Employee engagement has changed dramatically in recent years. Flexible working and remote working were previously seen as additional ‘perks’, however the Pandemic has brought many new challenges and these ‘perks’ have become the new normal. It’s no secret that people will continue working from home once the Pandemic subsides. Managing this effectively is key to maximise productivity in the workforce, especially during difficult and uncertain times.
I now have the pleasure of introducing Ruth Pappadakis, HR manager at Amazon Filters Ltd. Ruth has worked at AFL since 2008 and her role has greatly changed during this time. Ruth started in a stand alone role, the second person to have ever worked in HR in the company with limited basis to work from. Tasks included the operational functionality of HR whilst also developing HR policies however her role has transitioned to much more strategically focused HR with a dedicated HR Team. This transition and growth of the HR department has been as a direct result of the heavy growth seen by the business in this time.
“Now, as the HR Manager for the business, I have a strong HR team supporting me with the operational functions so that I can dedicate more time to the HR strategy.”
Ruth has seen HR strategy develop throughout AFL and would love to give us some tips and how she managed this effectively. Ruth has started to see several benefits since her company started using HR software. If you want some insights about how to increase employee engagement, implement HR policy throughout the company and more, I suggest you keep reading!
For those who are unfamiliar with Amazon Filters Ltd, could you provide them with a short introduction?
Amazon Filters Ltd is an international manufacturing business which has been in existence since 1985. We specialise in liquid filtration solutions for an extensive range of industries covering the six main areas of Water, Chemicals and Coatings, Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare, Oil and Gas, Food and Beverage and OEM. We operate globally and have links with a number of distributors across the globe who also help us to get our products out there.
As a business we have gone from strength to strength and now consist of over 230 members of the Amazon Filters Team and we are currently sitting at a group annual turnover in excess of £30m. Our main head office is based in Camberley, Surrey which allows us to access all areas of the business very quickly and assists in a collaborative approach across the business where we can communicate very easily with each other to find appropriate solutions or resolve issues if they arise. In addition to this site, we also have a sales office in Germany and a manufacturing facility in Poland.
In the last few years the Board made the decision to engage with Private Equity Investors and this in itself has been a positive and interesting transition which has provided us with a new focus for the next level of growth which we are planning.
What are the main responsibilities in fulfilling your role as HR manager currently?
We have placed a heavy emphasis on employee engagement and being a great place to work that people are proud of. We launched a programme a few years ago which we call ‘Share in Success’ and whilst this was initially led by the Senior Management, we involved all levels of Management and devised a full process in which we were determining how everyone in the business could share in the success that we are experiencing. This was largely about a culture shift for the business and a big part of this was redefining our values and key behaviour expectations. We are by no means at the end of this culture shift but have made good progress and are now starting to measure our ENPS for the first time – the first set of results are due in very soon and will be interesting to see.
The other big strategic focus has been on developing our internal training. This is an area that we have been working on for a while and we have now fully embedded a new Learning Management System with many mandatory and developmental courses for people across the business to access. This has really allowed us to step up our game in this area and demonstrate what we are capable of. Again, this is by no means completed and I believe that this will be an ongoing process with many more facets to come from the initial phases which have been introduced.
Aside from these two main focuses, there have been many others and will continue to be. We cannot stand still as a business, nor do we have a desire to but it is these types of activities which are moving us to the next level and allowing us to demonstrate what we are capable of. In terms of my own role I have many hats and this keeps the role interesting whilst also developing continually. There is always something new for me to tackle and that is what I love about being a generalist rather than a specialist.
Do you use HR software to implement effective HR strategy in your company?
Up until recently we have been relying on a heavily manual approach using a variety of spreadsheets. Whilst this has worked and been sufficient for our needs, it was becoming a challenge to maintain them all, especially given the growth levels we have faced and our ever increasing employee levels. For this reason we have just introduced HR software and, whilst we are still finding our feet with it, we are already reaping some benefits and confident that there will be many more to come. Not only does this give us better control and functionality for actions such as overseeing absence levels, etc. it is also meaning that my team and I have more quality time to dedicate to the important activities which are more cohesive with our HR Strategy. This has been one of my strategic aims for the business for a while and I had planned to implement this when we had reached 250 employees however the time came when we were in a position to introduce this sooner and to be honest, it has been needed for a while. I do believe that the information which we can obtain from this new software will allow me to tailor the HR strategy going forward and provide us with a focus for some further key areas.
Has the use of HR software helped increase employee engagement in your company?
Having only launched this at the start of July, it is very early days to be able to confirm this however the signs so far are very encouraging. The majority of employees have already logged into the system to check and update their information as well as request various types of leave that we offer and the feedback received has been extremely positive, even from those who are fearful of new technology and processes.
Rather than introducing all functions of the software in the first stage, we have decided to introduce the different elements in stages. Not only will this allow people time to get used to using the different functions but it will also allow us to maintain a high level focus on the software keeping it in the forefront of everyone’s minds whilst ensuring that we are all making the most of it.
What tips would you recommend to increase employee engagement working from home?
Home working has definitely been an interesting one since the start of the pandemic. We went from having approximately 10 people working from home to around 80 people in less than a week. It was a very quick turnaround, like many other businesses, and my hat goes off to our IT Department in making this happen so quickly.
Initially we thought that it may be a challenge to keep people engaged whilst working from home, however in the main I am delighted to be able to say that we have been proved wrong. Just before the pandemic, we were lucky enough to have launched Microsoft Teams and this has proved an invaluable tool for us throughout the last 4 months with most teams reporting that they are actually talking more to each other now than they did before. I think things may have felt very different had this not been in place.
With home working being a new concept for many of us it has been a strange time. We have been working hard to keep engagement levels high and are constantly thinking of new ways for us to do this. New initiatives implemented have ranged from having a dedicated method in which to provide people with updates regarding the pandemic, issuing daily quizzes and brain teasers as light hearted fun as well as introducing anonymous surveys to understand how people are feeling so that we have been able to address any concerns. We have also been in contact with Line Managers to share many different hints and tips whilst ensuring they are keeping in regular communication with their team members
It has been very important to remember that everyone has had a very different experience throughout this situation and it is apparent that some people have loved working from home whilst others have found it much more of a challenge. As Mental Health First Aiders, myself and a couple of members of my team have been taking time to contact each home worker to understand how they are feeling and offer support where needed.
For me, communication is what has been key for engagement throughout all of this. And whilst we, as the HR Team, have been working from home it has been crucial for us not to forget those who have remained on site. We have therefore also offered them different ways to be able to contact us too.
When there is a change in HR policy, how do you ensure that it is understood by the workforce?
In the past we have relied heavily on a paper based system to communicate any policy changes and ask all employees to manually sign a document to confirm receipt and their understanding of the new policy. This outdated process was not only time consuming but it was also not supportive of our Corporate Social Responsibility given the amount of paper it consumed. Now we have introduced the new HR Software, we are excited to be launching all new policies or policy revisions via the system for every employee to access and electronically sign receipt of.
This is also where our LMS comes into play as we have been busy designing online courses to support the HR policies which are in existence. Every Amazon Filters team member is required to complete these courses along with validation questions to demonstrate their understanding of the new or revised policy. Further support is then offered to anyone who appears to be struggling to understand any elements of the policy.