Posted / December 19, 2019
A monthly, behind-the-scenes outlook on day-to-day HR issues from Chief People & Operations Officer Lynn Smith, Assoc. CIPD
Lynn is a Capita, Caerus and Honister Capital 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.
Who knew my inquisitiveness (or, as my best mate calls it, ‘being a nosy parker’) could have proved so helpful when it came to understanding how to help my staff better?! I asked myself this very question when my LinkedIn post about a conversation I overheard on the train gained tens of thousands of interactions – wasn’t expecting that!
I was taken aback by the responses, some of which added to the conversation in the form of public comments and some in the form of private InMail messages. Another #transparencymoment – at one point, I was in tears looking through my inbox! One DM was from a single mother of two, who had contacted me in the small hours, confessing that she found ‘claiming back travel costs after paying out of pocket’ difficult and asked me if I could “please do something”.
The lady had nothing to do with our business and we’d never spoken before, but she spurred me on to get into action and change our rules around expenses as soon as possible, so MyEva and the wider Wealth Wizards staff members would never have to get into a similar situation. A month on, I’m pleased to report that I’ve implemented a new travel policy which doesn’t require anyone to wait for reimbursement and have advised our line managers to explain the new way of doing things to their team.
“I would’ve done this sooner!”
Creating this type of financial safety net for employees may seem simple and even obvious to many HRDs, but I am embarrassed to say, I hadn’t considered these types of scenarios until I connected with the lady on the train’s despair.
Anonymised research carried out with MyEva app users demonstrates that this type of financial stress is a reality for 58% of respondents, who said they would “struggle or panic” with an unexpected expense. For those who live in a two income household, or who like myself, have managed to save a bit over the years, for instance, these situations may seem alien – yet another stark reminder of how much HR policy-making should be based on empathy.
There is much work being done by public and private sector organisations (in addition to MyEva) that highlights that most of the UK workforce is living with no savings and no clear grasp on retirement planning.
“Another ‘heart in mouth’ moment”
So as of now, all staff are clear on the fact that they should ask their line manager or our HR team to book work trips on their behalf, helping to avoid uncomfortable conversations about affordability; which is one small win.
Yet another ‘heart in mouth’ moment happened shortly after we introduced the new travel guidelines, only this time it was a little closer to home.
Two of our business development execs, Jade and Leah, were travelling from Leamington to London, representing MyEva at a trade show and were forced to leave an unsafe accommodation; that they had arranged themselves via a well-known travel website. After sourcing and paying for the room themselves, they called the private host landlord, who demanded that they bring him “£300 in cash” immediately. The call understandably raised alarm bells and thankfully they were able to stay with Jade’s brother, who lived in another part of the city.
Jade and Leah couldn’t get hold of their line manager or myself on the phone that evening and did not have access to any company funds, so without Jade’s brother, they could have been left in serious danger. As a foster mum and God-parent to five, my mummy bear instincts wanted to guard against something like that happening again, especially where younger members of the team were concerned.
“Look out for your people”
To that end, we introduced a debit card for the company, as an alternative to a corporate credit card. The requirements for a company debit card allow for stronger cashflow in case of emergencies, whereas with a credit card, we have to have cash to the value of everyone’s individual credit limit available; as a sort of guarantee to the bank.
I’m chuffed that we’ve been able to pull together as a company and approve these new policies sooner rather than later. As a result, it’s been slightly more hectic than it usually is at this time of year, so I will be especially well-deserving when it comes to putting my feet up over Christmas 2019!
No matter how many ticks on the to-do list you’re left with (or not) at the end of the day, you’d feel a lot worse if you didn’t look out for your people at the expense of getting other stuff done on time. When you’re responsible for people’s welfare and you unintentionally let them down, it’s only right that we do everything we can as HR to put that right, before we turn our hand to anything else.
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