What HR really wants to hear about this week at MAD World

HR image

It’s only 3 days until MAD World and HR leaders have been telling us about the biggest challenges they are facing, what they are looking forward to hearing experts and peers talking about and the burning issues keeping them up at night…

Katherine Rowney, HR Business Partner at international food company Bakkavor

For me, the biggest challenge is creating a culture with the workplace which genuinely promotes wellbeing. We are all so busy that to genuinely achieve this is a real challenge.

Regarding content, we are focusing on mental health so I’d love to hear about how other companies have been able to focus on this area of wellbeing.

Jessica Badley, Director of People and Resources, British Society for Rheumatology

I’m thinking a lot about how wellbeing can be both inclusive, and flexible enough to meet individual needs.

One size doesn’t fit all, and getting the balance right on topics such as organisational capacity planning, hybrid working and benefits needs a lot of reflection to make sure what we’re offering is right for our people. There’s no right way to do this that works for every organisation, so listening to how others do this is really interesting.

Mia Samaha, People Director, design agency Landor & Fitch

A couple of the thoughts that keep me up at night…

  • The prevalence of stress, anxiety and burnout among the workforce, particularly at the more junior end where resilience seems far more underdeveloped than in previous generations
  • If wellbeing programmes, support services such as EAPs and soft skills line management training are already in place, what more can an employer do to counter stress and burnout during a period when adding additional headcount or programmes may not be affordable and businesses are required to achieve more, with less?
  • Are the programmes we have in place enough to meet the diverse needs of our workforce and are all employees utilising the resources effectively? i.e. how to address the intersectionality of the workforce with a one-size-fits-all approach that all of the workplace could benefit from but does not feel like a tick-box offer. Is it possible to offer something that Gen Z would utilise as much as an older female parent grappling with the effects of the menopause, for example?

Michael Spiers, Chief People Officer, London City Airport

I wouldn’t say I’m kept awake at night… but I do think the biggest challenge we are facing is the sheer breadth of wellbeing initiatives that we are seeking support on and looking to support employees with.

For smaller companies I think it’s a challenge to stay on top of understanding what is currently needed and how it adds maximum value to the employee experience. Many initiatives are appreciated but underused and qualitative data is not always easy to find or produce.

Ruth Jackson, People & Development Director, The Gym Group

The thing that concerns me the most when I think about employee wellbeing is around mental health support.

This has always been important, but with the unfortunate lack of resource available via local GPs it is a growing challenge.

We have done mental health ambassador and first aid training, and we signpost our teams to lots of resources and support and our EAP, but some cases can be quite severe and end up impacting those people trying to help others. I would love to know what others are doing to support all employees or if there are new ideas out there.

Secondly, we try and keep ahead of the game on things we can do to support our team and are working hard on supporting wellbeing, but are there any new emerging trends I should be aware of?

Jane Clifford, People Director, at Brewers 

For me, one of the most important employee wellbeing issues is mental health.

Join our growing network of employers
Receive Make A Difference News straight to your inbox

We want to ensure we offer colleagues experiencing challenges with their mental health the support they need at work and, where appropriate, help direct them to help they can need outside of work.  We recognise the importance of providing them a source of immediate support via an EAP.

I also want to look at our mental health first aiders, and design a programme of support for them – you need to help the helpers!

Naomi Cairns, HR Business Partner, Swatch Group

There is a rhetoric around “employees don’t want free pizza and ping pong tables, they want to not be overworked or underpaid”.

Well, of course, if HR people had a magic wand and endless budgets I’m sure that would be top of the list, but what about when that isn’t possible? What can HR do when resources are limited but there is a genuine appetite to look after employees’ wellbeing?

Caroline Warwick, HR Manager, MJMK Restaurants

Wellness is such a big subject, and seems to inform so many of our current projects within the HR team.

As is typical for a hospitality business, our workforce tends to be quite young, and the hours can be unavoidably long and late – both of which throw up their own particular issues too. 

Currently, one of the biggest issues for our team seems to be financial wellbeing. Our salaries are competitive, but our restaurants are all in London, which generally means high accommodation, travel and general living costs, and we are looking into solutions to address the increasing number of team members requesting salary advances to meet unexpected costs.

Hospitality can also offer a flexible way to make money working around other commitments eg university studies or families. But our challenge is also showing that it also offers a rewarding career, with pathways for those who decide they’d like to progress. 

We do have an EAP, but our challenge is to make sure our teams know about it, and feel that they’re able to make use of it. From talking to peers, we’re not alone with this. We’d love the team to access the really broad, relevant programme of help it offers, beyond the (also helpful) counselling. 

Finally, we’d like to make our benefits package genuinely beneficial to our team. We already offer free staff meals whilst on shift and a discount at our restaurants, but we feel like this might be somewhere we can try to address financial concerns eg offering salary sacrifice to buy a bike, rather than rely on relatively expensive tubes/ trains, or introducing Wagestream or a similar project. 

Jane Austin, HR Director, Wave Utilities

Wave is a long way down this wellbeing path, but if I pretended I’m a generic HR person who wants to explore the whole area of wellbeing (either for the first time, or to grow a wellbeing offering) then I’d say that I’d want to hear about:

  • what elements make up a good wellbeing strategy
  • how you can get a good ROI
  • how you ensure that your wellbeing offering is employee led
  • should financial education be stand alone or an integral part of a wellbeing strategy
  • how do you know you’re getting it right/ how do you measure success
  • what mechanisms do you need to set up to enable you to hear what employees want/need in this area
  • what should be the mix of internal and external speakers on wellbeing topics
  • is there a role for wellbeing podcasts for employees
  • how do you get employee support groups off the ground

Come and join us at the MAD World Summit on 12th October, along with an an impressive roster of speakers from Age UK, BAM UK&I, BBC, Belron, BITC, Britvic, Costain, Deloitte, Dentsu, EY, Goldman Sachs, Heath Foundation, Heathrow, HSBC, IBM, Ipsos, Mars, Metro Bank, Microsoft, Mind, National Grid, Novartis, Unipart, Royal Bank of Scotland, Starbucks and many more

If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, don’t miss out. You can find full details and book here.

You might also like:



Sign up to receive Make A Difference's fortnightly round up of features, news, reports, case studies, practical tools and more for employers who want to make a difference to work culture, mental health and wellbeing.