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How Stantec UK is supporting our people through the pandemic

April 19, 2021

In times of uncertainty the only thing we can be certain of is that designing prosperous communities–starting with our own–will make us stronger

By Gill Blandin-Ellis

Over the last year, the UK business has adapted to support our clients through a time of unprecedented change. We’ve launched new digital solutions, taken planning processes online through the launch of our virtual consultation tool and developed innovative new ways of working so that we can continue to create sustainable, healthy and prosperous communities.

Our success is testament to the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of our people who have faced unprecedented challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to these unique circumstances, our UK HR team launched our ‘Future Ways of Working’ campaign and worked with our people to identify and implement new business practices that support employee wellbeing, sustainability, inclusivity, and that support our people to meet their career goals both now and in the future.

Rising to the challenge of the pandemic by putting people first

The COVID-19 pandemic has been without precedent in the demands it has placed on our people. In response to these unique circumstances, HR remained focused on the wellbeing of our teams and built on long-term practices and programmes delivered at a scale expedited by the pandemic. 

The sudden shift to remote working has provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine everything about the way we work, how we support professional development, achieve a work life balance and ultimately how we enable our people to achieve job satisfaction and progression during a time of uncertainty. We also understand that from the employee perspective, the shift to remote working is tremendous and impacts not just their professional but also their personal lives. Our people are creating new expectations about flexibility, working conditions and life balance that we are proud to respond to.

Understanding what is important to our people has been at the heart of our activities. Throughout 2020, our senior leadership team performed a series of engagement surveys throughout the lockdown periods to understand the challenges of individual employees. The findings were shared with team managers who were given guidance on how to perform welfare calls and support available to those who were struggling.

How we adapt when circumstances change

At Stantec, we support each other to deliver our best both professionally and personally. Our Mental Health First Aider’s and Wellbeing Champions were given additional training at the start of the pandemic to help them provide the support our people were telling us they needed. In turn we supported them with regular coffee meetings and a designated Yammer group where they could share their experiences with one another in a supportive setting.  

Suddenly we were facing new workplace issues that we’d never encountered before. In response, we built a comprehensive training plan including a range of topics from suicide awareness, domestic abuse training, how to support your team and mental health awareness. A suite of tools and guides were available on a dedicated sharepoint site to our people and we launched a new app and desktop icon helped to signpost our people to hep through the Employee Assistance Programme.

Building on a culture of trust

We wanted to support our people, but we also wanted them to support each other. So, we launched an employee charter to promote positive behaviour to support our culture of trust and flexibility – a culture we want to maintain in our post-COVID world. This was supported by a number of internal communications campaigns around topical issues such as financial support, domestic abuse, healthy living and mental health.

As our people adapted to digital and remote working an emerging trend was ‘video call fatigue’ the business introduced ‘Quiet Time’ an hour in the day where our people are encouraged not to set up meetings, take calls or send emails has helped put a bit of zen back in our day.

While we’ve worked hard to maintain a ‘business as usual approach’ and continued to focus on delivering the best possible service to our clients,  to ensure that social engagement, EDI initiatives and Learning and Development remained a priority for the business.

We encouraged taking social activities online from team builds to quizzes, podcasts and coffee meetings. Through our Employee Resource Group (ERG) we hosted our first ever digital Pride, became proud members of Stonewall and Catalyst and celebrated International Women’s Day. HR also moved our learning and development offering to a virtual classroom. These initiatives are important to our people and important to us.

So what ideas have we examined closely through this initiative?

  1. Wellbeing is top of mind for our people. The results of the UK staff survey revealed that during the first lockdown our people felt Stantec cared about their overall wellbeing Whilst this was encouraging, we knew there was still work to be done to support our people who have struggled the most.
  2. People perform best in a supportive, inclusive culture. Stantec UK undertook their first annual Equal Opportunities monitoring event, and asked employees to share how they identify, and also if they consider Stantec to be an environment in which they can be their true authentic selves. The results demonstrated that 84% of respondents confirmed they ‘could be their true authentic self’ at work and 82% said they ‘feel like they belong’ at Stantec.
  3. Giving our employees a voice is important. The equal opportunities monitoring has fed into creating our first ever UK & Ireland Equality, Diversity & Inclusion community, which will be an enabler for our employees to connect with the wider Stantec Inclusion and Diversity communities.
  4. Understanding and celebrating differences is key. As well as building platforms for employee participation, the HR have also been deepening our understanding and appreciation of neuro diversity and have built a dedicated zone in our intranet to educate and show support for colleagues who identify as Neurodiverse. Feedback from our teams shows this is an area that touches everyone but is not fully understood. Starting these conversations and helping employees connect with allies and resources is another step in right direction.

All our activity to support our people through the pandemic has been underpinned by our guiding principles – putting people first, doing what is right, being better together and driven to achieve. Stantec know that our people value our commitment to community engagement, equality, diversity and net zero – so it is vital that despite the challenge of the pandemic we are true to our guiding principles. In a time of uncertainty the only thing we can be certain of is that designing healthy, prosperous communities—starting with our own—will make us stronger.

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