We recently hosted our first webinar featuring leading people experts to discuss employee wellbeing in the post-covid world.
A recap of the webinar is also available as:
Joining us on the panel was our host, Eva Evangelou, Customer Success Director at Onalytica who is a People Manager herself. She’s passionate about empowering employees to reach their full potential, but also helping drive businesses forward.
Rebecca Bull who started, My HR Hub, just over five years ago. Her unique exposure to a range of startups, small, fast-growth organisations across the UK provided valuable feedback on how small businesses tackled HR strategies during the pandemic, noting that the SME’s who took an employee-centric approach were generally the ones who thrived. She also launched My HR Club last May, an HR subscription-based online service that features Staff Treats benefits.
Meir Adler currently leads organisation development and design at Novartis, after running his own business in organisational transformation. Prior to that, he used to lead the organisation design practice at KPMG where he was very focused on people and change and large transformations involving all the levers that HR has to drive, including engagement, culture, structure and reward.
During the lockdown Meir noticed how there’s a false sense of security with project management plans and gantt charts.
The concept of agility came out really strongly during COVID and those managers and businesses who were able to “quickly adapt or pivot their strategies by breaking things down into manageable pieces, were more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day - an important factor in providing employees with a sense of purpose.”
Meir’s focus during the pandemic has been helping Novartis to create something that isn’t set in stone, that’s interactive and allows an achievable outcome but also breaks tasks down into smaller pieces so that people feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose while working from home. “Whether for work or personal life, people enjoy the ability to see the value in what they do and achieve in a day.”
Matthew Phelan, co-founder of The Happiness Index, a company that collects data from employees in eighty six countries across the world. His absolute obsession is the association between how people feel at work and how that impacts the performance of businesses. He described that, "there are reams and reams of data that show that happier employees perform better work and that flows through into the financial performance of the business." The data they've got at the moment, across the board, is that about 50 per cent of employees are happier when they're home and are 50 per cent happier in the office. "It's a real Brexit scenario", Matt said.
Matt also said that, "what we do know is that happiness and engagement lead to better productivity."
Once the data is understood, it’s clear that only 50% of the workforce is going to be pleased by forcing them to return on-site so we need to be flexible, to create an environment, where people feel comfortable and they feel they can be themselves at work because the data also shows that then they’ll perform better.
Matt suggested that there's a massive opportunity for all companies to get rid of all their historical thinking behind what they thought was a good workplace and start from a cultural basis by asking themselves, 'What is the best culture that we can create?'
Matt said that more data from The Happiness Index shows that “employee happiness across the globe consistently dropped by about 20 per cent, which is huge. I've been looking at the data for six or seven years.”. He has never seen such a consistent and sharp decline in employee wellbeing and because we know that happiness impacts performance, it’s not surprising that productivity levels were impacted too.
On the bright side, the stats show that over the last month, as lockdowns across the globe have eased up, employees are reporting that they are happier overall.
Another thing that their data shows is clear evidence of what is known as emotional deficit. As a result of people being isolated from one another and forced into virtual communication normal emotional responses and social behaviour have been impacted.
One of the biggest factors when considering emotional deficit is empathetic behaviour. According to NCBI, empathy is a fundamental interpersonal phenomenon that plays a vital role in all social interactions, and thus, deficits in empathic behavior may lead to social dysfunctions.
People Managers shouldn’t see happiness as an objective. From his personal perspective, Matt encourages people not to see high happiness as good and low happiness as bad, they are just emotions. The more we understand the emotions, the more we can affect changes.
Rather than striving for an 8/10 employee happiness score, companies should aim to understand what is making employees unhappy under coronavirus circumstances and where they can help, they should.
Lessons for SMEs
Dealing with a range of SME’s, Rebecca noticed how many businesses were disconnected from their employees at a very basic level, where their systems had no record of employees’ emergency contact details or did not have the ability to allow their teams to work from home.
In addition to emotional deficit, Rebecca picked up an increase in emotional intelligence where her clients took on a paternal role, looking after the welfare of their employees first and foremost as opposed to the profits.
Interestingly, for a lot of small businesses, the down time that the lockdown provided was beneficial for their organisational structure. Because most managers and employees in small businesses wear many hats and take on many different roles - it can be hard to distinguish or define people’s job scope let alone take time away to see where they may be better suited to thrive within the organisation.
Though they may not have been ready, as a result of needing to furlough staff, SME’s were pushed to pragmatically reorganise their teams and focus on their agility.
Looking for ways to nurture the wellbeing of your employees? Book a demo with us today.
Here is the full transcript of the interview for anyone who's interested:
Ok, fantastic. Let's get started. Hi, everyone.
Thank you so much for joining and welcome to today's webinar on employee engagement in the post-COVID world brought to you by Staff Treats. I'm very excited to be here today and with people experts discussing people management topics in the current climate. So I'm very pleased to be introducing three fantastic experts who will be speakers on our panel. We've got Rebecca Bull, Meir Adler and Matthew Phelan who'll be bringing their valuable insights and expertise. And we're really looking forward to just having a great discussion and a great conversation with you. So we encourage all of you to ask a question at any stage throughout the webinar. You can use Zoom's Q&A feature. We'll get the questions directly and we'll try to do the best to answer them within the time frame. If we run out of time, you can always email the Staff Treats team at email@example.com, but I'll save some time at the end to make sure we get a chance to go through some of your questions. So without further ado, I'm going to introduce our three panel speakers, guys it would be great if you introduce yourselves your role and your current focus. So shall we start with Rebecca?
Thanks Eva. Good evening, everybody. And it's really great to be here today. So my name is Rebecca Bull and I started my business, My HR Hub, just over five years ago now. And we focus specifically on startups, small, fast-growth organisations across the UK and the secondary business. My HR Club was launched last May, so a year last May, and that's predominantly offering an HR subscription-based online service and Staff Treats is one of our clients and partners and we're delighted to be asked to come along this evening.
Thanks so much, Rebecca, shall we go with Meir.
Everyone, I am currently leading the organisation design COE at Novartis, I just joined a few months ago before I was running my own business in the kind of organisational transformation consulting space. Before that, I used to lead the organisation design practice at KPMG so very focused on kind of people and change and large transformations involving kind of all the levers that HR has to drive, engagement, culture, structure, reward, et cetera. Now very focused on professionally, really kind of building capability at Novartis and driving the large cultural agenda, which is exciting and has been driven faster by COVID. So really excited to be here and talking to you.
Thanks so much Meir.
And finally, Matt, everyone, so you have got the biggest made up job of all time, which is the Head of Global Happiness. And that's to do with my role. And we, The Happiness Index collects data from employees in eighty six countries across the world. So my air miles are down, so I feel good about my moment. And yes, I suppose my absolute obsession is, is the association between how people feel at work and actually really commercially, how that impacts the performance of the business. So and it's just reams and reams of data now that shows that happier employees perform better work and that flows through into the financial performance of the business so, I'm the geek on the panel. I've got data on how, how COVID has made people feel, and I'll just try to chuck some stuff in here. And then if anyone's got any questions, just pop it in the little Q&A. I don't mind answering the 'data-ry' stuff.
Thanks so much Matt. And I'm Eva Evangelou, I'm Customer Success. Director at Onalytica. I'm a People Manager myself and I'm very passionate about empowering employees to reach their full potential, but also help drive our businesses forward. And obviously this has been a very interesting and very challenging time and for a lot of businesses. And so I'm really keen to start the conversation with just how businesses and what we've learned from it and what are businesses doing to improve. And so I'm going to pose the first question to the self-proclaimed geek of the group and so Matt, can you give us some stats around what we've learned from how employees are feeling, what a business has done to improve and what we have learned?
Yes, so I'll share what we've learned from macro and also what I've learned individually because I'm always trying to learn more about my own subject. And so the first thing is there's no getting away from it. Employee happiness across the globe consistently dropped by about 20 per cent, which is huge. Okay, I've been looking at the date for six or seven years. You just don't get that because we know that happiness impacts performance that will have impacted performance. That has bounced up in the last month or so. It has gone up again. And the second thing that we've seen, which I think for everyone listening is a really important point and is we've seen something called an emotional deficit because we can't see each other as much and maybe this event would we would have all been in somewhere in London or something and then having some wine and stuff afterwards. And then we can't see our friends and family. There's an emotional deficit. And companies have two options. They can even help to fill that much of a deficit or not and everyone listening it's totally up to you what you do.
But I can tell you that if you help to fill it, your employees will be happier, you perform better and you'll do better financially. If you don't, you won't get that so they're probably the two things from the data. The thing that I've learned from the most is to never see happiness as an objective. And because when we were talking about this session earlier, we're talking about what could also be the positive message that we could leave people. And y own learning from it is not to see high happiness as good and low happiness as bad. They are just our emotions. And the more you understand them, the more you can do something about it. And so I used to say it, even internally, we used to say we've got to have an employee happiness score at 8/10 and I've learned from my own neuroscience investigations that actually that that's just a totally wrong way of looking about it. It is totally OK to not feel cool because of what's been happening around the world. But what we can do as companies is understand what's making people happy and where we can help. Let's help.
Thanks so much, Matt and Rebecca. From your experience, how have you seen businesses improve and what do you think that they've learnt from this situation?
Yeah, I think, gosh, so many things, I think initially the things they learned were perhaps how disconnected they were with from their employees in terms of everything, kind of maybe the basics of emergency contact details and can they work from home and what other roles can they potentially do as part of that core team that remained in the workplace when everyone else was furloughed? I think everyone has got closer in terms of the communication and like Matt was just saying the emotional deficit. So the emotional intelligence has increased, I would say, through with my clients as a result of them putting the welfare first. And I would say, you know, we're very lucky with the clients that we work for who are very employee-centric and quite paternalistic. So it's been quite natural for them to care first and foremost for the welfare of the teams as opposed to the profits that became almost 'we just have to forget about that at the moment'. And that that was displayed in many different ways where factories were closed on the basis that they could continue to run and create income. But the M.D., who's very, very employee-centric and caring, if you like, decided that was just not something he wanted to risk. So from a health safety perspective, this was prior to any of the guidelines coming out about COVID safe workplaces. He decided to make that choice, to make that call, to actually close the warehouse and manufacturing operations which impacted on the financial side of the business.
But as a result of that, all the staff were allowed to go home and they felt quite safe. So I think it's built loyalty. It's really shown true leaders. Those leaders that really are caring for the employees stand out quite naturally, I think, through the process. And I think from an organisation point of view, several conversations I've been having for probably quite a few years with clients in terms of restructuring or perhaps looking at roles and looking at is that role really the right person? Is that is do you actually really need that role or do we need to look at something else? And I think certainly small businesses, because they're so, so busy all the time, they don't often tend to get time to actually stand back and reflect and work on the business. They're in the business all the time. And so what COVID did was naturally help them organise and restructure very quickly. And it was very obvious before we even start to look at redundancy matrixes who were there going to be the first people that would potentially exit the business because these were the people that potentially if we are talking quite pragmatically and that should have left the business probably a year or so before.
So I think it really pushed forward the reorganisation and really brought in to kind of very clear daylight that conflict or difficult conversations never kind of go away.
They just get put aside until a pandemic brings everything to light. And I think that's what happened, where it held the really kind of focus on the core business and really look at the agilesnes, I guess, and how lean they were versus income and try and do some then correlation versus the structure. And wherever there was was additional resources and people that they probably just couldn't carry, those tough calls were made, so they've made tough calls really tough calls and it's been really challenging to see them go through such a difficult time, to be honest, it's been quite, quite challenging. And but they've been amazing, I can honestly say, and just so proud of all of them.
They've done an incredible job. Yeah. And they definitely weren't ready to make some of those changes and a lot of the restructuring that we've spoken about. So Meir, how have you seen this and how do you feel businesses have restructured? Were they ready? How did they go about this?
Yeah, kind of three, three points I was thinking about as everyone was talking, the first thing we found was that employees, there was a lot of panic when COVID hit. And the first thing that people were scared about was their health, stocking up on toilet paper and then their wealth. And what I mean by that, their job security. So Novartis is privileged that it's a successful business. It has cash reserves, and it was able to promise everybody that, you know, we wouldn't be making any redundancies as a result of COVID. And I think that when, when soon after we were able to announce that it really started people to think about, well, how do we use this opportunity, this moment of panic, actually, as an opportunity to rethink the way we work. And one of the things that really came out was that, you know, we I'm sure all of us in our jobs have project plans and gantt charts and our plans for the year. And there's a false sense of security and all of that. Right. And this concept of agile and agility came out really strongly as how do you create something that isn't set in stone, that gets you that iterative and allows you to get an outcome.
But also importantly, kind of tennis from agile is how do you break it down into manageable pieces? So rather than just coming in every day doing your job and when you're remote, you kind of as a manager say you're managing one person, you're managing three hundred people, you're managing your own time.
Right. With nobody looking over your shoulder, you kind of need to learn to break it down into chunks and kind of manage in small pieces and make sure that you're getting the outcomes you need and connecting much more rapidly, maybe in more formal ways. So we were kind of learning our way through all of that. And I think kind of linking bank employee happiness and engagement. What really happened was that there's a great book Alain de Botton wrote a book called The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, and in that he talks about what makes a good job. And he defined a good job as having complexity, autonomy and meaning. Right. And autonomy is you have autonomy, you make decisions. Complexity is a little bit more complicated because what's complex on day one isn't complex on day 90. So that's something that has to grow with you in your role, meaning the really interesting one. It's not meaning is I save the world, right? It's meaning that I see the impact of my work and sometimes in a job is hard to see that. Right. But in a way, when you're working remotely and you're starting to break work down into packages so that you can manage and connect in a collaborative way rather than everybody just connecting informally, people started to see like the output that they were creating, like on a daily, weekly basis. Right. Because you're kind of sending things round. You're helping people understand. We really saw uptake of people saying, actually, I kind of see what I'm doing right. I see how I filll my day and I'm not wasting my time getting coffees necessarily but I use the other part of my day, really in a valuable way as well with my family or with friends or spending time on my own. So it was a really interesting shift. But the real thing was how do we give people that sense of safety and then allow them to kind of think about what that means for them to think about it positively?
Yeah. And I think that's definitely one of the benefits that came from breaking down some of your time. There has been more time with family. I guess, ahat are some of the challenges that came with that and what are some of the what are some of the challenges and what are some of the benefits? As both an individual contributor and the manager that we've seen? This is an open question to the panel.
You go Meir.
I was just going to say, you know, at Novartis, one of the reasons I joined Novartis recently was I was very enamored with and believed in their cultural journey, which is to be every employee in the whole organisation, to be inspired, curious, and unbossed. And it kind of means what it says on the tin. We want people to be inspired by their work every day. We want them to be curious and learning on a constant basis. We fund a hundred hours a year per person for training, which is amazing. The unbossed things really interesting. It's one hundred fifty year old company, very hierarchical, old school.
And we're kind of working through on a personal level with leaders and with the organisation what it means to be unbossed, what we found with the pandemic and remote working is it's really accelerated that right, because you simply cannot be a micromanager in the same way when people are working from home because you don't have access right, they're not in the office, you're not over their shoulder. You can't check. They can't be there all the time. And they can switch off. They can not turn out to a call, right? And so, you know, autonomy was kind of was was something that the the dropped out of it. I mean, a lot of managers, I think, found themselves scrambling around with kind of what am I doing now? I have a call on today on my team and then. And then what? Well, actually, there's lots of value in that role and what you could do to facilitate and help and be a servant leader. So so I think it's been a real I don't know if we've grabbed a value that that's created yet, but that kind of unbossed has been accelerated massively by just the remote working, driving a different cultural mindset of what it means to be an employee and a manager, right.? Sorry Matt.
No, that was such a good point. I was just laughing because I was imagining you writing a book saying "COVID-19 The Death of the Micromanager". And now I just again, I'm just going to play the data update for everyone which is the other weird thing that we're seeing that I've never seen before is that we always rank what's coming up and what's making people happy and what's making people unhappy and for the first time ever, the thing, there's one thing that's in the top two of unhappy and happy. And I love it when I see new bits of data that I've never seen before, I'm like 'What is going on here?' And the word that's in there is the F word, which is family. And and it's so interesting because if I take myself as an example, I've got more time with my family and that's brilliant I've got young children and so on and so on. But it's also incredibly stressful. Like I'll show everyone here, because I'll just show you my office because Meir was like, oh, you've got a nice background, Matt. But this is the actual reality, I don't know if you can see, I mean look at this, this is my office and that's why I'm here, because I'll be in the middle of these calls, maybe speaking to the CEO of Unilever or something and then I suddenly get a picth invasion. And it's showing up in the data, which is and it's there's both elements of that. And it's I think it's the end of the if we're clamouring 101, and Meir's put micromanagement in there, I think it's is also the death of I hate the phrase work-life balance because there's just life. You only have one life and it's about having a good, healthy, happy life, et cetera, et cetera. And but now it's a new world, we're working out how these things work together and people are starting to understand a bit more. So, yeah, I just thought I'd share that on the data, and my messy office.
Yeah. Thank you for sharing the office. I think there's definitely been a challenge for us as well, because for some parents with very young children who don't have the chance or who are both working, both parents are working and they have to both kind of be working and doing childcare at the same time. It's a full time job. So that's been really, really difficult. So I wonder what the future opportunities of working in an office will be like. Will parents, for example, as one group choose to be working in the office or choose to be working remotely? How do you see that?
Well, I think it is very individual, isn't it? And I think it's more the parents that want to go back to work in the office, but I think it's all dependent on how you're set up I think at home, I would say the clients, the employees that we've been supporting throughout, the ones that have found it the most difficult. I think where both mum and dad have been working from home and they've got children to home school as well. And that is just such, it's like a perfect storm, isn't it? I mean, that is just so, so much hard work. And I think those people that we've been in close contact with, those that have been, have got toddlers at home, for example, are the ones that are quite keen to get back into a routine and back into the into the office to feel like they're at work, because it's almost like they need the escapism from home to come back to home afterwards. And I think there are others, we were chatting about this earlier in the week who actually really enjoy being at home, who have probably would never have got home working through flexible working request and actually through COVID. Everybody's the business case is there. You know, if they're performing well, we've always said it can be really challenging to put a flexible working request in and reject that on the basis that it doesn't work if it has worked for the last four to five months.
And but we know some clients of ours are keen to create that office vibe again and bring people back together and going through, I guess, the statutory flexible working request and the the eight criteria, seven or eight criteria, that are there is really difficult to actually kind of hang building a cultural creating improved teamwork around one of the reasons to legally kind of reject a request to work flexibly, work from home. And so I think employers need to be really careful how they do that, certainly for those that are quite introverts and to enjoy socialising and don't enjoy going to the pub after work and actually just want to get on with their jobs, they're the ones we are seeing are the ones that want to stay at home. And in conversations with the businesses are well, actually it's likely to get worse or become more isolated. We actually need to bring that person back into the workplace. And I think that's that's a personal choice. You know, I don't think that will wash at all.
So I think there's so many different variables, isn't there of who wants to stay at home, who wants to actually carry on working?
And obviously as we see now is potentially the start of a second peak. How do we actually kind of manage the next space through with employers to make sure everyone is safe?
I would probably say to our clients, the majority have suggested that everyone stays at home and works from home for as long as they can if they're not needed on site.
But then we have got manufacturing organisations and restaurants where they have to be clearly be there and then just sort of managing COVID-secure workplaces as best as best as they can, which is not without its challenges, is it really?
I'm wondering, Matt, if we have any data around how working remotely has impacted productivity, because we're kind of discussing whether it's productivity working in the office versus overall flexibility. So are you able to work remotely or work within the office?
So what, what data do we have behind that? They data we've got at the moment, across the board, is that about 50 per cent of employees are happier when they're home and are 50 per cent happier in the office. It's a real Brexit scenario. But what we do know and if you move forward, you've got multiple choices there, haven't you? You could tell. I want to go back to the office so we can tell it's work from home. Whatever way you go there, you're going to upset 50 per cent of the workforce. Now, what we do know is that happiness and engagement leads through to productivity, and that is part of the path. I simplified it by saying it's happiness and engagement through to bigger sales, but in that is creativity, productivity and stuff like that. So, um, what I think what it's about is about understanding data and try and we've used the word flexible a lot and try to create an environment, because one of the other things in the data is around. How about if you can be yourself work, you'll perform better. And that's as you start to get into. An example someone gave to me and they say this is the most extreme example I've heard, is that, in a meeting today they were saying and they used to work with someone who used to like to dress as a cat, so they used to come to the office dressed as a cat, and the first time you see it you're a bit like I've never seen someone at work dressed as a cat, but the second time you'll cool with it.
And but that's part of their psyche. So I think there's just a massive opportunity here for all companies to just get rid of all their historical thinking behind what they thought was a good work and start from a cultural basis like, 'What is the best culture that we can create?' And work back from that rather than thinking, is it binary? Is it the office? Is it not? And because I think a lot of people will it will end up in the middle. So it is one of those things you can't please everyone, but I think you can create a culture that allows people to be themselves and work in different ways, like it's about eight years ago I put a question to our office and it was about one of the best things that we've ever done, because it takes away a level of pressure. Now, in a new world, I start to think about how how would you do that? Because that that was very popular at the time. But now you probably don't want to bring your kid on the tube. And so I just think it's a chance to reset and think like, what's the best way? We we were just hiring for a developer and we probably would have to six months go hired them in London. And it looks like we're going to hire them in Singapore because we just opened up to the world. We just said, right, who's, what developers are out there? And we don't care as long as they produce their work.
Yeah, that's a great enabler, isn't it, is the actual global labour market that has opened up as a result of this, whereas quote a few MD's are quite anti-working-from-home and it's the trust issue and et cetera, et cetera, and everybody wants to work from home if you do, et cetera. So I think the fact is now employees have seen that it completely unlocks a different labour pool and really opens up fantastic opportunities. That kind of work against COVID and all the devastation it's caused actually starts to enable and open up more opportunities for so many businesses.
I was just going to say, you know, I think there are positives. I think there are also negatives that we're kind of working through. And so if I think about two of the things that I've kind of found in previous work, so one is I did a peice of work with Philip Morris, which is the largest tobacco company in the world.
They're a previous client of mine. And by 2050, they have promised the world publicly that they won't sell cigarettes anymore, which is which is crazy for 180 year old business that sells tobacco and quite a purpose. Now, the way in which they're going to get to not selling cigarettes is swopping revenue streams to whole load of things. So would you believe that they're looking at going into pharma, looking at, for example, painkiller delivery through inhalation? So they've got all the signs on smoking and they're looking at how they can change that to better things, which is, you know, I'm sure partially driven by the, you know, the number of people smoking in the world, reducing at a rapid rate, but also through kind of trying to drive a different purpose. In looking at how to drive innovation, what they found was fundamentally that collaboration and inclusion of ideas drove innovation similar to how we talk about happiness, driving kind of revenue. Those two things drive innovation and organisation. Similarly, when looking at this cultural journey for Novartis, you know, you can't swing a cat in Novartis without meeting somebody who has like a triple PhD in science from Harvard, MIT. Quite literally on a daily basis, because people are that. And so they're not going to go to something unless is backed by data. And so they did a lot of data work to look at what would drive the right outcomes. What they found was that productivity, the strongest correlation with productivity, is driven by bonds of friendship. So when we talk about kind of collaboration and inclusion of ideas, bonds of friendship, these are things that drive value for businesses.
And as human beings, we're not used to doing any of those three things over Zoom or over Microsoft Teams. And that's where I think we have a negative, right. There's a deficit today. And the reason why I say there is a deficit today is we've basically transposed all of our working practices and all of our social practices onto Zoom or onto Microsoft Teams. And so I and I'm sure many others basically sit in meetings from 8am to 8pm with no break and no respite. And so the question is for those really important things, productivity for somebody is never mind, I don't think anybody is kind of trying to do anything sexy and new. Productivity is critical for everyone. How do you drive bonds of friendship in a remote environment? And then second of all for collaboration and inclusion of ideas, how do you actually use it to your advantage? In a very simple example, in a in a managed Zoom meeting, you reduce things like hierarchy, grade, etc., because you're able to give people a turn to speak because and it feels much more natural when you're remote to give people turns to speak. Whereas when you're in a meeting room, everyone's kind of just talking biggest personalities, whatever it is. So I suppose, again, we don't have the answer because this is early on. But this this experience of working remotely, I don't want to call it working remotely because it assumes that there's a center from which we are remote but distributed working is here to stay, then we need to learn quickly how to navigate the future, right and still get collaboration, still get bonds of friendship, still get engagement and I don't mean engagement on the broad scale of a company, and engagement between personal and interpersonal relationships being built beyond.
And we we're doing a lot of games, now, for example. Right. And actually, technology is great for games. So we're playing games with each other as a way to actually engage in something other than work, whereas before we would have just kind of got drunk. Now we are still drinking, but also playing games online together. So that's, the question is how do we change in this new world without losing those things? And I think, you know, Netflix, Reed Hastings has been in the news very recently saying this is impossible, everybody needs to get back to the office. I mean, he's really talking about the things I've just described, how he can't see how he can drive innovation or that productivity, when everybody is so distributed and so his answer is bring everybody back. I think that that's naive because I don't think that's going to be possible. Right. So it's not about bringing everybody back or everybody stay at home. It's about what is the future, right? It will be interesting, Matt and Rebecca, your kind of views on that as well.
I've obviously just been speaking to the data but on the flexible stuff just to give my own opinion as an entrepreneur. I've always just found it crazy that people would hire people on a hundred thousand pound a year and then actually put them through a process about whether they could work for home. I just think if you if if you can't trust someone to work from home then they shouldn't be hired anyway. I just I find the whole concept absolutely crazy on Meir's point, I think. Absolutely. And and I think you're right on on Netflix. And I meet, so many times you meet people from different industries. So I met someone who used to be CEO of Sainsbury's recently. And and the way that he was just talking about the consumer, it was like the consumer was wrong and he was right. And he was talking about companies like Amazon and Alibaba. And he was he just made an off the cuff remark saying something like and he said to me, yeah but, and consumers like to buy ten pound notes with five pounds. And what he was saying is that where Amazon and Alibaba are going into, like, selling actual food, he's effectively saying, yeah, well, but they don't make any profit from it so that it's not going to work.
But like in the Netflix, for example, he's just missed what the, why Amazon is doing that. The reason Amazon will make a loss on a business that sells you food because they know everything about you at that point and they've collected data that is worth more than the entire UK supermarkets profits put together because you look in your shopping basket, they know everything. They know if you're buying pregnancy tests, if you are the vitamins you're taking. So I think I think there's a lot of people that don't understand how powerful data is in that future. And I think to link in with Meir's point, I think there's so much data that you can start to use to think about, right, how do we create this new future work like that. I didn't, I didn't know if that was an actual slogan they used like unbossed. But that is we see that so much in the data that that really good people, that's just what they want. They just want to know what the what it is you want to achieve. Then they want to be left alone to do it and then go back and when they need someone to help with. And so there's just so much data out there that's just being ignored.
Yeah, definitely, and I think the situation has probably caused HR Departments maybe to speak less to their employees. I think we were discussing this earlier in the week. They're almost they already know what the answer is going to be. So they're trying not to speak so much to their employees. But in fact, what we've seen at Onalytica and what I've heard with a of your businesses as well is that employees are responding a lot more than they ever were before to being surveyed. They want to get there and they want to get the word out there. So this is a really important time to really be listening. So what have you found with that?
I guess from from where we are supporting clients, so health and well-being is always been like really important for me sort of 20 years now and we've been bringing in employee assistance programs. So this is in my previous previous corporate roles, employee assistance programs. Before they were a thing, before health and well-being was called health and well-being. It's just kind of caring for people. And I was always really, really passionate about that. And I was really lucky to find great organisations that shared that, too. And one of them being in a very large organisation that's very successful now and has just come back to Matt's point, has just confirmed incredible takings throughout the summer period so that that's going to workshop incidently. So was I was in a great environment where that was what encouraged that we look after people from your perspective, but then just overall, there was a great camaraderie in the business. And so I guess that's that's completely stayed with me. That's formed my that's how HR looks after people full stop and sort of working through various organisations is not always the same, you know? And I think what COVID has really done, so the pandemic is really brought through those organisations that really genuinely want to invest in health and wellbeing initiatives. So, for example, employee assistance programs where currently the waitlist for direct counseling through the NHS in the UK is probably about six months, could be longer now. Private counselling is probably up to a hundred pounds an hour, whereas if you have an employee assistance program with face-to-face counselling and within a few days, matter of days, you in structured previously was face to face, but it's now obviously kind of Zoom, online and face to face counselling structured sessions. So we've seen a huge increase in those kind of services being used. We've seen an increase also in managers needing support for themselves.
I'm not a huge, great fan of mental health practitioners in the workplace because I think certainly in small businesses and this is probably where I know it's definitely different in large organisations, because Meir what you were sayings earlier about managers, what are are they going to do now?
Well, in small businesses, they don't have that luxury. They are doing the job, the day job and looking after people and then those small businesses where I guess the budget or the awareness isn't there they are not affording great benefits like health and wellbeing, employee assistance programs with counselling, which for me for many, many years has been probably the top number one benefit that employers should invest in. Because what we're doing, which is actually pushing the problem back onto the line manager. So the line manager is very stressed. They're now managing remote teams, they're now figuring out how does it all come together. And then on top of that, and they're the natural person, the signpost that that person goes to who is probably invariably very stressed or distressed, for example, and they have to try and solve that problem, which is a mental health issue.
And I just find it just so unfair that line managers have yet another burden to deal with. And so our strategy is not working with mental health first stages.
That's good from perhaps an awareness point of view in kind of understanding where people are at in the workplace. But those companies, which are most of our clients, to be fair, have access to a fantastic employee assistance program, which we've been partnering with for many years since various quite critical instances in previous roles.
We'd had suicides at work and they are really strong partner of ours now. And I think it's taken the huge stress off line managers to be able to not have to deal with this conversation.
So it's a direct referral or they phone directly. The employer does. But also we offer that employees distance program helpline for managers to kind of deal with all of those stresses and issues. And there have been many, you know, clients of ours have lost employees. Employees have sadly passed away due to COVID. We've had lots of employees whose family or extended friends have lost their lives due to the due to the virus. And then there's been the knock on effect of isolation and various other challenges, redundancies and just life in general, is that the snowball, the knock on effect of a redundancy, then its financial wellbeing and then it just goes on, doesn't it? And so wellbeing for us has been a huge focus. And we are just so glad the the clients that we support that have those benefits in place, which and there are some that don't, you know, to be fair, and we know when we have those calls conversations about substance management or sickness or stress.
And I had a client yesterday call me to say that one of his employees was starting to self-harm and she's having suicidal thoughts, et cetera. And because they have this service it's a direct referral straight into that. And for those companies that don't have that, I just don't know how they're coping right now.
I don't know how they're dealing with that internally or a waiting list for the NHS, which is invariably perhaps long term sickness coming through or worse, just in a continuous and ongoing mental health issues where, you know, very sadly, because the GPs have long prior to COVID been in a situation where they're not really getting under the skin of those issues and they are just prescribing antidepressants.
And then the whole new challenge starts with kind of addiction and so it goes on. So I think employees have every single scenario that HR can throw at them.
They've had in the last six months. And I think they've been incredibly resilient, incredibly resilient.
Rebecca, it's really interesting because the question about HR connecting to employees more or less. And we were talking about was kind of this boundary of hyper personal stuff kind of coming into the workplace.
And what was I was reflecting on is I don't want to go from kind of the topic you were talking about, which was quite sombre in a way to what really excites me about that. Right. And obviously not the things you're talking about excite me because that would be wrong.
But there's this real moment of opportunity to change the paradigm of the way in which we think about work and life. Right. I always found two phrases, really interesting work life balance.
And you're alive when you're working. Right? So so that doesn't make sense. And then, you know, the idea of bringing your whole self to work again, you're always your whole self, right? Now, you might hide parts of yourself are your whole self. You're always come to work. These concepts kind of we seem to see work as something separate too, right? And it really comes from I think, you know, along with the 9-5, this concept from Henry Ford, which is everybody comes to the factory a certain time and the only thing you do for those 8 hours is X and then you leave, right? And then you have your life back. Right. But until that you screw that nut on that bolt and don't stop every single time, right.
We're living in hundreds of years in the past, like in modern day knowledge work. Now, that might be the case for certain places. But the thing that you've been describing, Rebecca, is this opportunity to talk about human versus resources, right HR - human resources. So like the concept of resources is basically where all the H.R. departments were. And like, you know, the Oelrich model of HR, of HR business partners and COEs and shared services and operations like all of that's being blown up.
Why is it being blown up? Because the function of HR is going what is our purpose here? Right. Do we have a purpose to play in fundamentally changing the way in which we interact with employees, fundamentally changing the way we kind of work on culture and inclusion and interaction and wellbeing? I mean, the concept of wellbeing has gone from 'Are you OK at work?' to 'How are you going to support your children and your wife whilst trying to do your job?' Right. The boundary between life and work has disappeared. I mean, myself, you know, when we were in the thick of lockdown, I was doing shift work with my wife and we were both working till all hours of every day to get the work done around the shift work of looking after the children. You know, the concept of of wellbeing and benefits changes. Right. So KPMG, my old employer, they're looking at kind of selling a lot of their offices.
I'm sure that the CFO is thinking "Oooh, saving". Right. But if I was the HOD, I'd be thinking, well, wait a second, if I'm not going to pay for an office for MEir, do I actually start to offer benefits around childcare? Right. And how do I create hyper localised packages so like that for me really is exciting. Right. Because there is a swell of reality that forces us to change our model in the way in which the personel side of the resources side, there's this opportunity for it to take a backseat. And I think that, like everybody in HR this has been in the psyche for the last two decades. Right. This is the opportunity to strike while the iron is hot, which is to say, OK, all of that stuff great, really important basic stuff that needs to be done. But what does it really mean for the future of of what we do? Right. A staff treat of a £50, I say that because we were invited by Staff Treats a staff treats of a £50 Amazon voucher, a great pre-lockdown. What kind of staff treats would really matter to people now in lock down? And by the way, how personalised can you be based on your workforce? Because every single member of that workforce needs something different, right? If I'm like a if I'm a universe, if I just come out of university, I'm renting a single room in a house where I'm worried about, which I know people are in, worried about getting COVID from my housemates because they don't respect the rules. And I'm working for your company. What do I need? Versus a parent of four kids who's trying to homeschool toddlers. You know, husbands just lost the job, whatever it is. Right. And I think there's something there's this element of being able to fundamentally change the model and think about a new way of working.
And I really don't want to say the new normal because I don't think we're anywhere near understanding what normal is any any time soon. But it is new and HR's role in that is going to be only larger rather than smaller. Right.
So I kind of think about the best HR functions in the world before this pandemic were thinking this way anyway. In every other company HR was taking more and more of a backseat is like the CFO looks at the cost base of a business and goes, oh yeah, let's cut HR's budget by 50 percent this year. Right. And then they have this whole little tussle. Not saying that's a sales now HR has this position to say, well, actually, we're one of the most important functions in the business. Right. And how are we going to play in that space? I think is is a very exciting moment, even though it comes out of a lot of kind of difficulty and pain. Right. Sorry, I just wanted to say because I mean.
No Meir, I think you make such a good point. And I think there's such an important we talk about listening here. There's been a lot of people who've been talking in our workforce for the last five to ten years that have been labeled things like snowflakes. And I would proudly call myself a snowflake any day of the week, so I used to have a dream job at The Guardian newspaper where I was working on all the cool new stuff. Two thousand seven, Google, Facebook, everything. And I quit that job for what I thought was my dream job at M&C Saatchi, where I was going to get to work. My three accounts could be Marks & Spencer's, Dyson and and and Barclay card. And I get that day one and the culture is horrific. It's like, you know, that male dominated like programs like Mad Men have kind of like tried to make it look like they've made it look good. but if you're actually in an environment like it;s horrific. And and I and after day one, I knew I needed to leave because of the culture and the reason I say and I did. And I started my own business and we grew it to a thousand people and sold it.
But the reason I take I take strength from the next generation of people that are entering the workforce is they don't tolerate things like companies that don't have a purpose or have a weak culture. They vote with their feet. They leave because they've got the technology to go and start their own business or find another job. And I think we've been hearing this stuff for a long time. I had a finance director. I was doing a briefing for FTSE one hundred finance directors on our data. And when it had all finished, I always think the best stuff happens right at the end when everyone's sort of relaxed and then they ask the real questions. And and this person said to me, they said, "But Matt, yeah, no I get all that, but when are they when the younger generation is going to get just going to get work and get down and work hard?" And I was like that. You're the problem. I didn't say it that bluntly, but these people will work hard. And and guess what? This person had children themselves. So I thought to myself, where is this generation of people learning it from? They're learning from their parents who are saying, you can be anything, go out there, have a great life, work like live your dreams like that.
But when it's someone else's child, who turns up at work and wants something more than just sitting there and doing a boring job. Suddenly they're a snowflake, but when their children do it it's different. So I think there's been a this has been a real problem with listening where people just want to hear what makes them feel comfortable as opposed to listening. And some of these media companies just got terrible attrition rate people because struggle technology companies on average, the big the big 15 technology companies, on average people stay less than two years. And but people will work for you for longer than two years if you give them the purpose, but if your purpose is just to avoid taxes, then maybe that maybe people figure that out after a while. So I just follow on from Meir's point, really, I think there's I think there's a there's real hope in the next generation coming through that that they do want something better. And I hope that less people dismiss them as snowflakes and millennials. I'm a millennial, I'm almost 40. What does that mean?
Well, the data millennials are running businesses right now. They're not and they're not 18 year olds.
Coming on that workplace culture, which is definitely a huge factor. What are some of the things that make employees stay at a company, will be very high attrition rates.
Sorry I couldn't hear you Eva, could you just repeat that?
So coming on to workplace culture, what are some of the reasons that people do stay at companies that make employees stay?
Can I say one thing really quickly that's going to make everyone happy, which is the number one thing in the data, and that that that leads to people staying, I was going to say correlate, but I want to be proper, associated and is is appreciation and heartfelt, thank you. And which which can be delivered in things like perks and so on. Like but it has to come from an actual thank you. You know, like with the example of the Amazon voucher. That's great. Right. And but if it comes from a note, if it comes with a note from Rebecca saying, Meir, you know what? You've really helped me out on that project that we were doing together. And it actually you've actually taken some time to explain why you're giving that £50 voucher. Then it's stuff like that that I just think is so beautiful to hear because it's so human, isn't it? Like it cost you fifty pounds to do a voucher. But the real the real cost is taking the time and effort to think about like that individual that you're giving it to. So I'm just gonna show shut up. I just want to share that thank you piece.
No, I think I think you make a really good point. There's a, it's public information, there's a brilliant study that Google did over 10 years Project Oxygen. I would look it up if you're interested. You know, they found that the thing that drives people to stay and be engaged in their work is that line managers. Right. And then they define what a good line manager looks like. And there are various aspects. One is that shows appreciation is definitely a big part of that. Coming back to kind of this this process within in within COVID, I think there's really two things to think about. One is that as that kind of boundary between work and life disappears, a line manager needs to be very, very comfortable with that.
And the maturity of our line managers is something that we're constantly working on. But I think there's a moment now where we really need to focus. It's really interesting. Many people are line managers of other people got to those jobs not because they were good at managing people. Right. They were good at doing their jobs and they'd be there for a certain time and at a certain point, we kind of we we promote them, right. Because we need to give them promotion and we need to pay them more money. Otherwise they're gonna leave or we're worried that we just we want to thank them actually because they've been great for years and then they're put in a position managing people. And that's a totally different skill set. Now, multiply that totally different skill set with the mix of being in the home and a remote point.
I mean, you're kind of in totally uncharted territory. So even the best managers are having to rethink. I mean, I have a mentor of mine who's one of the best managers I've ever worked with, and they, through COVID, have found it really, really hard because their management style is close knit team all around the whiteboard, very engaging.
They they they engage in, like, you know, from kind of mentoring in Europe. So very kind of physical affectionate, etc. So much of that lost in this moment of kind of through the computer. And I think we need to look at how we literally train people to communicate, operate, work as a manager, work as an individual in this environment. And there are companies out that are starting to focus on this.
But I think it's a it's a game changer. And if you couple that with the openness of the world. Right. So we spoke about a little bit about the benefit of having like a global talent pool. The negative of having a global talent pool is that you've got a global talent pool. So I can apply to anyone anywhere. Right. Just as much as you can find anyone anywhere. And so, again, I come back to the fact that this is going to be more and more critical. Right. So if you think about the role of HR, the role of the line manager, the kind of the the change in the way of working or connection, this kind of professional, personal interpersonal growth that's required on a kind of organisational level and on an individual level. And we're kind of just touching the base. I mean, you know, like we're touching the tip of the iceberg and in what that means. And we'll probably see superstar managers. Right, coming to the fore who probably wouldn't have been before. But that that what it requires, what is required of a great manager, I think fundamentally changes, you know, Matt, the kind of people you were talking about before. They're going to go very much out of vogue because they won't be able to keep a team together in this new environment.
So, yeah, I think it's a really interesting moment.
One beautiful thing I've seen Eva is that we have we have a community called Happiness in Humans, and it is for anyone that wants to positively shape the future of work. So I set I wouldn't even care if all my main competitors went in there. It doesn't matter. It's just anyone. That's the rule if you believe in that. And if you join if you don't , you won't, but what I've what I've seen so much more since COVID is just cross-company collaboration in that group and everything from like someone just put a message on it earlier asking about one of your competitors saying what do you think of this company? And I think because of that emotional deficit bit it's forced people to collaborate more. And I just see it every day, and I am seeing people reaching out to people around the world, like even even people like starting out their careers, messaged me on LinkedIn, just saying I just found out more about how I get into a career of what you do and all that kind of stuff. So I think because there's been a deficit in the way that we've been able to socialise, that's also resulted in people with really cool skills that are in the wider HR industry coming together, working on stuff that they might not they might not have done before. But suddenly and someone in one area of like finance HR is helping someone else like a tech startup. And so I've definitely seen a lot more of that just on that particular subject.
And the way that we'll be communicating with employees will have to change. And Meir, you spoke or you touched on earlier about what drives innovation within a business. And in part, that was collaboration and also diversity of thought, have I got that right? And so, really, how are we how diverse are our workplaces at the minute and how inclusive?
I think it depends which sector you look at it'ss very sector-specific, so, for example, hospitality, it's got great diversity and inclusion. I think in my experience, the companies or the MDs that don't analyse diversity and inclusion have diversity and inclusion because there were no barriers and there's no bias in recruitment. They have just welcome if they have the skills and if they have the right mindset. But there are other organisations that probably younger organisations, for example, digital creative that attracts because digital is quite young as an industry, probably attract people that are prodominently from a younger workforce or graduates coming straight from university. So and because of the the new skills are coming out in digital, we don't have experienced managers who have those skills. So it is an emerging field. And so you don't have the full, I guess, diversity of age and experience in certain companies. So I think it's really dependent on. The organisation and the leader, I think definitely those companies that don't analyse and just accept and just bring in people based on their skills and their and their culture fit perhaps or somewhat they can offer as individuals are the ones that genuinely have the greatest inclusion and diversity, as opposed to those that are measuring it and constantly thinking, well, we've got a gap here and, we need to go and recruit from this particular pool, etc. I think this is such a completely different kind of setup, depending on which company and which industries that you are looking at.
Well, all I was going to say Eva, is that Rebecca's spot on. It is sector to sector. The really worrying thing though is that it hasn't improved in 15 years in the UK, as an example. So when you look at something like Black Lives Matters now with a bit more.Bit more, it's been going on for longer than movement, and you try and come out of it. It was inevitable when you really look at it, that for certain groups of people, that has not improved for 15 years. And I've shared in the chat a shocking study. It's me interviewing Jeremy Dawson who looks at employee engagement in the NHS. And he study concludes that effectively if you go into a hospital with low employee engagement, you have more likely to be infected or die. That's how serious it is. And I asked him what what also surprised you when you when you went through the research and data. And the second one is discrimination. I'm trying to get his words exactly right. So don't misrepresent it. But certainly, yeah. Discrimination and low levels of equality in the NHS also negatively impact death rates and infection rates. So when we talk about it from a company perspective, we would talk about sales, don't we? We go well if Company A and Company B look after their employees in different ways one might financially perform better but when you apply the exact same thing to the NHS, you're actually talking about people dying more from it, which for me, I don't share that to make everyone depressed, I share it to show you how important it is. And when you play it through, it's obvious, isn't it? Because if you've got a group of people who feel discriminated against in your workforce, clearly they're going to be unhappy and then therefore they're not going to perform better. And if that happens to be, that it's in the NHS is a matter of life or death. Most of us and on this call, we don't work in industries where it's a matter of life or death. And so I just bring that up to say there is so much work that that needs to be done. And I'm just I just encourage everyone to keep the momentum up and just support it and in all their work where they are. Because my worry is that we get into September or October and this conversation dies down a bit. I just think it's so important that we need to all keep pushing.
We offer training on unconscious bias in recruitment, and it completely makes sense, so as we were developing that course, it's how we think as HR, its how we do. But working with some clients who are extremely forward thinking really creative, really successful, and we delivered those that course to a range of line managers.
And it was just really interesting where some some training courses are really engaging and uplifting and fun and teamwork. And you can deliver psychometrics and you know, it's really, really quite exciting.
Others, perhaps like disciplinary's or redundancy training, is probably a little bit more somber and a little bit dry.
This one was very interactive and it was obviously taking place in a room. And there's lots of questionnaires and conversations, et cetera. But at the end of the both sessions, we did them back to back and then in the companies as well. It was really interesting how quiet everybody went after. And I think the quietness was on the basis we issued questionnaires to all line managers and we said to them, we don't want to see the results. We don't want you to share them. We just want you to listen and look and just be honest with yourself and respond to the questions and then fold that and then put in your notebook and take it home and think about it. And it was just really, really interesting that they then realised actually everybody has deep unconscious biases in most cases. And I think most people think they're different and most people think they haven't. And actually, when you're going through a process of really kind of, you know, I guess provoking that in a way to say, you know, you need to kind of be honest here, it was a moment of just just quietness where they was like, wow, OK, there's some work we need to do. But I need to start with myself, you know, and yeah, quite, quite game-changing for everybody to stop and think because I know no, I don't do that or I wouldn't have those decisions. I would never make etc. But actually when you have that moment with those people and you ask them the questions on their perceptions and they start to kind of go into their own conscious thoughts, it becomes really clear where that lack of diversity is being driven from. Yeah, so very interesting subjects.
And what are our thoughts on how the new working situation through COVID is going to affect diversity, because what we were discussing earlier on this week is that we're also going to have a skills gap in terms of the new ways that we're working right now. So how do we see that working in the future?
I am on the topic of diversity and inclusion. It's hard to say this because people don't necessarily kind of agree with it, but there are very few kind of institutionally anti diversity organisations anymore right in, let's say, in the West.
So if you go to Saudi Arabia, there's still floors of women and floors for men and you have to dress a certain way as a woman, etc., etc. So different places in the world have different ways of looking at things.
But, you know, you take the UK organisations are rarely racist, right? People in them. Maybe so. And I think that the real problem, which, by the way, is the same thing as an individual being that way is the question of inclusion. Right. So myself as an individual and the other. Right, which is human, as you said to Rebecca, like everybody has unconscious bias, everybody. Obama has a conscious bias. Trump has unconscious bias. Right. Everybody's got unconscious bias. And the the thing is, how do you break that down? And again, coming back to the COVID discussion, is there an opportunity to change a lot of the things that drove inclusion or exclusion before? Because if you think about the workplace and we think about, I don't know, going for drinks after work, that includes people. It also excludes loads of people. If you think about presenteeism, right. As something that is includes loads of people and it excludes loads of people, all of those things have been turned on its head. And we have very different problems with inclusion now. Right. And people can choose very easily to not be included. They can exclude themselves and maybe they shouldn't be able to do that. And it's harder to include people in a kind of real way. There's a lot of presentation from people versus kind of discussion. And so I think kind of this concept of inclusivity in businesses. Do I feel included? Do I feel connected? Do I feel part of the whole? I think that's really hard in the kind of COVID world. And I also think it's really hard to get that diversity of thought in an inclusive way. Right. So how do I get all the different thought processes together in a combined way?
What we're seeing in a in a large way is a really interesting thing which breaks through, which is technology. Right. So and we're using things like Miro, what virtual whiteboards and different ways of formatting meetings.
You know, I've I used to kind of when I had when I had a team meeting, for example, I would write down six bullet points on a piece of paper and would jump in. And we just see kind of where the agenda flowed. And in the world today, that is the opposite of what's helpful.
Right now. The best meeting is hyper structured with jumping into I click a and everybody goes into random breakouts they do a little bit of their own working, then they work in a pair then they come back to the group to share. Right. And what's really interesting is that structure, that way of working on technology enables all the voices to be heard. If you don't do that, well, really, no voices get heard. Right. It's very hard for that to kind of bring the voices back together. And so I think, again, we're kind of breaking new boundaries on what it means to be inclusive. And I think we're going to get to very different. We're going to become in the norm of what a different way of working is. Right. And we'll see people and I think we'll move away from people, kind of one person speaking and others not. Right, because otherwise you just cannot engage them. The only way, I know that you are engaged in this session as if you speak and versus me presenting. And so I think it opens up doors for greater levels of inclusion in organisations, which is again, exciting. But I think there are many organisations which aren't doing it right, which I think is the watch out. And Matt, you might see that some of the data that you're looking at, which is, you know, how do people feel in terms of being engaged or included in like a remote setting? I wonder?
Yeah, we had to. And so I've been working a lot with Shereen Daniels, I hope you guys have seen her videos on LinkedIn. She's just been on this on this non-stop. And and she was the first person that allowed me to speak about it, because I always felt like as a white guy, I couldn't talk about things like Black Lives Matter because I thought it would just come across as like I would look stupid. But Shereen said to me, and you're my friend, I'm black. You're white. I'm in HR. You're in technology. And we talk about everything. And I see you doing your videos and conferences and talking about everything all the time. And suddenly you're not thinking about the one subject is really important to me. And she talked to me, she explained to me like the white wall of silence. And then I thought, I am being such an idiot here. I'm so worried about looking stupid and someone saying I shouldn't talk about it than actually helping. And that was a real break out moment for me. I didn't really understand systematic [or systemic] racism till the last few months, and I had to even look at my own company and the way that we did stuff and the way that we appoint people to the board and actually get in it and look at how we were holding back people from all different types of backgrounds and be really honest. On the point, on the data, on Meir's point. And none of the D&I stuff works from a technology perspective, in my opinion. And we actually deleted our own module. And you think it cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds to build a module that collects information. We just decided, you know, like people chucking statues in Bristol, that kind of stuff.
We just decided our own module on it was a complete disaster and a complete waste of time. And we looked at everything out there and help build out a new quality. And it's called Equality of Voice. And that looks at how people feel because what we realised is everything to do with D&I was focused around counting, so it was like counting how many males or how many females you have, how many black verus, white, etc etc etc etcetera. It doesn't actually look into how people feel about diversity. Do they feel like they belong in the organisation? Because once you do that you collect information about how you can improve it. If you're just counting you're just then in a board meeting going 'Well we've got a problem here, we've got 10 percent women and 90 percent' There's no information to help you. And we only launched it relaunched with about 10 companies now. But sometimes you just gotta be brutal on yourself and go do you know what? We've got some systematic problems in The Happiness Index that we have to just admit and start to fix. Otherwise you get stuck up your own bum and never actually fix some stuff. So it's been a real awakening for me, this whole thing. And that's why I keep encouraging people to do it in their own company. Just be really and like Rebecca was saying about the biases, just you have to go away and reflect and be really honest with yourself.
Now, what we've seen with our clients as well is that initial March crisis and that that kind of doom time and the panic and the the courage of those teams that put their hands up and said, actually, I'm going in, I'm going to solve this and I'm going to make the business continue and I'm going to carry on working versus those, you know, if we're being completely honest who are pushing for furlough and want that long sort of months in the sun and back garden and extended time off. And I think there seems to be emerging kind of two different camps of those people that were on the sort of business frontline, if you like, who were giving everything and haven't had time off, haven't had the bank holidays and have had the stresses and have had to put contingency contingencies in place, have had to put COVID secure workplaces in place really quickly and work with the government guidelines yet still keep the business profitable and keep things going and keep everybody safe and manage all the know the line managers and manage all the employees and the health and wellbeing issues and everything versus those that, for whatever reason, weren't chosen to be part of that. And there were lots of different reasons that we probably won't go into today but I think this is definitely different feelings, I think, for those two sets of employees now that I can see that coming through from some leaders and not negative for any of those that are still on furlough or were on furlough for a long time and couldn't contribute because that's just how it landed. You know, that's just how it is. But I think a real sense of kind of pride and just almost adoration for the teams that went in who just worked incredibly hard and still are and probably kept their businesses going and kept them afloat.
So there was definitely with what we're seeing, is there a core teams that have saved the day and they will continue with that hero status or heroine status forever because, my goodness, how hard have they have to work to keep things going? And and for us working from home and carrying on working from home? Yes, it's all been extremely busy, but we are quite lucky. We're in a place where we don't have to go into a warehouse. We don't have to kind of go and, you know, kind of understand how the health and safety comes together and is a company going to be liable if somebody doesn't sanitise the hands.
And how does that work? And dealing with whistleblowing scenarios, dealing with anxiety, people not wanting to come because they haven't got a car and they need to use public transport. So, you know, go figure how that works. You know, the amount of challenges these people have had who are just absolutely amazing you know they haven't had the luxury of being in the laptop in the back garden or, you know, completely growing the new, you know, a new vegetable patch, or kind of, you know, doing all the things that lots of people have been able to do with that time off, you know, and and they will they will forever, I think, be remembered for the incredible contribution they've made.
Rebecca, I do think there's a really interesting decision there for companies on that recognition and how serious they take it. So the biggest thing that I learned was around transparency.
So when COVID hit, 70 percent of our customers stopped paying is overnight, which is just game.
It is just a company ending for us in that scenario.
And we would we probably had about four weeks of money left at that point when that happens, because that that was so drastic for us. They didn't cancel the contracts.
They just said our customers are paying us so we can't pay you is like a mini credit crunch. And so what we did is we just got spreadsheets. We we basically called an all company meeting and we shared with everyone the finances and said, look, this is where we are. This is the current situation and this is what some people can do. So my cash flow situation, I could work for four months without getting paid.
That was my runway and and so on.
And then a few people said that. And then we said, look, this is where we are. If it's anything you can do let us know and everyone went away, things like, I've got a guy in Ashford, this is how expensive trains are. It cost him five hundred pounds to get a train from Ashford to London a month. So he was like, look, I can have a 500 pound pay cut and so on and so on and so on. By the time everyone had chipped in and we didn't have to do anything, we managed to cut the costs so dramatically and that we were breaking even. And and the reason I'm reason I'm telling this story on Rebecca's point is. I've enshrined that now that that every single employee should be getting shares above and beyond. We were already going to do an employee scheme. But sometimes they're a bit like, I don't know, the sort of done for marketing. I'm a bit cynical. Sometimes it's like, oh, you get 0.00001% of the company or whatever. And and I change companies now because my business would not be still here if it wasn't for the employees. So I believe they acted like owners. So I believe they should now get shares for that. And that's what we're going through. But I do challenge other business owners to go from gratitude, which we, as we said earlier, is good for retention. But to actually put their money where their mouth is, because we haven't talked about B-corps at the moment. But I think there is incredibly good stuff going on in B-corps at the moment. And I think there's massive value in employees owning companies. So I just I was just building on Rebecca's point. Now I just I want to see over the next few months how people repay that.
Thanks so much, Matt. So we're coming up to roughly time now so I want to make sure I open up to all of our attendees who might have questions or just any comments on anything we've discussed or anything that you found particularly useful. It would be great to hear from you. So I'm just on the Q&A section of the chat so feel free to just use the chat to post any of your questions and just before we round off. So we'll have time to take a few questions if there are any.
Perhaps in the meantime while, we roundoff just thank you so much to our speakers. Thank you, Meir. Thank you, Rebecca. Thank you, Matt and thanks to Staff Treats for hosting the webinar. As we said, if you have any further follow up questions, feel free to email the team [firstname.lastname@example.org]. But it would be great if we could just roundoff. Obviously, we've discussed a lot of the challenges that businesses have had to face and we've come out of the initial panic phase. So perhaps if you have a piece of advice to any of the businesses or through your experiences that you're working with for how to deal with this next phase, obviously is very unpredictable. But there are certain opportunities for growth and improvement in what we're doing. So it would be great to hear just a closing sentence from each of you.
Keep an open mind because our clients have fell into three camps, those that have thrived through what they do and they just were in the right place at the right time, but they also, kind of really pivoted to the maximum those businesses that were probably had the core team and the rest kind of furloughed and they were trying to kind of look at different opportunities and those that were not able to be creative and think of any of the different ways or routes to market that are definitely going to struggle going forwards, and I think creativity is the heart is at the heart of this coming out of this. Ideas, and this isn't necessarily the board or the managers coming together. This is the employees, you know, coming up with those ideas. So definitely try and bring in creativity and ideas and thoughts. And as part of that, listen, listen to your workforce, listen to what ideas they have got as well. And definitely the first, the forefront of going forward, you know, post COVID and kind of always, you know, always is actually really kind of listen, communicate with your staff and trying to get try and get to the heart of what motivates them. You know we spoke about this a few days ago in that there isn't one thing you can deliver for one business that will motivate everybody. And we have such diversity now. We have so many different demographics to consider a different age groups and different desires. I think COVID has changed, you know, people's kind of ikigai, if you like, the sweet spot of what they want to do.
I think there was a survey this week where 40 percent of people working in professional services are considering a career change through this pandemic and just the impact of how that's made them feel and reconsider and revisit what they wanted in life and what's important to them. And that's fantastic, because the more people we get working towards what they feel they should be doing when they're on this planet is the best thing because we have better, happier kind of environments. You know, it's not necessarily not talking about the workplace because it goes beyond work. This is about people in life generally being happy. So I think that the closer to people can get to really finding out, being self-aware about what makes them happy and employees encouraging that some great businesses, I used to work for saw themselves as like almost like a vehicle to their career. And they were conversations around, yes, you're here now. But actually, if you want to be somewhere else in five years time or three years time, let's talk about that and let's make that happen for you. You know, we're not going to chain you to your office. You know, you're not here forever, and we get that. But let's try and get the best out of you whilst you're here. Have a great time doing it. Feel really satisfied and encouraged with what you've delivered for us, but then go on to do what you're meant to be doing in your life, you know? So I think COVID as a whole, kind of bring that human back into those conversations and stop putting people in boxes.
Thanks so much, Rebecca. And just Meir, just jumping off there, but I will share his line of advice is 'Carpe Diem and with every problem comes an opportunity'. And Matt, if you'd like to share.
I mean, Rebecca summed it up perfectly I thought so I'm just going to be really short, which is going to quote Bill and Ted and which is, 'Be excellent to each other'.
Yeah, sounds good.
Wonderful. Thanks so much for your time, guys, and thank you so much for everyone who attended and Staff Treats for hosting this webinar and we're keen to hear any of your feedback and any questions and have a wonderful rest of your day, evening.