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Clare Wright on the changing face of HR post-pandemic

Oct 13 2021

Clare Wright has been HR Director at Jardine Motors Group for over six years.

It’s largely because of her that JMG is one of the most inclusive automotive retailers in the industry. 

It’s why we asked Clare to join our panel for our upcoming event. We want to learn more about her work around inclusion and employee wellbeing, especially after a period of so much change.

We recently interviewed Clare so we could share her valuable insight ahead of the event. Keep reading to learn more.

How are you driving equality in the automotive industry?

“Several years ago, we commissioned external research of 1000 females outside of the automotive industry. Only 2% of women thought they could have a long-term career in automotive retail.

“I wanted to change this perception. Women in JMG was set up to encourage women within our business to come forward and seek progress. We also wanted to put the spotlight on our business to attract external female talent of all age groups.

“We share success stories, provide mentoring and hold large events to get the message out there that women do belong in automotive retail. 30% of our females are now in management roles – a target we achieved two years early. 

“Now we’re widening our reach to cover all areas of inclusion. Because inclusivity is a huge part of a company’s success – a diverse workforce helps you build a healthy culture that positively impacts all areas of the business across all key KPIs.”

How was your role affected by the pandemic? 

“On the whole, my role as a senior business leader was to lead the business through the pandemic, supported by the rest of my HR team as well as the executive leadership team.

“For example, with 90% of our staff put on furlough, it was up to us to make the process as painless as possible – we believe we did. Consequently, HR became even more agile, resilient and respected. We’ve always been highly regarded at JMG, but never more so than now. This has been seen across all HR departments and industries. 

“On a personal level, it brought the senior leadership team closer together. We started doing more check-ins around how people were feeling, and our relationships have become less transactional. This has had an immense, positive impact on our wellbeing and our overall culture .”

How has health and safety changed in your workplace?

“We’ve always had good cadence around health and safety, so we were in a strong position to deal with the pandemic’s H&S challenges. Covid-ways of working did become a real focus, and luckily we didn’t have to shut down any sites because of an outbreak.

“We still have strict precautions in place, including screens, masks, and rules around sanitisation. Some might say we’re being overly cautious, but sticking to these precautions will help us protect our people against other viruses too.

“We’ve also increased our health and safety meetings to every fortnight, and Vita Safety continues to do regular audits for the business to make sure we’re always managing risk to the best of our ability.”

What people challenges have you encountered in the last 18 months?

“A big challenge came with reorganising the business: a majority of our colleagues went on furlough, but we, unfortunately, had to also reduce our headcount in July 2020 due to the financial impact of the pandemic. 

“However, we said that if things did get better, we’d bring the colleagues who were made redundant back. And we were able to do this for some of our colleagues This is a good example of how we had to think differently to make the best decision for our business and our people.

“The pandemic also ignited a shift in people’s priorities. More and more people are reflecting on what they want in the future – more time with their families, less travelling, reduced hours, etc. If their current job doesn’t align with these things, they’ll look for a new role that does. 

“We’ve started to adapt to this ‘quitting economy’ by keeping in touch with those who’ve left us, making sure they know that our doors are always open should things not work out. As a result, people have returned to the business. 

What has JMG done to support the health and wellbeing of its people?

“I joined the business at the same time as our current CEO. We worked with the rest of the leadership team to create a new vision and purpose, with the underpinning principle that our people always come first.

“Our colleagues sit at the top of the business as per the inverted pyramid principle. We enable this by giving them a voice and acting on their suggestions. This is achieved through regular engagement surveys. We also invite employees into our board meetings to facilitate reverse mentoring.

“Moving forward, we’re also going to make sure that the top 100 people in the company have mental health first-aid training. So our leaders and managers can easily spot problems and support their people at the right time with the right expertise. We have already trained over 70 colleagues this year.”

How can other businesses thrive after the pandemic? 

“It’s critical to be joined up at the top. We were already living in a volatile world before the pandemic thanks to other factors like climate change, political unrest and digital acceleration. Businesses need their leadership on the same page to keep on top of changing individual and organisational needs. 

“And to build a healthy business, you need healthy people who get what you do and love being a part of that. For that to happen, you’ve got to truly listen to your colleagues and act on what they say. Treat your employees like you treat your customers: with respect, empathy and authenticity.” 

Our next Q&A is coming soon!

In our next Q&A, we’ll be talking to Maria Mander, Founder of Mander Wellbeing. Maria is also currently working as a Health & Wellbeing Specialist at The Growth Company on the ‘Skills for Growth – SME Support’ programme. 

Maria will be taking us through what an effective employee wellbeing strategy looks like, with expert advice for businesses looking to thrive through an employee-led culture. 

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