A Progressive Journey for HR

– This Much I Know with Hazel Hendley, Chief People Officer, Ordnance Survey

Hazel Hendley, Chief People Officer, Ordnance Survey on her business’ journey to being a progressive workplace.

Hazel Hendley

17 June 2024

Hazel Hendley

Story by
Hazel Hendley , Chief People Officer, Ordnance Survey

Hazel Hendley, Chief People Officer, Ordnance Survey on her business’ journey to being a progressive workplace.

Our mission at Ordnance Survey (OS) is to create an environment that inspires our people to be their best every day. Like many organisations, the pandemic turned our working world on its head and I was determined to turn it into something productive for us at OS. 

The shared experience of the pandemic was uniquely difficult, and one area of our lives that was dramatically altered was our collective perspective on work. Employees were renegotiating their social contracts with work; they were looking for something more: for purposeful work, for their seamless and easy experience as a consumer to be reflected in their experience as an employee, and to be valued for who they are. This was validated by our people through insight from our monthly engagement survey, and through workshops we ran with people from across OS to understand what they were thinking and feeling post pandemic. We used this insight to create the three guiding principles of the OS employee experience: 

A hunger for purpose – our people wanted to see the connection between their actions and their real world impact

To be stimulated – enjoy opportunities to learn, grow, challenge and be challenged

To be empowered – feeling trusted to make decisions and be valued for who they are. 

These have been our guiding principles ever since and act as the compass that guides all our decisions – from the service we provide to the products we develop. 

The journey to embed these principles continues

We are still on a journey to fully embed these guiding principles across our teams, but I do believe we have taken some really positive and progressive steps to get there. Our people team is actively pursuing more human-centred design approaches; at the risk of using a cliché – putting the human back into human resources. It is about adopting a more agile and iterative approach to developing new products and services and through building feedback loops, understanding how we can reduce friction in tasks and seek to make day to day activity simpler. We continue to shift our mindset from being the custodian of rules and regulations, to seeing the HR offer as products and services. Thinking of the delivery of HR as a consumer level experience is a much more engaging and fulfilling way to work – needless to say it comes with significant challenges, especially around mixed perceptions about the role of HR – but the pay-off is real.  

One example is our approach to conflict resolution. We start from a position that there are always two sides; we ask people to consider ‘what responsibility do I take for where we find ourselves right now?’ That is a challenge, and a prompt to think – and we find that when people are really honest and true to themselves on this, examples of what could have been done better emerge, they start to form the basis of common ground and then lead to agreeing actions to resolve. It’s a mindset shift – but is powerful, removing the need for the emotion and positioning that often can come from traditional ‘win/lose’ approaches. We recognise that formal processes do have their place – but, in the main, we believe most people want to work hard, belong and do a good job – so let’s create an environment when conflict can be resolved in a more positive way.  

It’s important to recognise ‘moments that matter’

We also seek to recognise the ‘moments that matter’ for our colleagues – we’re moving away from prescribed ‘one size fits all’ entitlements to more judgement-based approach frameworks. What 25 years old Stacey needs when life happens will be very different to 50 year old Bob. For us, this says how we want it to be around here, and retention of talent is a key attraction strategy. Bereavement may be an extreme example, but how we help and respond to that moment is remembered – not through clumsy or insensitive rule-based management, but understanding what the individual needs. 

Use data to back up decision making and take action

We continue to use data and analytics to help inform our decision making and action taking, striking the right balance of analysis and action; ‘data good, insights better, action best’ being a guiding principle.

Technology will continue to play an increasing part in how we deliver a consumer level experience and support new hybrid ways of working.

A Progressive Journey for HR

Whether that is through more self-service content where people can get access to the information they need when they want it, to simple and transparent business processes to get things done. People’s outside of work experience with technology and services raises expectations on what could and should be happening in the workplace – we’ve been investing significantly in this space.

We’ve stayed true to flexibility and hybrid work

On the topic of hybrid working, we’re proud that in a world where corporations have been increasingly mandating a return to the office in some shape or form, we’ve stayed true to our flexible and progressive approach designed in line with our employee experience principes. Our hybrid approach is predicated on supporting and empowering our people to work in a way that enables them to thrive in their role. We’ve approached this by giving people choice around the place and time of work that starts with them considering the outcomes they need to deliver, and then thinking about the best place to be. But to recognise that delivering great outcomes is rarely a solo effort, these guiding principles are underpinned by the agreement they have within the teams they are part of – a set of expectations the team have of each other, so they can build connections and work successfully together.

Getting hybrid right requires continued focus and attention. What’s really clear from our employee feedback is the value our people place on the choice and flexibility our approach brings – but we’ve equally been mindful to manage the impact it could have on our sense of community, working hard to create opportunities for purposeful connection. One example of this was in February when we hosted an exhibition to showcase how we support our colleagues in the emergency services with location data. Attended by HRH Princess Anne, this provided a great opportunity for us to network with our customers and each other, and for our people to see the real-world application of their work. This summer we have also hosted our annual activity day – where colleagues can learn a new skill (from crafting to axe throwing!), making new connections along the way.

The results are clear and the work continues

So how is our focus on employee experience impacting on organisational performance? The early indicators are positive – in the past year we’ve seen a +17 point improvement in our employee Net Promoter Score, so when it comes to creating an environment that encourages our people to be their best every day, we’re heading in the right direction. But there is still much to do – having successfully embedded our employee experience principles into our ways of working as a people team, we are now focused on working with colleagues across other enabling functions. For example working with our technology and finance teams to build their understanding and awareness of the importance of the employee experience and supporting them to embed it within their service areas and product design, knowing that our employee experience can power a great customer experience.

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