As Government guidance returns to encouraging people to work from home in the face of rising Covid cases, leading Midlands recruiter Encore Personnel, which employs more than 200 staff and operates 10 branches across the region, has revealed its secret to maintaining a happy workforce – wherever they may be.
In the last 18 months, workers have had to adjust to working from home, however as restrictions started to ease many businesses deployed the hybrid-working model and Encore was no different.
Encore, headquartered in Leicester, specialises in driving, warehousing, manufacturing, logistics and engineering recruitment and given the nature of its industry, found it had to adapt quickly to the pandemic restrictions.
Cindy Gunn, HR Director at Encore, said: “When the first lockdown happened, we had to put our heads together quickly and ensure our workforce could effectively work from home. It soon became apparent that as a business we couldn’t accommodate that approach long-term, as an organisation that supplies workers into key industries that needed to keep functioning during the lockdowns in 2020 and so we quickly shifted to a flexible working model. We were one of the first in our industry to officially adopt a new hybrid model.
“We now continue to offer our staff the chance to work from home for part of the week - but importantly it’s all about flexibility. Looking at each employee’s situation; whether they can or can’t work from home effectively, if an individual is working on a site, whether this site can still effectively function without the individual and people’s personal preferences is the key to a happy workforce and should be considered by all employers before adopting one working model over another.
“The pandemic took the choice away from people as to whether they could work from the office, and the on-going situation with the pandemic means we’re having to adapt so we would encourage all employers to put the power in the employee’s hands and let the choice be theirs.”
The lockdowns and pandemic have also brought to light the importance of keeping an organisation’s culture thriving. Encore prides itself on supporting its employees, investing time and money to create a motivated workforce, and has had to adapt to keep this culture going whilst its staff are working remotely.
Cindy added: “It became apparent that to keep our employees motivated, we had to keep our culture alive in some form. We have a work hard, play hard motto and at the start of the pandemic we had to get creative about how we kept this going. We started doing consistent team calls – managers checking in with the workforce, Zoom quizzes and we invested heavily in our employees’ mental health with HR and our mental health supporters checking in with employees, which are still available. Communication has been key during the pandemic.”
Ensuring the workforce feels valued is an important part of Encore’s culture and something it would encourage all employers to think about, particularly when some are working remotely. Cindy said: “We wanted to make sure our staff knew that they were appreciated and felt part of the team so little gestures like sending out hampers and gifts, we found really made a difference to keeping our culture going remotely. For us, it’s all about ensuring our workforce know we care and perhaps this is something for all employers to consider.”
One of the real benefits of the hybrid working model in place at Encore has been seen in the relationship between managers and employees. Cindy said: “I’ve particularly found it nice to be back in the office with my team just to find out how they are. It can be easier to tell if one of your team is struggling or finding something difficult if you’re seeing them face to face and just being able to have a chat about this in person. Our employees make Encore the top organisation it is and throughout the whole pandemic, keeping in touch with them has been important, however we have found being back in the office has been beneficial for employee check-ins. It’s really strengthened our working relationships as teams.”
With it still being unclear as to what 2022 will bring in terms of the pandemic and restrictions, for Encore its very much balancing the needs of the employees and the business as well on-going needs around health and safety of its employees, and they believe this is how it should be across all organisations.
Cindy concluded: “We plan to continue to develop our successful hybrid-working model in 2022. We’ve found this year that our teams have really enjoyed being back in offices and engaging with other colleagues’ face to face. We always want the working from home/office choice to be one where our staff also have a say, and so we will continue to see how our current model works and develop from there.
“I think any employer that’s not currently considering the hybrid-working model is going to miss out on key candidates. With the current candidate talent marketplace, offering employees the flexibility to work from home and the office is the key to a happy workforce, and for employers to attract new talent this flexibility is vital.”