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Review: HR Summit 2021

Such have been the seismic changes inflicted on the retail industry during Covid-19 that business leaders have been reflecting on how differently they should run their… View Article


Review: HR Summit 2021

Such have been the seismic changes inflicted on the retail industry during Covid-19 that business leaders have been reflecting on how differently they should run their organisations in a post-pandemic world.

But before they consider implementing managerial change MOK O’Keeffe, founder of The Innovation Beehive, suggested in session number one of The Retail Bulletin HR Summit 2021 webinar that leaders needed to first catch their breath.

Renewing energy levels

“As we move into the ‘renew’ phase it could an opportunity to reset businesses and ourselves. It will be hard because we are tired, and in some cases exhausted, and we cannot reset our businesses and move boldly forward if we’ve not got the mindset and the required energy ourselves,” he says.

He highlights some areas of focus to help leaders renew their energy levels. These include: assessing the business processes in order to maximise efficiency; reflecting on what’s important personally; introducing achievable health interventions to boost health & wellbeing; taking time out of the office to spend with the front-line teams; reflecting on the successes that have been achieved; and considering the legacy that will be left behind, which might involve resetting what have previously been areas of focus.

Sense of purpose is vital

James Hampton, head of development & engagement at Seasalt, suggests leaders can choose what they want to lead in but that having a sense of purpose is paramount and is more important than pay: “People are more driven by being connected to such businesses. It does not need to be super-duper sustainable but you do need to take pay off the table with employees. Just talk about purpose and if they are connected to it. You just need leaders to share the vision and then you don’t need to focus on salary.”

Purpose has certainly become more important for Kirsty Rogers, global head of ESG & managing partner at DWF, who says: “There’s evidence that if a business helps something then people will feel good about it. It’s a critical part of more successful businesses. IKEA has introduced purpose into its business – ‘creating better lives for people’. Businesses are now looking at their cultural strategy. They need a culture agenda. People need help with this and it’s an opportunity for HR.”

Reappraising cultural match

Vicki Young, head of leadership programmes at the BRC, says the last 18 months has certainly led to people reflecting on their purpose in work – across all employees. “They’ve questioned if it’s right for them. If the values and the culture don’t match up with their own then people have said they will look for something that does match,” she says.

One of the demands on leaders is that their softer skills have come to the fore during Covid-19. “It’s not been about the P&L or customer satisfaction, it’s been about the wellbeing of the workforce. “The uncertainty of the last couple of years, and previously in retail, has required vulnerability to be shown. You need to be transparent, honest, and vulnerable. It’s a huge shift from what we’ve expected from leaders,” says Young.

Boosting health & wellbeing

This is certainly recognised by Evelyn Nwajei, head of employment law at Currys, who says the company has taken a safety-first attitude to Covid-19 and also bolstered its physical and mental wellbeing programmes over the past year. “Mental wellbeing is being discussed more widely,” she says, adding that care has also been taken with the move to hybrid working to ensure people are included.

“The little things make a big difference to this. We have a golden hour where people are not allowed to have meetings or take calls – this could involve making lunch or doing some stretching. It’s become embedded and we’ve had phenomenal feedback on it,” she says.

Sense of belonging

Along with a rebrand of the business from Currys PC World to Currys the company now looks at everything through the inclusion lens. “We’re focused on fostering a sense of belonging. We talk about elements of diversity and inclusion. We’re driving an empathetic approach. Our policies have got braver, deeper and more personal,” explains Nwajei.

Such activities highlight a very different world today, which Rogers says, should involve companies looking to use data more often to better forecast future trends. “You need to try and think about what’s coming down the track. Lots of businesses are trying to catch up with today and not looking what’s coming up,” she says, adding that companies need to consider that over 70% of the workforce will be Gen Z in a couple of years and so things like recruitment policies will need to be very different.

The on-demand video HERE

By Glynn Davis

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