In an ever-changing world, it’s important for organisations to be in tune with the needs of their employees. Everyone learns differently, so having multiple strands of engagement for employees is crucial to ensuring a culture of learning and growth throughout an organisation.
Lisa Wallis, Corporate Director of People and Learning at whg, sat down with Co-host of The Interview Luke James, to discuss her career so far and how she overcomes the challenge of engaging employees across a large organisation.
My name is Lisa Wallis and I am the Corporate Director of People at whg. I’ve been here for just over a year, so still relatively new. whg is a housing association that provides homes for over 40,000 customers across mainly Walsall but other areas locally too. We’re celebrating our 20th birthday this year.
I have been in HR now for over thirty years. I originally started employed life as a PA in an engineering factory. It was difficult back then for women to break into traditionally male-dominated environments, but I could do it as a PA. During that role, I developed a love for supporting colleagues. So that job morphed into my first HR role, and I also qualified as a health and safety practitioner and developed a career in that role.
Then I worked as a residential social care provider, which had a great social purpose and allowed me to support colleagues and give something back. I had an amazing time at that organisation before it merged. I then moved into financial services in a much larger organisation. I see the internal customer and support colleagues no matter their needs during their career. After that, I moved into the NHS, which I had always wanted to do, but it’s such a large organisation. When Covid came, I did miscellaneous interim work and set up my own business.
I was actually on a cruise when the advert for this role came up. I had applied to work at another organisation but this one drew me in. I had a good feeling about it. They called me in for an interview and quickly offered me the role. The organisation’s values are incredibly meaningful to me, the culture is amazing, and there’s fantastic social purpose. I love being able to influence positive change.
My mantra is that no matter what the situation is, if you treat people with respect and dignity, then you can overcome anything and move forward.
We have an EDI network that was already established, but with hybrid working we needed to redesign it to ensure that it worked from an inclusion and equity perspective. We wanted to ensure that everyone had a voice.
We merged our different strands to create a broad inclusion network. We recognise the protected characteristics and embrace attendance by everyone. This is in its early stages right now.
From a culture perspective, we have just introduced a people culture dashboard. We’re also developing an organisational-wide culture dashboard to look at the key events and influences that impact organisational culture. Things are changing in the workforce so we are creating our next six-year corporate plan to focus on the future. We’re ensuring we know how to communicate with and engage with all generations moving forward.
It is really challenging. We recently launched our hybrid working guidance. We like people to come in two days a week, but a proportion of our workforce can’t come in because they work externally with customers. You don’t see everyone at any one time because everyone internal will have different patterns.
We launched an immersive reward and recognition platform called Boost, which looks at giving kudos to colleagues and things like that. We do a lot of line manager business briefings, who then go and talk to their teams. We take pulse and longer surveys, have a conference every two years which in 2024 will be about our corporate plan. Colleague events are also great for individuals to share challenges. We have a lot of activity around engagement and inclusion.
From a green skills perspective around the future, we have so many different learning and development requirements. Some are mandatory. We have developmental opportunities, coaching, and mentoring programmes in place. The thing about belonging is the listening element. We need to make sure that we’re constantly listening to colleagues’ thoughts. People want to learn information in different ways, so we have to be sympathetic and flexible to their needs.