15 Feb Representing Staff
Headland Staff Representatives (Staff Reps) have been working with senior management for years to help facilitate and improve relations between staff and management. We thought we’d get some input from Managing Director Tim Holden and Staff Representative Josh Gaunt, to explain a bit more about our process and why it works for us.
How long has Headland had Staff Reps for?
Over 20 years, we implemented it as soon as the team size and working methods made it difficult for management to interact daily with the team
What made you decide to implement the use of Staff Reps? (As opposed to just having a HR department)
It is very easy to develop a disconnect between the management and the field staff so we wanted someone to represent the views of the team, providing a level of anonymity for those not confident enough to approach us directly (often newer staff) and guide them to the procedures that underpin the system. We also wanted to have people who could help explain and translate management decisions and develop a culture that perhaps gives us the benefit of doubt. A key principal we hold is that if something bad is happening assume it’s because we (management) don’t know about it.
What are some positive changes at Headland that have been driven by issues raised by Staff Reps?
As I recall, the drive for better accommodation, branded work ware, vehicles and PPE and was largely driven by the Staff Reps. Perhaps the most important role, at the moment, is with the large numbers of new recruits we have on large infrastructure projects such as the A14. Staff Reps to interact with staff who might be new to the workplace and help bring any legitimate concerns to the management. In the past this has helped resolve concerns about health and safety conditions and personal grievances. A good Staff Rep can diffuse issues with discussions around expectations and bring issues of a sensitive nature to our attention so that they can be dealt with quickly and fairly. Much of their work is done behind the scenes and goes unheralded because, as you will understand, we aren’t able to broadcast much of their finest work.
Why did you decide to become a Staff Rep?
My main aim was to become more involved in the company and use the position to make the workplace somewhere people were comfortable enough to raise issues and get their voices heard. The previous Staff Reps did an excellent job, and when the opportunity arose for me to take part I jumped at the chance.
What are some of the challenges that come with being a Staff Rep?
As my day job is mostly conducted in the field sometimes it can be tricky to coordinate plans regarding workplace issues and office-based meetings; however this also provides me with a better understanding of the issues facing field staff. We can be contacted through a variety of means and aim to resolve any issues, queries or suggestions as quickly and appropriately as possible.
Thankfully my job is made a lot easier by the good communication from both staff and management.
Have you received any additional training as a Staff Rep to assist with the role?
I undertook a two-day mental health first aid course (SMHFA) which provided a lot of useful information, skills and resources on how to provide initial help for those experiencing mental health issues in the workplace. We also have support and guidance from HR in setting the expectations of what our role involves, however the requirements of the role often vary from situation to situation.
What are some typical issues that people come to you with?
We deal with a huge variety of issues. We have conversations about working conditions, pay and people’s contracts; we pass on suggestions for improvements to the office environment; we are asked about various company policies and standards; and also help with any interpersonal issues that are brought to our attention and will lend an ear to those who need someone to talk to. A bit of everything really.
Do you feel that the Staff Reps have influenced positive change at Headland?
I think the culture of open communication between staff and management has benefitted everyone. We are keen to keep searching for new ways to improve through new benefits and perks. A lot of good initiatives such as the recently announced Medicash* scheme is an excellent benefit for all staff, and we will be seeking out more opportunities like this.