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05 May 2021

HR LEADERSHIP FORUM – April Highlights

In April 2020, Coulter Partners held their first HR Leadership Forum. The aim was to share practical ideas as a group of HR professionals, creating a rising tide to raise all boats during a time of unprecedented disruption.

One year on it is incredible to see how resilient and agile organisations have become, with the support and careful guidance of their peer group.

The April 2021 forum was another engaging, open, and insightful discussion, especially given the weighty content. It is always a good sign when time runs short, and it felt as though we could have devoted a whole forum to each topic. Here are the key points from the discussion:

Mental Health – A New Frontier

The discussion began with the scrutiny of some data points that the team had seen regarding perception gaps that may exist between senior leaders and other employees. A survey cites statistics where 96% of CEOs think they are doing enough for mental health, while the same study reflects that only 59% of employees would agree.

The lines between organisation and personal life have blurred as the home has become the office. There was an interesting dichotomy. Early feedback showed that seeing people working at home had made them appear more human, and had initiated dialogue around personal life, which wouldn’t normally have happened. Over time, however, the formality of meeting ‘only for a purpose’ meant that some of the pastoral care had fallen by the wayside. The over-used English phrase “How are you?” was eliciting the same response “I am fine” over and over, when perhaps this did not reflect the truth.

What became obvious early in the discussion is that one size does not fit all when it comes to solving this problem, though many brilliant ideas were shared. Firstly, remaining as flexible as possible in how, when and where people work was thought to be beneficial to people’s mental health. No one in the forum was forcing employees back to the office, other than those for whom remote work would not be possible, such as lab or manufacturing roles. Much of the discussion also pointed to the importance of showing vulnerability, particularly from the top. Senior leaders opening up and sharing their own struggles, made it ok to ‘not be ok’.

Some more concrete and structural interventions where shared, which included ‘No Zoom Fridays’, additional holidays, as well as bonus payments where business performance allowed. There were areas where reward and recognition were changing, moving towards a greater focus on experience and wellbeing as part of total reward.

Hybrid Organisations – Ultra-tailoring?

The discussion opened with consistent agreement that hybrid organisations – a mix of home working and office working – will exist for a long time to come and most were planning for this scenario. However, few were rushing to make decisions on measures like workspace redesign. One mantra that was shared was that the office will be the home of food, fun and fitness.

Those that had removed office space were finding it productive to hire shared workspaces for purpose-based meetings instead of having a permanent base. When thinking more about working patterns, many had established that 2-3 days in-office is the preferred approach for most but establishing exactly how this will work is the next step. Some discussed making these days the same for each department – finance may prefer remote working, while IT may want more in person meetings. The emerging trend is the ultra-tailoring of work – having to think multidimensionally about any team member’s department, work styles and personal circumstances in a holistic way.

HR Forums for 2021

The remaining meetings will be scheduled as follows:

Wednesday 9th June 10:30 EST / 15:30 GMT / 16:30 CET

Wednesday 8th September 10:30 EST / 15:30 GMT / 16:30 CET

Wednesday 27th October 10:30 EST / 15:30 GMT / 16:30 CET

Wednesday 8th December 10:30 EST / 15:30 GMT / 16:30 CET

Coulter Partners would like to thank everyone who contributed to the lively and open discussion in April. Feedback is always welcome on anything we can improve or iterate.

About the Coulter Partners HR Leadership Forum

During these unprecedented times, we are hearing HR teams are under immense pressures. These pressures range from complete restructures, to dealing with contract and working pattern changes on a scale never seen or experienced before. All while being responsible for positive morale in a time of almost complete uncertainty. No organization is resourced to deal with this degree of disruption, and this is where knowledge sharing can help all of us to excel during this time. Each month, Coulter Partners hosts a virtual meeting, bringing together HR leaders from early-stage businesses to global pharmaceutical companies. The aim of the forum is to share practical ideas as a group of HR professionals, creating a rising tide to raise all your boats.

Ian Coyne Executive Director, Global Information and Intelligence


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