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By Corinne Williams, HR Director, PPS
When COVID-19 first hit and national lockdowns were imposed, nobody quite knew what the pandemic’s impact on day-to-day life and work would be. Unleashing a new era of urgent change, that most people had not witnessed before, organisations had to adapt quickly to comply with government guidelines and rules on social distancing in order to maintain some sort of ‘business as usual’ activity. HR professionals around the world had to develop new strategies to ensure the physical safety and well-being of all employees and ensure business continuity.
As the driving force of the industry leading fintech solutions, trusted by global brands to manage ground–breaking payment programmes, PPS needed a slick and speedy HR strategy that would maintain the company’s customer activity to the same high standard as before the pandemic hit.
Led by seasoned HR Director, Corinne Williams, PPS has worked to ensure the safety of the company’s 250 strong workforce across four locations, during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the first hint of lockdown, Corinne drove forward cross-department working groups, strategising daily and implementing necessary changes overnight, here we uncover the key initiatives she put into place.
Commenting on the overall success of the HR strategy, Corinne said: “PPS really has been a flagship business that has supported its employees throughout the whole process. We have never lived through something like this before and our HR team had to make decisions quickly in order to support its people, with the hopes of the business operating as normal. We had to go above and beyond to help those who may have found the pandemic overburdening.”
1. Moving 250 employees to remote working in a week
PPS’ team of HR professionals collaborated with board members and teams across the organisation to ensure a smooth roll out of transferring employees from the office to working remotely from home. Prior to the crisis, PPS were already ahead of the game as they implemented and trialled remote working and so were used to the processes involved once the world was faced with turbulence and change.
However, there was a lot of pressure and time restraints on rolling out these new processes and procedures. In order to pinpoint specific requirements, Corinne and her team created an internal survey to gauge what equipment employees needed to work from home, from the results tailored kits were created. The below is an example of a standard kit given to all employees:
- A mouse
- Docking station
- Laptop riser
The HR team swiftly rolled out these kits following the government announcements of continued lockdown which significantly enabled safe home working practices and reduced any downtime for the business. Providing the kits also meant that employees who may not have been able to afford to buy their own equipment, were able to request it without feeling embarrassed.
Corinne, commented: “The hard part was getting to grips with what employees were going to need at home to continue working. So, we rolled out employee surveys which allowed us to gain a better understanding of circumstances at home. This allowed us to invest very quickly and very heavily in getting suitable ‘kits’ out for delivery.”
2. A top-class well-being strategy
Working at home is difficult and has many challenges associated with it – parents had to cater to the needs of their family and manage work and home life all in one space or some people lived alone and suffered with isolation. Once staff were safe and set up at home, the HR team could focus on taking care of employees’ mental health and well-being.
It was up to the HR team to ensure they were receiving the best support possible and through their personable approach, they decided to apply the following to the HR strategy across the organisation:
- Encouraged frequent and prolonged breaks so employees could take more physical exercise
- Created office competitions and sporting challenges to promote physical activity
- Arranged one to one well-being sessions with experts to help with mental-health support
- Provided nutritional talks and webinars to advise on healthy eating
- Shared 20-minute podcasts to employees with engaging content that they were able to tune into whilst working
- Revaluated gym allowances and online sessions
Miri Betinova, Head of Strategic Sales at PPS, commented: “As an employee of PPS I felt really reassured, especially during times when everything felt uncertain, as my employer provided reassuring and clear communication and action plans throughout the pandemic. The support we received from the HR team was impeccable and the transition from working in the office to working from home, felt very smooth and quick.”
3. Recruiting over 60 people amid a global pandemic
Over the course of COVID-19, many businesses had to terminate contracts and reduce the number of employees to stay afloat. Luckily for PPS, due to the quick roll out of the homeworking strategy, minimal changes were made to the workforce. PPS actually grew its staff numbers and recruited over sixty new starters which were additional roles to the business and not replacements. The drive for recruitment included IT technicians, project managers and service support employees.
Employees who commenced a new job during the pandemic had the daunting task of meeting with colleagues virtually and the HR team had to get them up to speed with everything as well as making sure they were settling in well. Traditionally, PPS deployed a face–to–face induction programme and new employees would come into the office to meet with the management team. Corinne and her team created a series of online welcome sessions, induction sessions, and one to one video sessions. The induction sessions also included a one-to-one with PPS CEO, Ray Brash, something that could have been more of a struggle to arrange pre-COVID-19, with the likes of travel time for meetings occupying important diary space.
Ray Brash, CEO at PPS, commented: “When the global pandemic first hit, our approach was quick and effective as we had a solid business continuity plan in place to deal with the initial move to remote working. Within that approach we decided to bring in the one-to-one induction sessions for our new employees as it was important that our onboarding processes included a personalised welcome to make the new employees feel like a part of the wider team and our brand. Thankfully, our operations were not impacted by COVID-19, it was the longer-term planning of working from home that really needed our focus, Corinne and her team worked extremely hard to ensure we had the correct processes and procedures in place to do this.”
4. Taking business and pleasure to the virtual office world
With business overview and quarterly meetings usually taking place in large executive meeting rooms, Corinne and her team transitioned these across to monthly one-hour online sessions. The sessions were open to all employees and hosted by the CEO who continued to deliver information on the performance of the business. These sessions aimed to put employees at ease, especially to give them peace of mind that the business was operating as normal despite the pandemic. Employees were also given the option to ask any burning questions through a messaging platform which made the sessions much more engaging and interactive.
Corinne and the broader Executive team also continued to implement online sessions for:
- Summer parties
- Winter/Christmas parties
5. Making the most of an empty office
As offices across the world became empty, PPS decided to make the most out of this and carried out a refurbishment, when it was safe to do so. Offices were painted, re-equipped with new furniture and carpets. The following procedures were also implemented if there was a demand to return to work.
- Desks were repositioned to comply with the 2-meter distance rule
- Plexiglas was installed between the desks
- Signage on washing hands and wearing face masks was placed across all office floors
- PPE equipment was provided for employees entering the offices
- Dispenser stations were installed across the offices
Extra little touches included a new television as well as a new freezer in the kitchen for the late shift workers. Corinne, said: “It is extremely important for HR professionals to consider any kind of return to work as government guidelines continued to change, so refurbishing the office meant that they were prepared in advance for any changes that might have occurred.”
During this critical time, it was paramount that our essential workers who continued to come to the office, felt safe and secure. We went out of our way to ensure that we provided appropriate transport to the office, local secure car parking and effective COVID-19 secure checks at the beginning of any shift.
A survey called the ‘New Dawn’ was rolled out internally to all employees across the business which received an 85% response rate. The aim of the survey was to scope out what was working well with the current transition, whether homeworking could be improved and what wasn’t working so well.
As a result of the tireless efforts of the HR team PPS has achieved:
- All employees working safely and effectively
- Maintained 250 number of employees
- Hired over 60 new starters
The survey also revealed that respondents ideally wanted a flexible mix of being able to work from home and work from the office post-COVID 19, which therefore allowed the HR team to develop and implement strategies for future working.