Peter Baker is the Group Chief Human Resources Officer at First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB). Peter has the responsibility for driving the Group’s people and culture journey to ensure the HR function delivers for our people today and prepares them for what is next at FAB.
Most organisations have gone through three phases in this pandemic and HR has been at the heart of each phase. First, at the start of the crisis the focus was naturally on keeping employees safe. HR was in this case the voice of the employee to ensure all the safety protocols were in place, and that employees had the information they needed. Secondly, many organisations needed to make fast, and sometimes difficult adjustments to their workforce in order to optimise costs. And finally, we are now in the phase of adjusting to the new reality. The expectations of employees (and customers) have changed. The best organisations are using the recovery from the pandemic as an opportunity to change culture to adjust to the new expectations of employees and customers. In FAB, we are challenging traditional workplace assumptions, processes, flexibility and empowerment, that will result in an organisation that is better able to serve our customers, and is also a better place to work.
The trend towards total employee well-being was well underway prior to the pandemic, and the pandemic has been a real accelerator of these initiatives. At the beginning of the crisis, we saw energy levels and productivity rise as employees acted with urgency to keep our organisation operating effectively during very difficult circumstances. But there is a lot of evidence that eventually the “acute” phase of a crisis eventually becomes a “chronic” phase as it seems there is no end to the pandemic. This takes a heavy toll on employees, and so HR has stepped in to offer the right support to build employee resilience. I believe that human connection is the biggest driver of resilience, so we’ve tried to build this in three ways:
- We have activated clearer, more transparent communication to give employees the information they need. This avoids needless speculation and rumours.
- We also activated a remote medical programme (including remote medical consultation) and remote counselling. This ensures that employees receive the support they need. The counselling in particular has been extremely well received, and has allowed our staff to maintain their mental resilience.
- We have tried to keep up our engagement efforts, including recognition and rewards, town halls and other celebrations. We are now doing this more virtually, but it gives colleagues the chance to connect.
- The most important element here is building capability of frontline managers. Irrespective of the location, the line manager is the most important relationship for most employees. Hence it is really important that we have line managers who are able to effectively manage a remote workforce. We are focusing on building their capability in terms of setting outcome-based objectives, giving feedback, having developmental conversations and driving accountability.
- We have moved almost all of our training to be virtual. The added benefit here is that many employees who were not previously able to attend the physical training can attend virtually. This has been particularly successful with our internationally located colleagues.
- We are also launching and experimenting with different platforms which help employees connect and show a more human side.
“Never waste a crisis”. This is a quote from Churchil, and I think it is very relevant. This year has been an astonishing year of change. As HR leaders, we can grasp this opportunity to create organisations that are more agile, more empowered, and frankly a better place to work. Therefore, let’s learn from each other. So many of us are facing the same challenges, and there is a lot of best practice to learn from others. So spend time reaching out to your network and look for success stories that you can replicate.
We won’t go back to the way things were prior to the pandemic. Hence this remains an opportunity to challenge some of our previous assumptions.
About Peter Baker:
Peter has 25 years of experience in Human Resources, Sales and Marketing roles at Procter & Gamble and Maersk Group. Before joining FAB, he served as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Damco, a world leader in logistics and supply chain management, with a presence in over 80 countries.
He has vast experience across Asia Pacific, USA and EMEA having lived in Singapore, Netherlands and Denmark.
Peter holds a bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of Technology, Sydney.