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Star Interview

Donna Miller,
HR Director,

How have the last few months been for you?

From an HR perspective, we’ve really had to flex our muscles. I was talking to a team member this morning about how we’ve been pretty much full on COVID since mid-March and just in the last 30 days, we’re starting to once again do some things that are non-COVID related. The entire world was put on hold – HR has never had to deal with anything like this before and most businesses have had to completely reimagine what work is, how we do it and how we support employees through these massive changes. We’re deemed an essential business as we massively support public services so for us, the initial headache was working out how we could ensure that our employees were safe and secure whilst working. We’ve had challenges but we’ve met them head on.

Do you think that coronavirus has changed employee purpose for those who were deemed essential workers?

Absolutely, we were keeping people moving in a time when there weren’t flights; people didn’t feel safe on public transport like trains and busses so were their primary mode of transportation – we also service the NHS and public services and I do think that doing our bit made our employees feel like they were contributing to keep the world, the NHS, the police force etc moving. The public perception of jobs like our employees changed and maybe for the first time, people realised just how important employees like ours were.

Has coronavirus changed your perception of the HR function?

I think it definitely has impacted my view of HR, and it will continue to impact my view of what is really important. As you might imagine, and as with most businesses, we had employees who became ill, luckily very few, and it does change your perspective on what’s important. Obviously, we want to ensure the safety of our staff above all else and that’s the bottom line so the smaller stuff, the every-day bits and pieces that you may have fretted about in January and considered the end of the world – well, those really aren’t that big of a deal.

What about what employees want from their business, has that changed?

We’ve had massive change recently through coronavirus, with furlough, redundancies, health and safety measures – it’s been inevitable that businesses have had to go through these things, but how you deal with them is essential. Some people have found out that they’re being made redundant through an email or a letter through the post – no conversation or explanation. No one sat down with them to talk it through which is wrong. So I think employees value communication and makes them thing ‘how does my company value me?’. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the circumstances.

What priorities should HR be focussing on right now?

One of the things we’re really focussing on is strategically ensuring that our remote working policies are where they should be. We had a remote policy in place pre-COVID, but obviously the situation has changed so we’re putting the final touches on that right now as many businesses are. Truly, the days of the workforce going to an office and everyone being there five days a week are over, it’s not a reality anymore. So, how quickly organisations can embrace that and adapt to it will make a huge difference to their success or failure in this time.


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