DiversityQ spoke with Lisa Dolan, Director of Employee Engagement and Ross Maycock, SVP People Function at Teleperformance, on the importance of supporting mental wellbeing, open communications and how they’re gearing up for a post COVID world.
The new normal of working from home, which looks set to continue post lockdown, has brought a new set of challenges and, not least, affected people’s mental health and wellbeing.
According to the Mental Health Foundation and LinkedIn, remote workers have been working an extra 28 hours on average, putting themselves at risk of burnout. That’s before factoring in the juggling of work with home-schooling and worries about job security.
One company that is weathering the negative effects of the pandemic better than most is Teleperformance Group, a global organisation providing digitally integrated business services.
Not only did it move 80% of its 11,000-strong UK workforce to home offices within two weeks, but it is actively recruiting and, most crucially, has invested heavily in mental wellbeing.
Teleperformance’s attitude is employees first and customers second. It may not seem like a good way to do business, but the rationale is that, by looking after the staff, the staff are more likely to provide a better service to customers.
“Our one-and-only priority, and this has come from the CEO down, has been the health and wellbeing of our employees,” says Lisa Dolan, Director of Employee Engagement (UK and South Africa). “We introduced several things to support our staff.”
Anxiety and stress awareness
Questionnaires are sent out regularly to check on how people feel about homeworking, and the responses fall into three distinct groups: those who don’t mind where they work, those who’d prefer to be in the office and those that feel isolated. Many of those in the first group, dubbed the “steady Eddys”, were used to help drive employee engagement and uplift spirits across the UK and SA business.
“For those in the third box, who are not seeing family and friends and struggling with their mental health because there’s nothing else to break up their days except work, we created twice daily TP & Toast and Afternoon TP drop-in sessions that anyone could join to be able to connect with each other,” Dolan explains.
“Actually, the togetherness of the teams is now stronger than it would have been face-to-face.”
Anxiety and stress awareness training are available to those at risk of burnout, and there is a dedicated channel created in Teleperformance’s MSTEAMS group where staff can add a tag @TP Help Me, which enables people to contact one of the 150 strong mental health first aiders. Regular chat groups on Teams include sessions on healthy eating and exercise.
“It became evident very quickly that mental health affected everybody in the organisation,” says Ross Maycock, SVP People Function (UK and South Africa). “And it was the people you didn’t expect – the strong personalities who always had smiles on their faces – who were struggling most.”
He adds that the mental health initiatives inspired trust and encouraged people to open up about their feelings.
Working from home
Maycock and Dolan were part of the team moving people in the UK and South Africa from the workplace to their workspace at home. “The biggest challenge that we faced was not knowing what the Government was going to say,” Maycock explains.
“So, we had to do our best to guide our staff and workforce along. So, that two-week period was really intense because it had to be a well-oiled machine.”
All those working from home – 90% in the UK and 35% in South Africa – had to be provided with computers. There was also clear communication that anyone arriving at any of the offices would have to wear a mask, have their temperature checked and use hand sanitisers. Because of the different regulations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, it was agreed to follow whichever nation had the highest restrictions and impose them consistently across the business.
Where other companies have had to lay off workers, Teleperformance has taken on an extra 80,000 people globally since the start of the pandemic, of which 3,500 are in the UK and South Africa. And while recruitment has not been without its on-boarding and training challenges, the company is widely regarded as an employer of choice and was recently certified as a “Great Place To Work” in the UK and scores highly for employee satisfaction.
“Before, you would have new starters meet in reception, get to know their colleagues, train together and build camaraderie and a connection,” says Dolan. “Our training team had the challenge of creating that virtually. Now, not everyone has access to a camera, so that means how do you make their voice come alive in terms of how they look?
“We’ve had to adapt very quickly to that digital onboarding experience, and we made investments into processes and technologies throughout 2020 and into 2021.”
Widening the talent pool
The work at home model had brought advantages for both sides; Teleperformance has broadened its talent pool, and potential recruits are not hamstrung by geography. That means that someone living in Devon, where the company doesn’t have a site, could, for example, support the work in Scotland.
Maycock stresses that it’s important to tailor working arrangements to individual needs. He says: “Having a brick-and-mortar site is a significant lifeline for some people. We’ve several situations where it is safer for people to come into the office. We’ve been looking at all angles of this and gained the confidence of employees who have opened up to us.”
Once the lockdown is eased, employees will have the choice of continuing to work at home, return to the office or a mix of both, where client demands allow this.
“COVID-19 has allowed us to accelerate what would have probably taken us three years,” Dolan reveals. “We’ve been forced to get flexible working within our organisation faster than we ever imagined.”
Teleperformance’s approach to the pandemic is built on a culture of inclusiveness and the company takes pride in listening to and communicating openly with its workforce. CEO Gary Slade hosts virtual town hall sessions every six to eight weeks to keep staff updated on the business, and there are also weekly communications from Gary on COVID-19 along with ways colleagues can stay connected and involved in all the programmes and activities the engagement team arrange every week.
As Dolan points out: “We cannot move forward as a business unless we’re listening to our employees because they’re the ones at the frontline interacting with our customers every day. Without them, we do not have a business. One of the things we’ve implemented over the last two years is the Ask Us platform. Anybody can ask a question, they may not like the answer, but it’s an honest one.”
Underlining this, Maycock says that there are no ramifications in cases of awkward questions because it was crucial to the company to gain the trust and confidence of the employees. He adds: “Once you’ve got that, you can take everybody on the journey with you.”
Looking ahead, the company aims to move away from the old-fashioned way of recruiting through new technology while still maintaining the human touch. One idea is to use robotics for reference checks and to conduct online assessments.
Maycock argues that the days of having to upload CVs are gone. “It’s about applying for a job on the move and getting an interview the same day. You have to talk to people at the moment because if you don’t, you will lose them to somebody else.”
This year, he and Dolan aim to improve on what has been achieved and continue driving the health and well-being element.
Ultimately, they hope to transform the great place to work certification to the best place to work across the UK and SA in 2021.