#HRDLife 13th Jan

Posted / January 13, 2020

A monthly, behind-the-scenes outlook on day-to-day HR issues from Chief People & Operations Officer Lynn Smith, Assoc. CIPD  

Lynn is a Zurich, RBS Group and Capita alumna and through #HRDLife, will be sharing her perspective on current HR trends, the process of implementation and how they affect employees in real terms. Lynn’s personal insights into workplace wellbeing have previously been viewed by millions on social media.

Most of us occasionally have those days when we’d rather be under the duvet with just a pint of salted caramel ice-cream for company instead of making the daily trek to work – especially in winter. More often than not, those feelings pass by the time you get to your desk and the day turns out to be productive and even enjoyable, before it’s time to go home and relax. Sometimes, the desire to be alone is more than just a passing craving for sugar and snuggling with your teddy bear and we’re better off addressing certain feelings before they fester and get worse. 

Everyone has ‘mental health’ and the degree to which we sustain damage to it can fluctuate on an hourly basis, depending on many factors, like the state of our relationships, our bank balances or even a traumatic event. When everything is going well for us, it’s important to remember that the people we work with may not be going through a similar ‘good patch’. Our staff have diverse needs and may require extra support from HR at times. Work is where we spend most of our day, after all, so applying emotional intelligence when it comes to dealing with staff is a moral duty as well as one that will no doubt affect output. Unhappy workers who feel chained to their desk and ‘unseen’ are sure to be clock-watching and not in the right mindframe to produce their best work.  

“Subservience from HR”

A member of staff contacted me one morning and was upfront with her needs, sharing with me that she ‘Just needed to be at home and have some peace and quiet’. She was comfortable enough to be totally frank and I was pleased about that. I have an open door policy and in cases like these, it seems to help with making people feel at ease with our HR department. She apologised for her feelings, as my fellow women often do (that’s an entirely different conversation) and I told her there was no need to do so. Our CEO empowers the HR function so we were able to advise the colleague to “go and do what you need to do”. 

Mental health and stress is an area we at MyEva have conducted research into and we were dismayed to learn that almost 70% of users lie awake at night worrying about work. With this in mind, we are doing all we can to inject humanity into every policy we create, to minimise the effects on those who are trying to manage their mental health and achieve balance. 

As integral as people are to any business, I was slightly taken aback to learn that there are still many managers and execs who appear to disagree! I got talking to some senior leaders from various organisations at a recent industry event and was given the impression that there is still work to be done in empowering HR and giving them a voice, rather than feeling subservient to other parts of their business. The value HR can bring to the top table is immense.  

It got me thinking about how I gain respect from my colleagues, to the point where I felt I had to ask them.  The responses given were; 

  • ‘You understand the business and the issues faced’
  • ‘You ask questions which made people think and you listen and encourage’
  • ‘You start with the people first – internal teams and external customers’  
  • ‘We know you are genuinely there to support and help us get the best outcome’.

“People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”

An example of how HR’s sensitivity towards individuals can directly help with top-level work happens regularly at MyEva HQ. As an organisation we do regular pulse checks; however there is nothing better to gauge the mood than stopping and asking people how they are doing.  You can pick up so much from the response; body language and general energy radiating from that person. A few weeks ago, the exec team in particular had all shown signs of being tired and of needing motivation. I would include myself in that too, as I had been stepping-up my mindfulness practices. 

I advised Andrew, our CEO and we agreed that it was right to change tact for the exec meeting; making it a check-in meeting; much lighter on additional actions and more interactive. Andrew also agreed that it was a good idea to wait and give another week for the team to complete actions from that meeting. By the end of the day, the team were more relaxed, invigorated and felt appreciative of the time they were given to reflect on their achievements.

So, far from being a ‘fluffy, nice to have’, the examples above alone prove that HR deserves its place at the top table across all industries. We are central to shaping culture and environment, ensuring our people are recognised and treated as individuals,  as well as the usual – ensuring people are paid on time and receive useful benefits, following fair grievance policies…need I go on?! 

The old adage that says ‘People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’ is something HR teams are all too familiar with and is something myself and the rest of our executive team always keep front of mind!   

For more on financial wellbeing in the workplace, join our LinkedIn community to see how others are improving the financial wellbeing of their workforce. 

Share