MovePlan’s Angela Dettore, Regional Director for US Central, led a panel discussion on the competitive advantage of maintaining connection and culture during the pandemic, speaking to representatives from three successful businesses. Joining her was Jana Fain-Rossen, Director of Workplace at Zwift; Emma Hastings, Workplace Experience Manager at GrubHub; and Jenn LaBelle, Director of Workplace and Employee Connections at Etsy.

Opening the discussion, Angela said: “It is about breaking down the barriers between people, place and technology which are the three pillars of the workplace. As things are changing constantly the strong bonds between those pillars are necessary to create input and accountability across an organisation, to create a healthy and connected workforce.”

Jana explained how she has spent much of the last year building relationships, talking and being honest with her colleagues, which has proved successful in encouraging everyone to pull together: “We have all come to the conclusion that the more we share the more we all understand the challenges we’re facing, so the more likely everyone rallies to help solve those,” she said.

“As awful as Covid has been it’s actually been an opportunity and gift to reinvent and rethink the way we do things. A lot of the ways we’re all working you would think ‘how could we do that?’ Well, we did and we are. It’s about being self-aware and making that human connection – I have established some amazing relationships over Zoom.”

Angela agreed, adding: “Everyone being able to give input and feel they are part of the process, but also having accountability too because, if you’re not required to act as a team and have a part in that delivery, then that sometimes prevents those silos from coming down.”

Emma explained the importance of establishing a partnership between workplace and HR and getting to know individuals within a company. She said: “Ever since I entered the workplace, I always believed that compassion is a key component and taking the time to get to know the human behind the employee.

“I’m a strong believer that employee experience has to align with people priorities as well as the company values. Workplace and HR or people work complement each other; they go hand in hand so prioritising that partnership sets you up for success.”

She recognises the importance of engaging with employees when making changes at work, telling the panel: “Let’s say someone is being moved to a new desk. I might not think of that as a big deal. But there is a person behind almost everything we do. I think being reminded of that is always a good thing and is always helpful but also being given tools and skills on how to approach that and how to make sure you’re being sensitive to a variety of different things.”

Considering workplace collaboration, Angela spoke about the importance of training leaders to manage this with a remote workforce: “We never really had to think about collaboration because it happened in the office naturally. But now we are all in different spots we must train people how to think about it differently and that is going to be such a big change for everyday leaders.

“I constantly think about what sort of support do we need to give those leaders so they can be effective. They will really need to think about what each day is going to look like for their entire team not just themselves,” she said.

Focusing on employee wellbeing has also become vital as business leaders manage a remote workforce. Jana explained that Zwift has adopted an individual approach to this, saying: “We needed to figure out what each person needs, because it is more of an individual experience. We did the same with benefits too. Our HR team made sure mental health benefits were available to staff because people were reacting so differently. Some were rolling with the punches and some were really having a hard time. That individual approach has really developed over the last year.”

If there is anything the last year has taught us, it is that connection and culture is key to keeping staff happy, productive and engaged. The businesses involved in this panel discussion have proven that success is possible during challenging times when the people behind the business are prioritised, and their needs are met. Our team here at MovePlan are experts at employee engagement and managing change within a business to ensure it runs smoothly. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help.