Michelle Cawley, Group Chief People Officer chats about the future workplace, wellbeing and happiness at Ticketer, ahead of her speaker appearance on the leadership panel ‘Returning to the workplace – Differently’ at the Wellbeing at Work conference.
We couldn’t let Michelle speak at the conference without asking some questions about the biggest challenges, the taboos (shhhh… don’t tell anyone!), the future workplace and how Ticketer has been leading the way in wellbeing at work.
What’s the secret to happy employees?
Well, that would be telling now, wouldn’t it?! You don’t have to work too long in HR to realise that happy employees are productive employees, and productive employees obviously make businesses become better. It really is a no-brainer. If you operate a business that genuinely supports their staff, your employees feel fulfilled, empowered and trusted as a result. You are setting up an environment in which people will thrive and wake up every morning and want to come to work and do great things – they will feel mentally and physically able to perform in their roles, which will only reap benefits to the business. Employee wellbeing for me goes beyond just providing benefits like healthcare schemes and gym memberships. It’s about creating work environments where employees feel respected, trusted, empowered, can be themselves and with careers which allows them to have full and well-rounded lives outside of work – all things that contribute to excellent wellbeing.
Listening is also key to having happy employees. We run regular pulse surveys and we are currently doing individual ‘stay interviews’ with all staff. We’re focusing on really trying to listen and understand what their needs are and making changes accordingly. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to HR and employee wellbeing, as every company is completely different based on their team members. I think the greatest opportunity HR teams have in front of them is to listen to your team members, and tailor your approaches and practices to fit your team and culture – making it as personalised as possible.
What is the biggest challenge for wellbeing?
Supporting employee’s mental health remains the single biggest challenge when it comes to employee wellbeing. Whilst the pandemic is thankfully starting to feel like a distant memory, some people are still dealing with the mental health challenges it brought – stress, anxiety, isolation. And now with the cost-of-living crisis upon us, many employees are experiencing a different stress and anxiety over the worry of making their personal finances work – which of course affects wellbeing.
To help our colleagues, we encourage managers and employees to have regular check-ins on both performance and wellbeing. We have also assigned some Mental Health first Aiders as well as launched an Employee Assistance Program, to give access to resources who can offer financial, legal or personal advice and support. Then of course, we like to do social events – in person and virtual. Simply just to get everyone together – making sure people are not feeling isolated.
What’s the bit of Wellbeing at work which isn’t really spoken about?
Shhhhhhh… We’re not meant to talk about that! The bit that seems to be a little taboo is that wellbeing can be treated as if it is a tick-box exercise. I strongly believe that wellbeing should just become the norm of our working lives. A lot of managers feel nervous when employees come to them with wellbeing concerns or asking for mental health support, and we need to help managers become more comfortable with this. I would love for all our managers to become Mental Health First Aiders so that they feel better prepared to support their employees. If anything comes up about wellbeing, it can be automatically deferred to the HR team, and whilst HR is certainly there to help, wellbeing is not just a HR department’s responsibility. We want to make sure that supporting wellbeing becomes business as usual because it’s something that we value. It is a Ticketer company priority to make sure this is something we focus on, and that we do it well.
How has Ticketer been leading the way for wellbeing at work?
We have been trying to lead the way by introducing initiatives which hopefully make work-life balance better for our team members, and projects which don’t have a huge cost impact to us. Last year, we introduced no-meeting Fridays, which gives our employees one day a week where they don’t have any internal meetings scheduled. This gives them dedicated time to clear their inboxes, maybe do some online training, catch-up with admin and hopefully go into the weekend feeling a little bit lighter and ready for the following week. Perhaps it evens allows the chance to fit in a run or go to an exercise class.
We offer an annual Mind, Body and Soul allowance which gives the employees funds to put towards anything which may enhance their wellbeing. This is a new initiative which we hope to improve over the years, but for now employees can use it towards any kind of sporting equipment, gym membership, exercise classes, mindfulness apps, singing lessons (yes, we have allowed that as it brings joy!) – really anything that supports wellbeing.
We also offer a holiday buyback scheme, whereby if employees don’t, or can’t, use their full holiday entitlement, they can sell back a couple of days – which obviously may offer some financial help with rising costs this year. Additionally, we’ve given all employees access to LinkedIn Learning, which can be used for courses that relate to peoples’ jobs, or not!
What’s the biggest thing we do at Ticketer that sets us apart from others?
It takes a whole bunch of talented people to develop innovative ticketing technology, to take care of our customers and to grow Ticketer as a company. From developers to customer support and finance, we’ve built an amazing team who won’t settle, who always want to make things better. We have a careful balance of being a company that their employees can feel proud of working for – forward thinking and innovative – but with a real heart and one who cares for employees with everything it does.
I think we’re quite open minded to introducing new things. Our no-meeting Fridays came from our Group Chief Executive Officer, Andy Monshaw, and is actively encouraged by him. Whether it’s the mind, body and soul allowance or our hybrid working office trials, we want to continuously find ways to improve and don’t want to just do things the way we’ve always done them. That’s what sets us apart and maybe something that differentiates us. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve and make working life easier for our employees.
Tell us, what is your vision for the workplace of the future?
My vision, or my hope, for the future workplace is that they become kinder, more flexible, and more empathetic. I think Covid broke down many barriers here as we were brought into each other’s personal lives during the pandemic – we saw our colleagues’ homes, pets, spouses, even children in the background and I believe this humanised us and actually made us a little bit compassionate towards each other. My vision for the future workplace is that companies recognise and realise that great business can still continue, and employees can deliver on business objectives, but we can do it in a more flexible and compassionate way. I truly believe that those softer skills of kindness, compassion and empathy are going to be the differentiator between the working ways of the old and the working practices of the future and will only benefit employee wellbeing.
We’ve come a long way in being able to provide flexible and remote working for our team members which has significantly impacted wellbeing – for the better. Pre-Covid, we had three offices and we have since closed two, keeping one as our base. We are currently doing trials with companies which offer co-working spaces all across the country, so that when team members feel like they need to get out of the house and into the world they have this option too – giving our employees even more flexibility and choice.
Tell me more!
Want to hear more about Wellbeing at work? Take a look at my speaker profile with more insider information and ideas on wellbeing.
If you want to come and see what the summit is all about (and to hear my panel discussion!) you can get a 20% discount on the usual ticket price, using discount code SPEAKER20, on the event website.