of residential property. Innovation is at the heart of everything we do, helping us to adapt to the ever-changing market.”
1. Tell us about the importance of workplace wellbeing to the success of your business?
For the year ahead, Health and Wellbeing is a key area within the People Strategy. We recognise that by placing importance on employee wellbeing, our people will be happier, more engaged and will want to come to work. We’re excited about the initiatives we have planned and we’ve already got the buy-in from the board and management team for our vision and objectives.
2. What particular initiatives do you have in place?
Mental Health First Aid – we already have first aiders and a health and safety officer within the business; what’s next for us is to ensure a number of staff undertake the MHFA course so they can support those who need it. We’re not short of volunteers!Our employee assistance programme (EAP) – we have partnered with Perkbox who provide us with their Perks platform as well as Recognition and Insights. This means we can offer our staff a range of discounts as well as an EAP which offers lots of information and links from their provider, Health Assured. They also provide a 24/7 helpline for staff to call and speak with a legal advisor or counsellor – it’s free and completely confidential. Through Recognition, staff can publicly (or privately) praise their peers or team members, creating a culture where we thank each other and show appreciation.
Our e-learning platform – we are in the process of finding a great partner to provide us with an e-learning platform and content to upskill our managers and teams on a range of topics including mindfulness, managing stress and wellbeing at work.
We’ve partnered with a local gym – The Club and Spa, Birmingham, who offer us a corporate rate for membership as well as regular offers for the spa. We’ve recently moved offices and we’ve worked with The Club and Spa on a ‘New office – New you’ day where gym and spa staff will come in to offer our employees 15-minute neck and shoulder massages as well as health checks, competitions, smoothies and giveaways.
Our office spaces – we work to ensure our employees have nice, spacious areas to work in with the right equipment and environment to have a good day at work. It sounds basic but we’re constantly thinking about ways to improve job duties, facilities and décor.
We offer a paid corporate responsibility day once per year so staff can embark on charity work of either their choice or with our affiliated charity Reconnected, which is a charity for the homeless based in Birmingham.
3. How have they impacted the business?
Some of our initiatives are in the making so it’s too soon to tell but they are in place in part due to requests from the management team who want to be better skilled in supporting staff who are experiencing mental health issues. We have a real caring culture and like to make sure we are supporting each other.
Our EAP has been a great tool for us to promote when we are trying to help our employees.
Some of the initiatives we have in the pipeline have been announced and the feedback so far has been very positive.
We have also tasked our Social Committee (a group of staff who organise our fundraising and social events) with linking some of their events with the NHS calendar so we can get more involved in promoting national campaigns.
From what staff tell me, they appreciate that their employer is going above and beyond the norm to explore ways to provide more assistance and support for staff who need it. In the past 12 months, we’ve certainly seen a marked improvement on our staff retention, engagement levels and absence rates.
4. What would you like to improve on or implement in the future?
Our ability to really adopt flexible or even agile working. We are accommodating of employees’ needs and will always follow our process, giving due consideration to flexible working requests, honouring them where we can. Research points to the future of work being agile, allowing for employees to manage their other commitments, reduce travel and day-to-day pressure or stress and in turn seeing increased productivity with an effective and engaged workforce. The tricky task is trying to move closer to this model but still servicing client needs and operating a business within set hours in a customer-focused environment. The concept is all still very new and we are currently exploring our options.
I also think in a fast-paced environment, we can be guilty of focusing on the operational requirements of the job, forgetting about the softer skills that are key to managing and getting the most out of people. Any business can have a wellbeing strategy but I think the challenge comes with buy-in and whether managers have the time to engage in the practical side of this, like watching the e-learning videos and having meaningful conversations with their staff – there’s always the excuse of a lack of time.
5. What is the number one principle of human resources/workplace wellbeing that you'd pass on to a younger HR manager?
To tailor your advice to suit the manager. Sometimes you’ll be supporting a manager who is very competent and knowledgeable so all you’ll need to do is check in and steer whereas others will need much more support every step of the way. The same goes with the amount of detail you provide – as HR, your job is to ensure the business is protected and people are managed consistently and fairly. If ultimately you’ll steer to the same outcome and ensure you are compliant, don’t sweat the small stuff – there are many different management styles so just get to know what they are and tailor your approach to suit so you get the most out of them. A bonus tip is to be as helpful, supportive and as available as possible so that managers and staff approach you.