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HR@Home Ep9: Ceri Henfrey, head of operations & HR at Moneypenny

Today, we’re talking to Ceri Henfrey, head of operations & HR at Moneypenny. Ceri joined Moneypenny in 2016 and her broad remit covers the day-to-day running of the business. She looks after the Working Life team (HR), training and development as well as the building and its facilities. This sees Ceri manage each facet of the business workings, from the specific needs of each individual PA to the mechanics of the wider team, ensuring that whilst Moneypenny continues to grow, it retains its ‘small business feel’.

You can watch the episode below, or read the full interview underneath.

What challenges has your business faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and what tech and innovations have helped enable business continuity?

Ceri: Business continuity has always been a really important part of our business because when things go wrong, our clients need us even more than ever. So, we need to make sure that we’re ahead of the game and doing everything we can to make sure we stay absolutely resilient. COVID-19 was a whole new level for us.

Previous business continuity would be a power outage, or snow, bad weather. So we had to think big and think fast.

Our challenge was how do we get 700 people who are all working in our beautiful building, very much our Moneypenny home, into their own homes. It wasn’t something we’ve done before. So we were extremely reliant on technology.

Thankfully about 18 months ago, we started leveraging a cloud based, omni-channel system that enables us to undertake chats, phone calls and SMS’s on behalf of our clients.

We were able to pretty seamlessly move all of our people into their own homes, their new working environment and over a two week period, we went from nobody being able to work from home to 700 people. So, we bought a lot of laptops, it’s fair to say!

Also internal communications and engagement are huge for us, so we’ve utilised Microsoft teams an awful lot, and that is the main platform that we use for day to day meetings and interaction with each other. We also use Workplace, which is Facebook’s product, which is how we keep our amazing culture going when we can’t be in our Moneypenny home, and make sure that everyone’s okay and still talking to each other.

What piece of advice would you share with fellow HR professionals about how to support employee wellbeing at this time?

C: We feel massively strongly about wellbeing, and we’re very passionate about having happy employees. It’s really simple. If you’ve got happy employees, you have happy clients - and then you have a growing thriving business. We don’t believe it’s possible to have happy clients with unhappy people. So we already focus an awful lot on making sure people are happy and engaged.

The approach that we would recommend any business takes, is to think of your people as a community. We referenced our Moneypenny family and we’re really focused on what the family needs, what everybody wants. It’s hard enough anyway, when everyone’s in one building, but we’ve got people in hundreds of homes across two countries where we’re trying to get everybody together.

My advice would be, don’t be afraid to mix home and business because it makes things a lot more engaging and a lot more interesting.

We use the Workplaces tool to bring together that community and will utilise Workplace to cascade, really important business messages. I’ve found myself following the government and the government guidelines and regulations changes almost to an obsessed level. But the reason being that a few minutes after this announcement, we will follow up with an “okay, this is what it means to us” message to stop people panicking and worrying because they know we’re all over it. And that’s made a big difference.

Then we bring the community side into it, so we’ve got things like people sharing different recipes, we’ve got people who are enrolling in the amazing range of free open university courses that are out there - and we’re really encouraging people to do that, to use their free time to get something going for them, a new skill, something random they might want to learn.

We’ve also been posting things that will help keep children busy and amused because we’ve got people working at home when their children are there as well - so let’s share ideas and thoughts on that.

More specifically from a wellbeing side of things, we’re lucky enough in the Moneypenny building that we can undertake Zumba classes, pilates classes, HIIT classes every week, so all of our coaches and instructors have been brilliant and their lessons are now available virtually for everyone, at any time. So that’s made a big difference because it’s a familiar face, a class that you’re used to going to, that the people can use.

We’ve also just sent out a ‘how are you doing’ bot? It’s a wellbeing bot that we built on Workplace that has asked people how they’re finding their work-life balance? How are they finding the transition to working from home? What can we do differently? Are they struggling with their wellbeing?

Those key questions enable us to test how people are feeling. The great thing was we sent it out at four o’clock yesterday and by eight o’clock this morning, 80 per cent of people have replied. We’ve got such engagement, it’s really good - we’ve had 4,000 posts in the last 28 days.

We’ve had 28,000 reactions at 350,000 messages on Workplace work chat. So it’s levels that we’ve never seen before. So we know we’ve got a great, engaging place for people to go and vent if they need to, they’ve got company, if they need it. And it’s working really well for us.

The data for the bot comes directly into our HR team and only a very small amount of people will see it because obviously it’s really confidential, it’s about people’s feelings. And we’re already looking at some of the great comments, there’s lots of really positive praise for how we’re doing as a business, but also some great ideas.

We’ve also asked questions about flexible working because people currently have a lot more personal commitments than they have before. We’ve done all we think we can do to help people, but we’d just revalidated that question to ask ‘is there any more we can do?’ So that’s our priority: What are the really quick wins that we can put in place to support people? And then we’re going to look at it to see what ideas people have got.

If there are people that were not on our radar from an HR perspective, that were struggling from a wellbeing side of things and are now actually telling us they are, they’ll also be a big priority because then our wellbeing manager will get in touch and see what more we can do in terms of providing counselling services and access to the great range of things we offer to people.

Do you feel at all that there’s been a spike in people talking about their wellbeing and engaging with it more during the COVID-19 pandemic?

C: We have seen a spike from those people who absolutely had their mental health under control and they were in a really strong place. And they are struggling working from home. It tends to be people who have had problems in the past who tend to live by themselves and that isolation isn’t great for them.

We’re working really hard to make sure that we try and fill in some of that void that working from home is created. And because we’re such a family based business as well, it’s not just your work colleagues, it’s your friends that you don’t have access to.

So we’re really busy helping those people. And what we’ve found is people who we haven’t appreciated may have had struggles with their mental health in the past, they’re now telling us they have, we never knew about it, but now it’s getting tough. So it is something that we’re really focused on - and finding that by talking to people, engaging, making sure that they’re okay, and showing them that we care. It makes a big difference.

What do you think your biggest challenge as a HR leader will be when COVID-19 is over?

C: I think there’s probably three things that are on my mind. One is wellbeing and how we will make that transition back into the office work in a way that we can still ensure that there’s social distancing in place, that we don’t create our own issues from a health perspective. So, I’m thinking a lot about how we will make that transition work in the interest of our clients and our people. So that’s number one.

Number two would be our clients. In the UK, we’ve got thirteen and a half thousand clients who will be going through similar transitions. We’ve demonstrated to them that we’re really flexible, we’re really agile, but how do we do that as we transition back into the new world?

I don’t think it’ll ever be the same, but there’s a lot of information we need from our clients to make sure we can keep providing the best service to them possible as they go through that change. So that’s another thing on my mind.

And finally, I think there’s some great things that we’re learning that I really want to make sure we bring into the workplace when we are back into the office and all back to normal, and that’s around communication.

It’s feeling a bit procedural right now. I will have a quarter-to-nine huddle with my team every day - a video conference - and actually I’m communicating an awful lot better because we put that in place.

How do we take the things that really work for us when working from home into the workplace, so that we’re more disciplined and have better levels of communication? I think there’s some real gains [that have emerged] and I’m really keen not to lose sight of those.