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Star Interview
Star Interview
Workforce

Maria Rooney,
HR Director, The Glenmorangie Company  


Maria Rooney, HR Director at The Glenmorangie Company, spoke to myGrapevine magazine about the firm’s commitment to improving its ‘People Promise’ and bookmarks her wellbeing-related goals for the year ahead...

Words by Sophie Parrott

Glass

Employee wellbeing is an important focus for many employers, with HR and business leaders increasingly aware of the benefits that can be reaped from a happy and healthy workforce. With growing awareness of how employee wellbeing is directly correlated to productivity, many employers are pushing the envelope when it comes to their focus on wellbeing – and one such employer is The Glenmorangie Company.

Edinburgh-based The Glenmorangie Company is well-known for its selection of whiskies. In 2019, Maria Rooney was appointed as Human Resources Director to lead the HR function. Like many HR practitioners, employee wellbeing forms a core part of her role. In this exclusive interview with myGrapevine magazine she talks about the role that employee wellbeing can play in staff engagement – sharing examples of how she helped tackle this during the coronavirus pandemic.

Below, Rooney – who previously worked in HR at Amazon and Virgin Media – sheds light on what wellbeing means to her, and the initiatives she is currently working on to better support this agenda. Plus, you can also find out more about how Rooney is helping to continually improve the firm’s ‘People Promise’, as well as her proudest moment working for The Glenmorangie Company so far.

Bottle
CV of Maria

Experience

The Glenmorangie Company
Human Resources Director
Sep 2019 – Present  
FanDuel
VP, People
Jul 2015 – Sep 2019
Amazon
UK HR Programme Manager
Jul 2014 – Jul 2015  
Amazon
Senior HR Business Partner
Apr 2012 – Jul 2014 
Virgin Media
HR Business Partner
Apr 2007 – Mar 2012
Standard Life
HR Business Partner
2003 – 2005
Maria
What does wellbeing at work mean to you? 

“For me, wellbeing is an integral part of our business, spanning across all areas from the experience we give our employees to the culture we foster. To ensure all areas of the business are covered, we are committed to continually improving our ‘People Promise’ which identifies four pillars: Nourish, Flourish, Enrich and Celebrate.

“‘Nourish’ focuses on creating a culture that has diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at the heart of it. ‘Flourish’ focuses on our employees’ development. Using initiatives like ‘Let’s Talk’, we strive to encourage more conversations centred around development and feedback, whilst giving our managers and employees the tools to take ownership of their own career and personal development. 

“‘Enrich’ centres around employee experiences and the opportunities they have to leave their own legacy within the business. Finally, ‘Celebrate’ looks to reward and retain our employees with various packages and benefits – recognising our colleagues for the contributions they make. Sometimes the work that happens behind the scenes goes unnoticed and we celebrate these moments.”

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"We are clear that our people come first, and their wellbeing is our priority"

Glass
Are there any initiatives that you are currently working on to support staff wellbeing?

“We are continually looking to improve our current policies and initiatives to ensure we have the best offering possible in place for our employees. 

“At Glenmorangie, we are proud to have a range of initiatives in place that support our staff’s wellbeing at their different life stages. This includes programmes focussing on financial and physical wellness, carer’s leave and dependent’s leave.

“We also run a programme which focuses on mental health post-pandemic. This includes a trained team of 16 mental health first aiders, a mental health policy and an online hub with a wealth of resources and support. 

“It has been one year since we first implemented Glenmorangie’s family-leave policy. This is our pledge to extend the same rights to paid family leave to all staff, removing any bias. We pride ourselves on offering paid leave for all new parents whether through birth, adoption or surrogacy. Parents receive an initial 26 weeks at full contractual pay, followed by 15 weeks at 50% pay. All colleagues, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, have the right to the same length of paid family leave of up to 52 weeks. We are very proud of the positive impact the policy has had on our employees and we’ve received encouraging feedback from prospective employees during our recruitment process.”

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Getting to know Maria:

What are the key parts to your role at Glenmorangie?

“A key part of my role at Glenmorangie is contributing to the wider business strategy by making sure that we have the right people strategy, initiatives and processes in place. We want to be the best employer in Scotland and this is right from the start of recruitment, to career development, wellbeing, inclusion, reward and recognition through to retirement.”


What is your guiding philosophy to HR? 

“To always focus on the human element of human resources, be fair, act with integrity, listen and be open, be progressive and know when you have to change your approach.”


What is your proudest moment with the company so far?

“Change doesn’t happen overnight, I am extremely proud of our HR team who work tirelessly to improve the experience for our employees. Whilst perfection is something to strive for and hard to achieve, the feedback we get from our employees is that we are moving in the right direction to being the best employer in Scotland. We were awarded Investors in People platinum status in 2021 which was a great recognition and we are continuing to build on that.” 


What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career thus far – and what have you learnt from it?

“Early in my career, I was working on a project that involved a large site expansion. While it was a very positive message for the business, we assumed that the employees would automatically see the benefits. However, it still caused uncertainty and unsettlement for some of the employees. I learned that all changes within any business need to be managed effectively, with clear communication plans and multiple channels to ask and answer questions so that you bring people with you.”

Glen
Glen
 
Bottle
What wellbeing-related goals do you have bookmarked for the year ahead?

“For the year ahead, we are mostly looking to continue building our portfolio of HR initiatives. We want to encourage more diversity within our workforce both through our recruitment process and internal people processes. 

“We have attained the Living Wage accreditation, while also signing up to the Scottish Business pledge. Furthermore, we are a disability and menopause committed employer. 

“As part of our major expansion project of our bottling plant in Livingston we’re also focussed on how we continue to attract and nurture younger employees into the business. This includes our modern apprentice programme. 

“In addition, as part of this project we want to help improve inclusivity and diversity across our workforce so we’re creating new facilities. There will be a gender-neutral space with individual privacy rooms, a wellbeing room, a room for nursing parents and a prayer room.”

 

"For me, wellbeing is an integral part of our business, spanning across all areas from the experience we give our employees to the culture we foster"

 
What role can employee wellbeing play in employee engagement?

“We are clear that our people come first, and their wellbeing is our priority. We focus on mental, physical and financial wellbeing to provide proactive support to our employees.  

“The pandemic really highlighted the importance of wellbeing. We made our workspaces safe but also provided masks and lateral flow tests for all employees and their households. We did a lot of mental health training for managers to ensure that supportive conversations took place, we had buddy systems to keep colleagues connected virtually, online exercise classes for staff and their families, and we sent care packages to our whole workforce throughout the pandemic.”

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"For the year ahead, we are mostly looking to continue building our portfolio of HR initiatives"

Glass
Do you think there are specific wellbeing priorities that HR should be focussing on currently?

“As an HR team, we feel it is particularly important to focus on reconnecting colleagues post-pandemic and look at the role hybrid working plays across our teams. Glenmorangie is like a family and want to bring everyone back together through regular meet ups, coffee mornings, lunch and learn sessions and our social committee. 

“To help foster a more diverse, inclusive workforce we have reimagined the role of the office. We have defined it as a space to collaborate, be creative and to have moments of serendipity. We’ve moved to hotdesking and created different workspaces to encourage idea sharing and prioritise personal development. There are open-plan zones and individual pods for quiet working, as well as informal areas where staff can strengthen relationships and relax.”

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