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Connecting employees with your purpose in a post-Covid world

10 January 2022

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Story by
Jane Pateman, Biffa Group HR Director

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In recent years, it has become an increasing challenge for employers to ensure their workforces understand how they, as individuals, contribute to the overall success of the business.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated this – among the many challenges faced by HR departments, one of the most prevalent was continuing to reach and engage with employees who were suddenly, unexpectedly working from home.

Some businesses had the additional challenge of communicating to those employees who were on the front line during the pandemic as key workers.

It was crucial for businesses to quickly change how they communicated to their workforces and to focus on highlighting the importance of everyone’s role in achieving the aims of the business during a difficult time.

At Biffa, taking the steps to do this was no mean feat – we have a national workforce of over 10,000 people, ranging from office-based jobs such as marketing, to jobs sorting waste in our recycling plants and people on the road collecting waste from homes and businesses.

Our mission throughout the pandemic has been to keep employees engaged with our purpose – ‘changing the way people think about waste’ – and demonstrating how their every day ‘little acts’ have a big impact on our business.

Clear communication

From the outset of the first lockdown, it was vital to identify and utilise the most effective ways of reaching people.

In my experience, an employee app, or any internal function, should be the primary mode of communication to engage in two-way conversations with your workforce.

As the pandemic took hold, we all had to communicate differently, ensuring we were caring for our workforce and not overlooking anyone.

We also had a dedicated response team – a must-have for any business when going through any major challenge, with select representatives from across the business supporting all people and managing all communications with team members.

Whilst there should be one main channel to communicate to employees, remember to use other methods too in order to engage those who may not be reachable via the primary approach.

The messages you are communicating can be pushed out through a range of engaging ways, including leadership calls, CEO vlogs, podcasts, question and answer sessions, virtual events and regular news updates.

Pick your moments  

During the lockdowns, it was important to prioritise those communication moments you had planned, particularly the more personal ones involving calls or video streaming.

At Biffa we held virtual all employee video calls, teach-ins and regular check-in meetings – all elements that can sometimes be too easily deprioritised and postponed, so we made sure we locked these in and went ahead with them, to provide employees with that important social connection they all missed.

These sessions help to demonstrate how individual roles fit into the bigger picture, allowing employees to understand how each role comes together.

In terms of the content and messaging going out to employees, whilst it’s essential to keep your workforce updated with current activity, giving thought to how it comes across is very important.

Making announcements fun and interesting where appropriate, will help your employees engage and take it in. Conversely, when it’s a communication about a sensitive matter, be sure to demonstrate empathy and kindness – it will go a long way.

Purpose and values

Finally, organisational purpose and values should, without fail, be woven into every employee communication.

Remind your workforce of how they live and breathe company values, and how their roles contribute to the overall business purpose.

Publicly celebrate demonstrations of teams and individuals supporting your company’s purpose when they arise, to show recognition and motivate others.

This could be through small scale incentive schemes, or bigger, louder initiatives – for example, during the pandemic Biffa’s front-line workers collecting waste received hundreds of thank you notes from the general public for keeping the waste and recycling collection system going.

We ran a social media campaign celebrating this appreciation and further applauding the hard work of our teams.

Ultimately, sharing your sense of purpose with passion and pride will drive colleague engagement and benefit the overall aims of your business.

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