Alloys of Affection: Crafting a Caring Workplace in the Metals
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February 14, 2024

Introduction

Although Valentine’s Day is traditionally portrayed as a day for romantic love, it can also be a reminder to show your appreciation and love for your employees. After all, the relationship between an employer and employee is one of the oldest kinds!

On average people spend a third of their life at work, so how we feel about work and the relationships we have with our bosses and colleagues are arguably very important for all of us!  Historically, employee morale and wellbeing have largely been overlooked in the mix of factors that contribute to business success.  Thankfully things are starting to change with the importance of employee mental health, wellbeing and engagement increasingly being recognised and prioritised in many workplaces.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s 2022 report on Health and Wellbeing at Work, employers are mostly focussing their support on mental health (the main cause of long-term absence).  Although some also put their effort to promote values and relationships, good work (for example, job design, work–life balance) and physical health, financial wellbeing remains the most neglected area.  

Businesses have faced many challenges in recent years including the effects of Brexit, the Covid pandemic, increased costs, supply chain disruption and acute shortages of labour in some sectors.  Supporting employee health and wellbeing may not seem a high priority compared with some of these challenges, but with staff retention being crucial to long term sustainable business there is no doubt that it should remain firmly on the agenda.

Showing care and compassion for your teams and colleagues should not be seen as ‘soft’ but as a fundamental part of good people management and development.  Creating a culture where care and compassion are valued will enable your business to attract and retain key skills and talent which is so critical for future success.

So, on this day of care and affection, we wanted to highlight some ways you can show your care and appreciation for your employees and the contribution they make to the success of your business or organisation. By actively promoting and caring for employees and advocating for an inclusive culture where everyone is valued, appreciated and cared for, we can contribute to the industry’s long-term success and sustainability.

Section 1: Understanding the Heart of Your Workforce

The first step to show appreciation is to understand your workforce. Employers can better address the needs and aspirations of their employees when they try to go beyond the surface-level considerations. In industries like the metals, it’s important to understand that one size does not fit all.  Traditional attitudes to work are fast changing and HR practices must change to keep pace, otherwise we will lose out on key talent.  Taking a more personal approach to understanding your employees is one way you will be able to stay tuned to what they need.

By understanding the needs of employees, their working preferences, receiving feedback and addressing needs, we can develop our workplace for a sense of belonging, ultimately breaking the stereotype of the metals industry being a ‘male industry’ and opening it up to all.

Hearing Employees’ Voices

There are many ways to hear your employees, and a combination of these ways depends on your workplace’s specific needs.

  • Anonymous Surveys: Conducting regular surveys which are anonymous can encourage employees to answer honestly and confidently about issues they may not feel comfortable raising on their own.
  • Check-ins and Reviews: Scheduling one-on-one check-ins, having reviews of past work and their development progress can help the employees feel a greater sense of progression and pride in their work, or even move on to a role or workplace that better suits them.
  • Suggestion Box: A suggestion box can be used to submit anonymous suggestions or feedback and when employees see that their suggestions are acted upon, it will motivate other employees too.
  • Peer-to-Peer Feedback: A culture of promoting peer-to-peer feedback fosters a sense of community and trust. In an industry where collaboration among employees is necessary for safety, innovation and productivity, a culture of transparency among employees is essential, creating a greater bond among people.

Section 2: Personalised Appreciation Strategies

A great way of showing your appreciation for your employees is recognising their special days. Recognising events such as birthdays, special milestones, etc. are great occasions to make employees feel special and rewarded. A well thought gift or a card can make their day very special!

When selecting personalised appreciation gifts for employees consider their preferences, interests and the nature of their work. These gifts cannot only be meaningful and personal, but they can also be relevant to their roles in the industry. For example, employees can be given higher quality work tools specifically for their roles, or personalised/engraved tool belts, etc.

You can also show your appreciation by something more than materialistic gifts. It is important to focus your efforts on your employees’ professional development and training. Offering your employees professional development opportunities such as coaching, workshops, apprenticeships, etc. can show that you want your employees to prosper.

Section 3: Creating a Culture of Care

Going another step further, we can create a culture of care and foster an environment where empathy, compassion and support are embedded into everyday practices and interactions. Rather than solely relying on one-off gestures, we can integrate an approach of caring.

  • Leadership Commitment: ‘Lead by example’ can be an excellent way of creating a caring culture by modelling the behaviour you want to see in your team. Managers and executives can show and prioritise caring behaviours in their actions and decisions. Leaders can show that they are committed towards the success and safety of their valuable employees.
  • Consistent Communication: Encourage supervisors to regularly check in with their teams, provide and receive constructive feedback, and actively listen to and address employee needs and perspectives. Fostering an open, honest and transparent culture can make employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns and feedback.
  • Employee Wellbeing Programmes: Implement programmes that prioritise employees’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Resources should be made available such as counselling, stress management workshops and regular health checkups.  Why not take a holistic approach to looking after an individual’s health rather than just focussing on the impact their job or their work environment has on their ability to be productive?

By prioritising the wellbeing and success of employees, promoting open communication and collaboration, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and support, organisations in the metals industry can create a workplace where employees feel valued, empowered, and motivated to achieve their fullest potential.

Section 4: Health and Wellbeing

In industries like metals, physical health and safety is the number one priority. Organisations are required to keep up with strict health and safety regulations to minimise injuries and accidents. However, we want to highlight the importance of mental and emotional health initiatives alongside physical safety.

For many in the metals industry, their work involves working with heavy machinery, hazardous materials and dangerous equipment. The mental headspace of the person operating such equipment is just as important to consider. The industry can be fast-paced and demanding, with high pressure situations and complex tasks.  Therefore, it is important to offer stress management workshops and counselling to promote mental health awareness.

Investing in such initiatives demonstrates a commitment to employees’ wellbeing and creates an environment that is supportive and caring. Employees are more likely to engage positively with their work and remain loyal a company that prioritises their health and safety.

Section 5: Opportunities for Personal Growth and Development

Mentoring, training sessions and career path planning specific to the metals industry are crucial for developing and retaining talent, fostering growth and ensuring the long-term success and development of your employees within the sector. Some examples of different growth and development opportunities include:

  • Mentoring: Mentorship programmes can be used to promote a transfer of skills from experts/skilled employees to new/junior employees. Skilled employees can provide guidance and career advice tailored according to their experience and knowledge in the industry.
  • Career Path Planning: One-on-one career development sessions can be utilised to provide a sense of clarity and progression to employees. Employees can be provided with opportunities to explore different career paths, roles and responsibilities, and departments to get a better understanding of what they would like to specialise in.
  • Handover of Responsibilities: Employees can be given opportunities to get experience in more senior roles. For example, high potential employees can be given the opportunity to act as managers on a trial basis. Not only is it a great learning opportunity, but it also helps employers understand their options for promoting employees and succession plans.

Section 6: Recognising and Rewarding Hard Work

If an employee has taken upon themselves to provide an extraordinary service to their organisation, they deserve to be rewarded accordingly. A culture of recognition helps create engaged and loyal employees. Recognition and the chance to be rewarded can be a great motivator for employees. Employees are much more likely to work harder to earn their reward when they know they may be able to achieve it.

However, rewards should not just be based on hard performance metrics, and employers should also consider the impact of employees who work ‘behind the scenes’. In many cases, the success of one employee is due to a variety of factors and other employees. Therefore, recognising the impact of soft skills is also important. Recognition is just as much about recognising small wins as it is about the milestones.

Conclusion

We believe that workplaces which implement such policies and show genuine care and appreciation for their employees, are far more likely to succeed. A happy workplace is a healthy workplace, and we believe it is time to prioritise appreciation, care and recognition at work. So let this Valentine’s Day be a reminder that the relationship between you and your employees, teams and colleagues is just as important as the ones you have at home.

We encourage you to introduce these recommendations in your workplace and remind your employees that we are all in this together. If you would like to learn more about bringing positive change in your workplace, you can go to the Burley Law YouTube page, where you can find our webinars on Recruit, Retain, Release.