This week we spoke with Jasmine Hudson, chief people officer for Mitie. We discussed effective communication and management of employees, dealing with workplace conflict and eliminating it at the source, and how to retain the best talent.
What’s the best way to manage and communicate with employees?
You must treat people as individuals and create human connections – at Mitie, that means establishing meaningful bonds with 68,000 employees. Rather than put people in a box, we need to build a culture based on respect that not only appreciates and celebrates what we have in common, but also embraces differences and celebrates uniqueness. Crucially, change must involve input from a diverse range of people.
Companies also need good listeners and communicators at all levels in the organisation who can engage on a huge range of topics and stories that matter to those people who make up a diverse workforce. How key messages and changes are conveyed is also vital. Internal communications are far more complex and nuanced than sending a weekly newsletter via email. At Mitie, for example, we conduct manager meet up sessions and an annual TeamTalk Live roadshow where our executives get out on the road meeting colleagues across the country to give a more personalised approach to our colleague comms and listening activities.
At Mitie, our 6,000 managers play a pivotal role in making our business a great place to work. That’s why we’ve invested in their training to help support them with any people challenges. This includes a new People Management development programme as well as a bespoke programme called Leading Together, which identifies key skills needed to drive performance but in a way that, once again, recognises colleagues’ individual needs first and foremost.
How can HR and workplace professionals encourage a sense of community and belonging, especially when working with dispersed teams?
Speaking from Mitie’s experience, we recently took a step back and asked our people what made Mitie great for them and what we could do to further improve their experience. This led to us to rethinking and relaunching our employee value proposition. As part of the exercise, we asked ourselves key questions such as who works for us, what currently makes the company a great place to be in, what our purpose is, and how our ESG strategy is formulated. This inspired our thinking about how we can become better employers.
Now, our employee value proposition is built around a vision where all colleagues come together, where everyone can share, reflect, celebrate and belong. We call this MyMitie, which covers 6 key aspects of our colleague experience. These are benefits and reward (MySlice), well-being (MyWellbeing), progression and empowerment (MyCareer), speaking up and being heard (MyVoice), celebration and recognition (MyAchievement), and making a positive impact (MyCommunity).
Creating an engaging diversity & inclusion programme is essential to getting as many people involved as possible. At Mitie, our bespoke ‘Count Me In’ programme includes e-learning modules, workshops, coaching, gamification, team talks, social media engagement and a bespoke 360 feedback programme for our senior managers. Count Me In has been completed by over 48,000 Mitie colleagues and has won twice at the Business Culture Awards 2021 as ‘Best diversity, equality and inclusion initiative’ and ‘Best learning initiative for business culture’.
Mitie’s Science of Service campaign is also worth mentioning. This underpins our approach to facilities management and is all about a desire to contribute to positive change. The focus lies in enabling our team to deliver positive outcomes, from creating a safe and clean hospital environment for a mother cuddling her new-born in a maternity ward, to keeping our school buildings in good working condition.
Let’s talk about workplace conflict. Firstly, what can cause it?
The main driver of workplace conflict is difference and a lack of appreciation for difference. That can be the case across various factors, including personality traits, backgrounds, perceived ego, experience, education, expectation, ways of working and judgements on fairness, and how acceptable behaviour is perceived. Conflict can also manifest in different ways, from low-level disagreements to more severe cases such as bullying or discrimination – including micro-aggressions disguised as ‘banter’.
In some cases, if left unchecked, workplace conflict could lead to a demotivated workforce, a feeling of exclusion, high levels of absenteeism, low levels of innovation and productivity, or even a high attrition rate if people don’t feel supported or engaged enough within a business. In some of the more extreme cases, this could have a deeper impact on mental health or lead to burnout.
What do you think is the best way to manage workplace conflict if it arises?
This comes back to being clear on expectations and having adult-to-adult conversations where everyone knows what is expected of each other and ‘the rules of the game’. It is important to create a safe space for people to understand their biases and learn to overcome them. Role modelling is also important. Here, we train people to be allies for each other and do that from the top of the business – once again this requires communication, which if done effectively at a leadership level can help to create positive cultures throughout the whole organisation and eliminate workplace conflict.
What advice would you give to companies that are struggling to engage or retain their workforce?
Be proactive and genuine listeners. That means listening to understand instead of simply saying you are listening. This can take a variety of forms, from one-to-one conversations in casual or formal settings to giving opportunities for anonymous feedback via surveys. Our annual engagement survey recently took place and was completed by over 33.5k colleagues – the highest participation rate we’ve ever seen. It’s great to see so many colleagues felt comfortable to share their feedback. In return, Mitie develops clear action plans to ensure we are making improvements in the areas that our colleagues have highlighted.
Another interesting mode of listening is creating a closed chat environment where anyone can ask anything. At Mitie, this takes the form of Board listening sessions and GrillPhil, a direct line to our CEO. It will soon take the form of an always-on conversation app where managers can respond to questions put to them. Powered by Rungway, our engagement partners, we’ll be deploying this through FY24.
Tracking statistics on engagement is also critical, as is giving managers the time they need to engage with their teams and have proper conversations. This is another important component of our Leading Together management programme.
Companies need to get creative and support their colleagues in a variety of ways. For example, this could be through providing a means to access discounts to help ease some of the burdens placed on people by inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.
We’ve focused on talent retention, but what’s the best approach when it comes to talent attraction and recruitment?
Making sure your culture and brand emanate everywhere is important, and that can be achieved in a variety of ways, right down to what people say to their friends and family, at home or in the pub about their lived experienced at work. Prospective employees need to get an idea of this. They need to think and feel, to believe that the organisation they may be about to join is a great place to work.
Developing a compelling benefits package is also crucial. Considering things such as free life insurance, shares, salary advances and even free access to virtual GPs for the whole household. This will all help to turn an organisation into a destination employer.
Career advancement should be another huge focus. Get a career plan framework and pathway in place for every role and plot out the skills needed for employees to complete that journey. It’s all about investing in the proper training routes which will successfully skill, upskill and reskill current and future generations of talent. That’s why at Mitie, we have taken an apprenticeship-first approach to training, with more than 1,000 apprentices employed within the business at any one time. We know the people we train today will feed our talent pipelines in anticipation of tomorrow’s skills, and develop the right talent to grow our business.
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