Narrow Quay HR runs a series of HR Clubs throughout the year and the most recent is summarised in this article. If readers want to sign up to the next session, the link is set out below. 

Narrow Quay is an HR consultancy, which is part of the VWV group.

The latest Narrow Quay HR Club looked at ‘How Organisations Can Thrive in the New Normal’ with guest speaker, business performance psychologist Graham Mitchell discussing the vital role that employee engagement has to play, in order to build back up organisational performance in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the impact on workplaces. 

Narrow Quay HR – Caitlin Anniss

Caitlin Anniss from Narrow Quay HR opened the event by reflecting on the current position and the continuing impact of COVID-19, reminding us that in early Spring, it was clear that something called COVID-19 was going to have an impact on our daily lives and it was on 23 March 2020 the nation went into lockdown shortly before the furlough scheme was announced on 26 March, entitling eligible employees to be furloughed from work and receive 80% of their earnings. 

Whilst Caitlin described the gradual easing of restrictions throughout July and August, she referenced the huge logistical challenges faced by employers in achieving a COVID-19 safe return to the workplace, alongside the additional concerns such as employees who are shielding, those who can’t work their full hours because of childcare issues and quarantine arrangements when returning from a number of countries. She referred to the CIPD’s helpful guidance to employers on the issue of employees returning to workplaces; is it essential that staff return to work? Is it safe? Is it mutually agreed?

Narrow Quay HR has been working with clients throughout the lockdown period and beyond as they try to work out the best options for their businesses, whether that was utilising the furlough scheme or working out how to get their staff back into workplaces safely and, more recently, working with organisations who are having to reorganise or consider redundancies. Caitlin mentioned that many businesses are reviewing how they work given the changes they have had to make, and considering newer, more flexible ways of working which may benefit both them and their staff. The Government’s change of position on employees returning to the workplace will no doubt produce further conversations.

It is clear now that the impact of COVID-19 is not going to be short-lived and neatly tied up within a matter of months as we first hoped. We are having to continue to learn to live with the impact of the pandemic in both our personal lives and our working lives.

Guest Speaker – Graham Mitchell

Graham started off by looking at two key areas – what employee engagement actually is and then considering the wide ranging impact and benefit of engagement. Graham’s stressed the importance of harnessing employee’s ‘discretionary effort’, often thought of as ‘going the extra mile’ or moving from ‘what I have to give you’ to ‘all I have to give you’.

Graham was clear that it was important for organisations to ensure that all employees were walking that extra mile in the same direction towards organisational objectives. This ensures an increase in overall performance at an organisational level, which is particularly relevant right now as businesses seek to build back financial performance.

Four ‘Pillars’ of Effective Engagement

Graham discussed the four ‘pillars’ of effective engagement being:

  1. Vision and strategy – discussing the importance of having a clear vision and a sound strategy.
  2. Engaging leaders – taking the time to let staff know how they fit into the bigger picture.
  3. Stakeholder ‘voice’ – not only communicating effectively in relation to steps taken, but also taking the time to explain why decisions have been made not to take certain steps.
  4. Cultural integrity – the importance of an organisation that keeps its promises and lives up to its own cultural values.

Helpfully, Graham provided sustainable strategies and practical guidance to ‘align the arrowhead’ to ensure all the people within an organisation were aligned to the same purpose, underlying the importance of everyone moving in the same direction towards the desired organisational outcomes. 

It was notable that both Gareth Edwards and Graham were of a similar mind in terms of the importance of clearly communicating the reasons behind a business need to embark on a restructuring/redundancy exercise. Graham additionally underlined the importance of maintaining the last of the four pillars, cultural integrity, during a restructuring process, stressing the importance of communicating the purpose behind the decision.

Considered a Staff Engagement Survey?

Well now might be a good time to conduct a survey with your staff. This will give you a clear view of where the organisation is right now, with no doubt many employees continuing to work remotely for the foreseeable future and place a spotlight on the areas that you need to focus on.

Narrow Quay HR would like to thank Graham Mitchell for taking the time to share his experience and expertise. If you would like to discuss anything further with Graham, please do visit his website.

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For HR support for your organisation, please contact Caitlin Anniss on 07909 683 938.

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