HR professionals spanning Scotland and beyond met virtually yesterday for a packed agenda of expert discussions about the key issues and challenges facing the profession, from how to make flexible working a reality to how the L&D agenda has had to adapt to changing employee needs.
Following our morning roundup, here are some key takeaways from yesterday’s afternoon schedule.
Attitude and willingness to learn are key for new talent development
Delivering the closing keynote, tennis coach Judy Murray discussed what she looks out for when developing new talent. Murray said that while talent comes in many forms, the physical aspects of performance are not enough. “I have seen so many talented kids in sport who can do so many great things,” she explained. “But if they don't have the attitude, the ability to work hard, want to learn and really put themselves out there to learn, listen and work hard it doesn’t work.”
She added that when a player is not performing well, having mutual trust and a good connection can influence their progression and development. “It’s much easier to help people develop if they know you care about them,” she said. “When players don’t perform well it’s about understanding what’s happening right now and knowing where they are trying to get to. So much of it is about what’s going on up here [mentally].”
Murray pointed out that coaches need to care and understand about their team’s personal life in order to get the best results. “It is about what is going on in people’s lives that have nothing to do with the sport, perhaps have they broken up with a partner or have financial worries. If things are not 100 per cent you don't get the most out of them. There needs to be understanding and then there needs to be a plan.”
Job sharing needs to be taken more seriously
Speaking as part of a session about adopting flexible working practices, Wendy Aslett and Rachel Currie unpacked the pros and cons of their job as group HR director at the BBC, calling on employers to boost the visibility of job sharing in their organisations.
Both working mothers, Aslett said the arrangement has – while requiring some administrative getting used to at first, with the same email occasionally replied to twice due to their shared email inbox – been “fantastic”.
“For our team who often tend to be working full time, they've got six days of us both working full pelt and get no respite from the energy and pace that we each bring on separate days.”
Despite barely seeing each other due to being based in London and Glasgow respectively, Currie said having someone to share the responsibilities of such a high-level role was invaluable.
“Jobs at this level can be lonely,” she said, “but that is taken away immediately by always being able to share and things we're worried about to work through together. And we think we get a better outcome, we're bringing different perspectives. The BBC gets huge value from it.”
Most importantly though is the message it sends to the entire workforce, she added. “It sends a signal across the organisation to people who may want to apply to work at the BBC, and to people who are here with us now, that job sharing is taken seriously. At a time when we are really in a war for talent, and we're looking for new, diverse talent, I think it really matters to be able to send that signal.”
Bad management is at risk of becoming ‘invisible’
As part of a panel discussion on skills policy, Francis Lake, head of OD at Virgin Money, warned that bad management was at risk of becoming “invisible”, and said organisations should treat mental health not only as a wellbeing issue but, crucially, as a skills issue.
He said: “The amount of demands on people in management roles in this last year has just rocketed from a point where safety would be quite clear to it then becoming very ambiguous.
“The amount expected from people to be able to manage mental health in order to be able to pick up cues, when essentially all you can see is a photo of someone and understand whether they're doing okay, whether they're performing, okay, is a huge shift. [And] management's kind of invisible. So bad management is very, very hard to see.
“So when it comes to guarding against that and managing that risk, investment in skills is pretty huge.”
Lake said that in his opinion, the skills required for treating wellbeing as a business, performance and productivity issue “just aren't there at the moment”, and that “treating employee mental health and wellness as a skill issue, rather than as a nice ‘wellbeing issue’ is critical.
“The mental health challenges that come with pandemics are very often much greater than the physical health,” he said. “So trying to mitigate some of those risks of PTSD, of depression and anxiety and stress and so on, that will have a huge impact on the nation's productivity, actually investing in skills to manage that is I think potentially the most critical thing.”
Employers urged to ‘think about your younger self’ when it comes to hiring
Young workers have been among those hardest hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic according to official figures showing under-25s made up nearly two-thirds of the fall in people in paid employment seen since February 2020, constituting more than 60 per cent of the 693,000 payroll employees who have lost their jobs since that date.
Employers therefore have a vital role to play in onboarding, training and developing young talent, Kate Still, director of Scotland for the Princes Trust told a panel during a discussion on Protecting young people’s life chances.
Still called on HR leaders “to think about your younger self. Think about people who helped you to believe in yourself, when you're just about to make those first steps on your career ladder, and how you felt about your future [...] You can help young people achieve their potential, you can create a diverse, inclusive and fair workforce, you can invest in developing your skilled workforce, and you can create work experience apprenticeships and jobs.”
She added that third sector organisations such as the Princes Trust were there and ready to work with employers to help them achieve that.