FF Why is employee wellbeing so important?
TM The concept of wellbeing – of people, society and plant Earth is deeply embedded in our approach and philosophy we call KAITEKI. Our vision of Value for Tomorrow goes beyond just being responsible in the way we operate – we believe in applying KAITEKI to all aspects of our people approach. We may be a company that is highly reliant on sophisticated technology, plant and processes but we understand that our long-term success will actually only be optimised through having a people centred approach. That’s why we’re so focussed on creating an environment where our business, our people, and the world they live in, can thrive.
FF How does the HR approach support the and wellbeing of the business as well as the personal wellbeing of employees? TM Our ambition is to develop and grow sustainably for the long-term; for the benefit of customers, suppliers, employees and our community. We know that achieving the wellbeing of our business requires taking care of the development of employees, making sure we have the key skills and talent available and shaping the organisation in a way which best supports customers with their future needs. We therefore manage succession planning for the long-term – for instance, we have consistently taken on apprentices and graduates over the years as well as bringing in external expertise as needed to help us develop. We manage technical and leadership development’ programmes and bespoke training, where needed, to suit individual and business needs.
This is one side of the HR approach. To complement the development of HR systems, training programmes and succession planning, we focus on creating an environment where everyone can thrive and where we take responsibility to look after our own and others’ wellbeing. This isn’t something that can be achieved with one action – it requires activities and values to be applied and embedded across a number of areas, and at every level in the organisation, so that a wellbeing focus becomes part of everything we do. The core themes of wellbeing for the business and for our people are therefore totally complementary.
FF How is it possible to manage and promote wellbeing consistently throughout a large business with many departments and styles of operation? TM To help us to define the areas in which we need to focus we have created a wellbeing framework. There are many initiatives and activities happening within each of the areas, but in the extraordinary context of this year’s COVID-19 pandemic our approach to maintaining mental wellbeing provides a good example of the supportive environment we had already created in advance of the pandemic and the additional initiatives we have been taking as the pandemic emerged to protect and nurture our employees’ wellbeing.
During 2019 and in Q1 of 2020, mental health awareness sessions were already being run at different locations across the company and via our intranet. An internal wellbeing survey was used to get people talking about what they found helpful and to share ideas on good mental health. This initiative was supported with skills development for managers for supportive conversations. This is a leadership skills course, raising awareness with managers about how to look for and notice the signs when a supportive conversation might be needed, how to open up that conversation, listen properly and then empathise and support – either with signposting to specialist help or with discussing what can be done within the work environment. In the current climate we are having to run these courses virtually with the senior team and we now have plans to roll them out further.
FF Has the focus on the importance of wellbeing become more intense because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for some employees to work from home for prolonged periods? TM We have been delighted by the resilience of our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have risen to the challenge of keeping the business operational as normal – achieving a major overhaul of our UK plant safely and continuing to develop our Alpha 3 project. But we recognise how tough it has been for everyone. As with the rest of the population, we have all experienced different challenges and concerns about our personal situation, our health, and that of our families, friends and colleagues.
To help support our employees, managers have been in regular close contact with their teams, making use of virtual meetings wherever possible, to discuss practical issues with home/work environment and to listen to and support with other concerns and issues as needed. During the summer, a ‘being kind to yourself and others’ booklet was issued to all employees with support on practical suggestions – sleep, stretches, things to try – as well as reminders about our company Employee Assistance Programme, a confidential support helpline open to all employees.
FF What are your future plans for the wellbeing approach?
TM As we go forward, we are continuing to develop our picture of sustainable development. We will continue to use our wellbeing and culture surveys to seek feedback and ideas from employees about what they need and how they think they can contribute. Our ambition is for wellbeing to be recognised as playing just as important a role as our HSE policies and behaviours. To achieve this we know we will need to make interventions at all levels in the organisation because to truly develop an environment where everyone can thrive, we need the behaviours, skills and processes embedded right across the business. In our future vision, wellbeing will be part of an employee’s day to day life from induction through development, personal review, succession planning; and career development. Because at the heart of KAITEKI Value for Tomorrow is the wellbeing of people.