In the latest instalment of our HR executive interview series, we spoke to Peter Meyler, Head of HR Analytics and Consulting at Barnett Waddingham, about his company, industry opportunities, the challenges posed by COVID-19 and expectations for the year ahead…
Tell us about your company, products and services.
Barnett Waddingham is one of the UK’s leading professional services consultancies. We work with a wide range of clients in both the private and public sectors – this includes almost 25% of FTSE 100 companies. Our Employer Consulting team provides expertise in a number of areas, including HR analytics and consulting, employee communication, engagement and benefit services, workplace wellbeing consultancy and support with pension schemes.
Tell us about your role
I work with organisations to measure, understand and improve their employment proposition across the employment experience lifecycle. It’s a varied role and involves working across a number of areas, including organisational purpose, values and behaviours, employer value proposition and attraction, onboarding, health and wellbeing, risk management, leadership, diversity, inclusion, reward, benefits, development and attrition. I believe these are crucial ingredients to the long term, sustainable success of a business.
What do you do for your clients?
Many of our clients are seeking to understand how they can best maximise the employment experience, together with the performance, contribution and value created through employment balanced against the cost and risks. This is something we call “Employer DNA.” What does it mean? Well, it’s a belief that data, analytics and insight are the DNA that defines, measures and helps an organisation understand its unique purpose and genetic make-up. We ask to what extent is this “Employer DNA” lived and breathed through an organisation’s culture, behaviours, employment proposition and employee experience. We take an analytically led consultative approach to our work with clients. It’s something that can help organisations thrive, rather than just survive.
What does the employment experience feel like during Covid-19?
Within a few months Covid-19 has radically changed the economic and employment landscape. Some people have already lost their jobs and millions of others have been furloughed or are working from home. So how has this affected the relationship between employers and employees? Our recent survey shows a distinct lack of employer communication and support for the mental and financial wellbeing of employees. This is a real worry at a time when many employees are suffering stress and anxiety because of employment uncertainties and a drop in their financial wellbeing. Overall, the results are lower among furloughed employees who feel less informed, engaged and supported than those working normally or from home. There’s a real danger, therefore, of having a divided workforce. This will present a huge challenge in trying to bring employees back together over the coming weeks and months.
What’s been most important to you in your job during Covid-19?
Being totally and proactively supportive of our clients and the wider HR community. I’m very keen to understand the employment and employee related business challenges they’re facing. As lockdown eases and employees prepare for a return to work, employers are having to navigate uncharted waters in a work environment that may look quite different to any seen before.
How have you supported HR professionals during Covid-19?
One practical example of the support we’ve provided is the creation of a LinkedIn group called HR Bites Exchange. It’s a collaborative and interactive HR community, facilitated by me. We share news, articles insight, thought leadership, ideas and good practices. It’s an opportunity to try and collectively answer questions and solve problems and also a way we can support each other and have some fun!
We also hold regular free video web chats in our HR Bites for Lunch sessions, where we bring members of the HR community together to talk about some of the most pressing employment related business challenges they are facing at this time. In our next session at the end of this month we’ll be discussing what organisations can do to support employees as they return to work.
What will the employment experience look like after lockdown and in the year ahead?
Well, the economic and employment indicators, for the rest of this year at least, point to a sharp recession and a significant drop in GDP. So many HR professionals will be involved in making some tough decisions about changes to operating employment models and cost reductions. This will obviously have implications for employees and some will inevitably lose their jobs. On a more positive note, the pandemic has probably fast forwarded certain trends, such as flexible working and more working from home. The phased return to work is really going to test skills and resilience of HR professionals. Why? Because it is going to be about so much more than the logistics of restarting operations safely.
Employers need to support employees and create a safe and supportive work place – not just from a physical perspective, but also from a mental and emotional one. The reality is that there is no “normal” to get back to. Employers need to be able to develop an effective return to work plan that really engages, supports and mobilises employees to perform at their best.
What would you say to HR professionals about the future of employment experience?
The one thing that the Covid-19 crisis has reinforced for me is the need to think first and foremost of employees as people and not just workers. They all have different lives, responsibilities, challenges, interests, skills, values and reasons for working. It’s difficult to deliver an employment proposition and experience that engages people, thereby creating organisational value, if you don’t understand and measure this.
HR needs to invest in developing the right people metrics, performance analysis and insight frameworks, technology and skills. Only by having these will HR be able to demonstrate to senior leaders the return on investment in its employment proposition. It needs to show a clear understanding of costs, mitigation of risks and how these balance against the creation of value.
To speak to Peter about any of the topics discussed, or for employee engagement and employment experience analytics and consulting support, please call 020 7776 2232, or email firstname.lastname@example.org