Just a few weeks ago we saw the winners of the Wales HR Network revealed as we sponsored an award to celebrate Wales' best in-house teams, consultants, and HR industry experts for their outstanding contributions to HR.
Individuals representing the best in HR practice were shortlisted for 10 categories, which ranged from Best HR Initiative to Inspirational Leadership. The intimate face to face ceremony was hosted by the wonderful Sian Lloyd LLB on behalf of Acorn Recruitment and Darwin Gray Cardiff.
For us it was a no brainer when the opportunity came up for us to sponsor the HR Team of the Year Public Sector given our long careers in Housing. We knew the finalists of this award would be hard working, dedicated to a social purpose with a keen eye on resilience - so it was total alignment for us. We were excited for the evening and to finally meet everyone face to face, some for the first time.
It was hugely disappointing that, not long after we agreed sponsorship terms with the HR Network, we went into our first national lockdown. As a business owner we had invested in the awards as an opportunity to be part of a community of like-minded professionals with the hope of future collaboration, but like so much at this time it was snatched away by the pandemic.
However, like other business owners, we remained resilient. We had optimism with a plan, to remain connected with this community throughout the amplified divisions to ensure we could all survive this. And that we did. So, to our surprise and delight, when this event was able to be held, albeit far more modest in scale than originally planned, it gave us more than the glitz and glam; It provided a safe environment where we could come together to connect and collaborate in a more humble manner which offered two basics that we all need a the moment:
The chance to see everyone in 3D and celebrate the wins - and boy did that kick off the dopamine and oxytocin pipeline for enhanced wellbeing
We moved from Zoomies to Roomies - so simple but an awesome “perception check-in” that enhanced relationships instantly
What did we learn from this?
Creating communities in times of turmoil are crucial for survival in leadership and business alike. Why? If we had all come together in the glitz and glam of the awards circuit, we would have no doubt had an amazing night, but perhaps not have connected as we did in this humbler gathering. Here we were focused and grateful to see one another, intensively listening to what the other party had been experiencing and achieving, just grateful to see each other in real life. It really meant a lot. So, thank you Wales HR Network for providing us with this psychologically safe place to reconnect, to become a community not a predetermined Cult-ure set out by the glitz and glam, but in an environment that focused on inclusion.
What can we do with this learning?
In an era of hybrid working, creating a culture of inclusivity has become even more complex.
The Royal Society for Public Health found that two-thirds of workers who shifted from the office to home during the pandemic felt less connected to their colleagues.
If this is allowed to continue, it could lead to people feeling excluded from their teams and organisations – something which could particularly be felt by employees from disadvantaged socio-economic groups or with disabilities, as well as new starters and young people.
Disabled workers are 80% more likely to feel excluded at work, for example. Employers must be careful that a hybrid working model doesn’t exacerbate the situation.
This has important implications for the work environment, affecting the productivity and wellbeing of employees. Perhaps more urgently, some of our client data shows that a sense of belonging is already at an all-time low since the pandemic started. So we have started to get to work on this, by teaching leaders how to demonstrate behaviours that kick off the dopamine pipeline in their workers so they feel a greater sense of connection. We know that connection — both employees’ connection to others and employees’ connection to the work itself — is the primary driver of intent to stay. Exclusion drives turnover and will hasten employees leaving in a tight talent market.
So, it’s vital that leaders take time to foster connection on their teams and among their employees and be deliberate about encouraging participation regardless of where an employee is sitting. Leaders must show the way by taking a genuine interest in others, showing care and concern for challenges they’re facing in a genuine face to face setting where possible, and it doesn't need to be fancy.
Physical distance is no longer an excuse for emotional distance.
Putting thought and effort into building and maintaining relationships is more important than ever. By supporting individuals in building the skills to better relate to others, their teams, and themselves, organisations can help every individual carve a personal pathway to belonging.
The nominees in the HR Team of the Year Public Sector, Hafod Housing Association and Gower College, were both fantastic and deserving of recognition. Two organisations that had put their people at the forefront of their business focus throughout a turbulent and uncertain period. Gower College were crowned the winners, taking home the trophy and a (incredibly oversized!) bottle of champagne. Speaking to their team after the announcement it was clear how much work has gone into staff wellbeing and that the backing for this as an organisational priority comes right from the top.
Congratulations to Gower College!
So, what’s next on the agenda for Choose to Grow with Wales HR Network?
“As we move into 2022, we are keen to identify further opportunities to collaborate with and support this network which, more than any we have been involved in, brings together professionals with a shared drive and vision for employee wellbeing and engagement” Says Phil Carroll, Director of Operations.
Emma Carroll continues “We are over the moon that we can now bring people back together in person and do what we do best in the training room. We will still offer all of our training solutions in the virtual classroom to meet our client’s needs, but the opportunity to meet in 3D again needs to be capitalised through this network to ensure the wellbeing of the workforce in Wales, and we must try and avoid the feeling of wanting to miss out; the new barrier to creating communities & inclusion in the workplace.
If you want to check out more from the awards evening and who won what follow the Wales HR Network Twitter page.
With our new Micro Teach Calendar being finalised for the new year make sure you join us as we continue to build our community of PIVOT Leaders in Wales.