People Matters: Gemma Rigby

This week, Gemma Rigby talks about to keep workers engaged and facilitate inclusive environments in the workplace. She draws on her experiences as HR director at Anabas.

How is health and wellbeing linked to engagement and performance? Do you have any real-life examples of how focusing on the former boosts the latter?

Employee health and wellbeing are closely linked to employee engagement and performance. This extends to both physical and mental health. When employees are physically healthy, they have the energy and stamina required for high performance, leading to fewer sick days and reduced disruptions to work.  

Mental health is equally important. Mentally healthy employees are better at maintaining their concentration, problem solving, and decision-making abilities. This makes them more engaged and productive overall. Stress reduction is key. High stress levels can lead to burnout and reduced effectiveness at work.

Organisations can support employee wellbeing through wellness programmes and fostering a healthy work environment, ultimately reducing stress and enhancing engagement.

Maintaining a strong work-life balance is essential. Actively promoting this balance can lead to higher job satisfaction and employee retention. By showing that employers care about employee’s wellbeing, satisfied employees will want to continue putting in effort.

Supporting both physical and mental health creates a virtuous cycle where engaged, healthy employees perform better, benefiting both the employees and the organisation.

What do employees really need to thrive?

A thriving employee is an employee whose needs are being met. This extends across various dimensions of work, including setting clear expectations, providing feedback, and recognising their contributions. If employees receive a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, they can better focus and achieve goals. Receiving feedback and recognition for their hard work boosts motivation and really helps employees thrive.

Autonomy is essential, as it empowers employees to make decisions and fosters a sense of empowerment. These personal freedoms should exist within a structure that allows for growth with career development and learning offers in the form of training, mentorship, or promotions. These give future benefits to current hard work, ensuring a sense of security and reward.

Challenging, intellectually stimulating work is essential to maintaining motivation and interest. Aligning business values with employee values provides a sense of purpose, making employees feel at home and happy with their employer. These elements should be complemented by wellness support to ensure the health, happiness, and motivation of employees. In this way, employees are motivated, respected in their field, and thriving.

What is the role of communications in making sure people make the most of the benefits and services that their employer offers?

Effective communications ensure that employees make the most of the benefits and services their employers have to offer. These can be communicated in several ways, including through company emails, newsletters and intranets. Communication should be detailed, clear, and accessible, explaining what’s available, how to access it, and the value employees can derive.

Communications should be both open and direct when necessary. For example, if an employee has HR concerns regarding available services, they should have a direct line of communication to express their concerns, as well as access to employee representatives, and group forums. This allows them to seek clarifications on benefits and services and helps them feel secure and listened to in their place of work.

Consistent promotions and campaigns encourage the use of services and keep employees informed.

How have internal communications had to evolve in a world of hybrid working, or where a large part of your workforce is remote?

The shift to remote and hybrid work has necessitated changes in internal communication. They require a more structured, deliberate approach to ensure that teams stay connected, informed, and engaged.

Digital tools and platforms, such as video conferencing, chat apps, project management tools, and virtual team-building activities help remote workers maintain a sense of connection with their teams, preventing feelings of isolation.

We should also not presume that employees will be familiar with these communications tools. Guides and training for using remote tools effectively should be implemented so that no employee is left behind.

These methods, along with surveys and open forums for discussions, are widely used to gauge employee sentiments, and allow a greater speed at which employee dissatisfaction can be noticed and remedied.

Digital tools provide the ability to swiftly share information in a crisis. This speed is needed in an increasingly interconnected world. Companies want to disseminate information, quickly, securely, and clearly.

How do you encourage an authentic inclusive workforce? Not just tick boxes and suit budgets.

Authenticity is a constantly evolving process that requires dedication, education and commitments across all levels of an organisation.

This involves visible commitments to diversity and inclusion that all employees are consistently informed of. These actions are vital, as they set the tone for the entire organisation. And this tone should involve implementing inclusive hiring procedures and the formation of employee groups.

Anti-discrimination policies, diversity and inclusion training, and ongoing methods ensure inclusivity throughout the organisation. Diversity and inclusion training should be provided for all employees to further aid awareness of the schemes, whilst challenging individuals’ internal biases, and promoting their own understandings.

Employees should have avenues to voice concerns, provide feedback, and suggest improvements for diversity and inclusion policies. These methods together ensure that staff genuinely feel seen and heard, whilst also help prevent discriminatory or silencing cultures from developing.

How can you help ensure the approach to internal communications is inclusive?

Inclusivity in internal communications requires open communication, but guidelines are also needed. Ensuring that there are standards for respectful language and behaviour means that employees can express themselves without undermining their peers. Inclusive language should also be adopted to respect all gender identities, backgrounds, and abilities. Every member of staff should complete diversity, equality and inclusion training to foster a welcoming and communicative environment.

Employee forums can be used to discuss key topics and raise awareness of various demographics within the organisation. The process for addressing communication and inclusivity issues should be clear and simple for all staff, ensuring no one is deterred from voicing their concerns due to a challenging process.

Accessibility is essential, especially for those with disabilities. Able-bodied staff members may be unaware of what pressures or issues their disabled colleagues face, but accessible resources can help change this. Company materials should reflect the diversity of the workforce, with input from employees from diverse backgrounds to create an authentic inclusive environment. Involving employees from diverse backgrounds within content creation ensures a sincere inclusive environment is fostered and promoted.

How can employers facilitate dialogue and build understanding when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion?

Creating a diverse, equal and inclusive environment is a constantly evolving and ongoing process, and it requires input from all levels of an organisation to be successful. Every member of staff, from CEO to any part-time employees, should attend inclusivity training. Indeed, these training sessions should be upheld routinely, with annual meetings to refresh staff of company values as well as update them on new policies.

Open lines of dialogue should exist between members of all levels in the organisation. Online and in-person forums, like Employee Forums, can be used to express concerns, recommendations, and needs.

Alternative HR routes should be in place for those who find it daunting to express concerns to senior staff. Different levels of openness in communication channels should ensure that no employee feels unable to speak about matters that are concerning to them.

Every employee should be able to thrive in an environment that prioritises and expresses different avenues of communication. If these avenues are consistent, multi-faceted and involve all levels of staff, an organisation can remain successful in its inclusivity, and its constant dedication to improve.

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