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Review: Retail HR Summit (Wellbeing)

Wellbeing and mental health has been placed firmly under the spotlight during Covid-19 and retailers’ strategies found wanting in many cases with the result that more… View Article


Review: Retail HR Summit (Wellbeing)

Wellbeing and mental health has been placed firmly under the spotlight during Covid-19 and retailers’ strategies found wanting in many cases with the result that more robust and future-proofed frameworks have been developed.

Speaking during session number three of The Retail Bulletin HR Summit 2021 webinar Una O’Reilly, group director of engagement and director of HR for UK/Italy at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, revealed how the pandemic really tested the wellbeing procedures the company had in place.

Reassess mental wellbeing strategies

“Most organisations had wellbeing frameworks. We all said the right things and we did the training but very quickly when we went into Covid we had to go back to the drawing board. We listened and learned and tried to live it. There was no textbook on how to do it. We’ve worked with specialists and it’s good to know that 20% of colleagues are now trained for mental wellbeing,” she says.

Among the initiatives introduced was more flexibility around working patterns, no emails on Fridays, chat mornings and lunches where senior members of the company made themselves available to colleagues, as well as wellbeing days.

There has also been an embrace of wellbeing by the company’s senior management. “Our CEO talks about trust and togetherness. Wellbeing is part of our culture. We do not put a Sterling figure on the value of our training courses or an ROI on wellbeing initiatives. You do not always need to have a figure on things,” explains O’Reilly.

Wellbeing can generate ROI

For Dr Claire Douglas, wellbeing consultant, there have actually been some measurable benefits because having sound wellbeing commitments “really helps with recruitment and retention”. She adds: “The younger generation look for, and expect, it to be in place. Wellbeing certainly helps with the ROI on recruiting and retaining employees.”

Such data points prove the value of wellbeing in organisations and Emily Scammell, director of internal communications at Improbable, says it helps to take such stories to the board in order to gain their full buy-in. “Show them some wins from your data. Target one area and prove it works. Do an employee engagement survey and pull topics out and use any relevant data to take to the board and pad out your argument. It’s not about spending millions, it’s about baby steps,” she says.

Developing the wellbeing conversation

It is certainly necessary to have the support of senior management in order to fully progress a wellbeing agenda and for conversations around wellbeing to be approached more easily throughout an organisation.

“What can stop things is because managers don’t know the answers. They will never be experts in this space. The fear they have is getting it wrong. We need to change the thought processes around the conversations involving wellbeing,” says Scammell.

For Douglas this scenario involves managers getting to know their teams much better and understanding who might be struggling. Through a strengthened relationship it is more likely that issues around wellbeing will be incorporated into the natural flow of conversations.

This will certainly help organisations be more open about mental wellbeing. “We need to remove the stigma about not being okay and create a level of trust. Our leadership talks about the struggles they have. Make sure there is a culture of talking about it and removing the stigma,” says Scammell.

Give time over to wellbeing

One of the issues she finds is that as good people in a company are promoted they are given insufficient training on managing their teams while still having to do their actual jobs. “They need to be freed up to manage their people. Leadership needs to take this into account. Managers need [the time] to take care of the wellbeing of their people,” she suggests.

What would help this, according to Robert Doherty-Bigara, head of business development at Softworks, is the use of smart technology – especially within the area of HR. “Using technology you can automate lots of manual processes. Look at what you want to automate so you can then focus more on managing your people,” he says.

Douglas suggests another factor that helps with adopting wellbeing strategies, and the ability to cope with changes in general, is an “adaptive attitude”. This has certainly been crucial over recent months, she says: “Change is a constant but this last year has been massive. You need to have an open mind and a willingness to learn. Also a belief in your ability to cope – which links to self-confidence.”

Words by Glynn Davis

Sign up to next year’s in-person Retail HR Summit by 30 November to benefit from the early bird rate of £50. Find out more and secure your place here


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