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HR certainly has a LOT on its plate at the moment. Here is a snapshot of our HR Round Table last week.

Last week the Financial Services Team at Oakleaf hosted an HR Round Table event with Heads of HR within our network. The group discussed challenges and opportunities for HR and in their businesses. Here is a snapshot of some of the points raised and discussed. Please note that I certainly can’t provide all of the answers here, but this is a great glimpse into what is on HR’s plate at the moment and as ever it was inspiring to see HR leading from the front and making an impact.

Employee wellbeing & mental health

What is everyone currently doing in this space that is helping?

  • Avoiding the “risk of labeling” and taking a formal approach with those that are struggling
  • Focus on communication and making sure people feel comfortable talking to HR and/or colleagues about how they feel
  • Making sure leaders are equipped and trained to manage this and notice changes in their team: Do they feel comfortable asking their team if they are ok? Focus on additional training for managers – flexible approaches. Has been a focus for some companies over the last couple of years to make it more normal to talk about how people feel
  • Apps (Calm, Everymind)
  • VC meetings on exercise, mindfulness, quizzes, team events, cooking
  • Mental Health First Aiders, ensuring employees know who these people are
  • Mental health sponsors to help people feel more comfortable coming forward
  • Normalise that taking time out is OK, and saying you are going to be away from screen (taking kids to school, dog for a walk, exercise)


How has recruitment and talent acquisition been during this period?

  • Hiring activity has been buoyant across the group – lovely to hear and a welcome break from the doom and gloom from the press
  • Onboarding has been difficult and a tough process as there has been a lack of informal social interaction and meeting different people across teams

What has everyone been doing from an onboarding/induction/technology point?

  • This is a good opportunity to drive automation & employee self-service
  • Buddy system for new joiners and getting people together – introductions to senior leaders virtually such as CEO cooking, CCO cocktail making and introductions to families
  • Interactive videos make it more authentic and personable from senior leaders and department heads – making sure they are also sustainable
  • Communication from senior leaders daily, weekly and monthly interactions

WFH Logistics

Challenges of employees working from home?

  • With exceptional cases or “if you can’t work from home effectively” it is subjective so hard to know where to draw that line and how it is audited
  • Implications for corporate tax, personal, social security, cross border tax reporting
  • Overtime tax liabilities and whether this fall on the company or employee to cover
  • Policy position is important and using the current time to lobby for change now
  • Currently no tech in place to track who is in office and who is working from home

Challenge with employees relocating to home countries or going abroad?

  • Employees wanting full access in overseas locations
  • Over extended periods resulting in having to set up payroll in different countries
  • Is a blanket approach the best way forward now i.e. asking all employees to come back to the UK? Are there exceptional cases in that regard too?

Reward and Compensation

How/will this change for employees working from different locations in UK (outside of London)?

  • Would you adjust someone’s compensation when you change their place of work?
  • Financial benefits from home – cost saving, London weighting
  • HMRC’s point of view “normal place of work” differs from what is outlined in employment contract
  • A blended place of work avoids those tax implications/additional cost implications

Are bonuses & salary increases affected?

  • Most employers are operating as BAU i.e. still considering bonuses and will be doing salary reviews
  • People are working together and harder than ever but for commercial aspects it’s hard to base bonus on this
  • If there are no salary increases businesses must ensure people know that it’s not due to working from home
  • If profitability is down do businesses deduct from Exec and give to more junior roles almost as a buffer


How do we maintain company culture when working from home?

  • Raising questions on what the businesses culture actually is, is it defined, do we live and breathe it currently or does this need to be assessed
  • All have developed a new culture in a sense based on what has been done remotely so far. For those who move to a more hybrid way of working next year how is this level of interaction and dialogue maintained? i.e. staff are now used to activities and seeing managers in a more informal light then they may have done in the office full-time

What are businesses doing now to maintain engagement?

  • Getting senior leadership involved not just HR as culture must be business led
  • Exco involvement, informal groups set up to meet quarterly
  • Celebrating behaviours with regular announcements and interactive videos for everyone to see, encouraging storytelling and dropping successes into ‘Town Halls’
  • Keeping engagement informal and fun with competitions, zoom meetings, interactive drinks/dinners.
  • Networking and social streams, encouraging communication across levels and departments

Are we looking at changing the recruitment process?

  • Informal chats to get to know candidates to give a sense of company before moving to formal interview stages
  • Increased number of stages so they meet more people (every recruiters nightmare!)
  • Values based questions during recruitment processes helps with aligning culture
  • Pulse surveys and new joiner input to see how their induction/onboarding experience has been

What notable changes have we seen over the last few months?

  • Clear desire to be back in the office from some people. Mindset has shifted over last 6 months as people have adapted - “I want to be back in the office to I enjoy working from home”
  • Without generalising too much there seems to be a generational divide here with more junior workers wanting to be back in the office and those with families largely content with the new set up
  • Options discussed and already implemented include 1-3 days in the office per team on a rotational basis
  • Additional spaces being considered as working environments i.e. coffee shops, shared office spaces to also increase facetime

We will be conducting similar events on a regular basis so if you are a HR leader within Financial Services and you’d like to get involved and/or there are topics of discussion that are close to your heart at the moment drop us a line.

We also have our own Financial Services LinkedIn Group if you would like to join. Click here: Oakleaf HR Financial Services


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