Painting a blank canvas

Friday, October 16, 2020 - 2:28pm

As a HR Partner, some days we can make changes that push boundaries and something new can happen - no two days are ever the same. You can really help to make a difference to people’s working lives. However, being given a blank canvas was one of those days and a very exciting day at that. It marked the start of a journey for us all!

At the start

When Audit Wales began an internal transformation project called ‘Ways of Working’, it was a privilege to be part of a project team that represented all areas of the business. It wasn’t until we got together that we all recognised just how wide the transformation project was, but as we started uncovering what ‘Ways of Working’ really meant, we realised that everyone would need to be involved. We had a very large blank canvas in front of us. This was going to be no ordinary project!

Over a period of nine months the project group researched, consulted with staff and explored the implications of the meaning of ‘Ways of Working’. Through lots of debate and analysing, and an endless supply of tea and biscuits, we decided to focus on three specific areas:

  • People
  • Technology
  • Location.

These three areas, when aligned, can really open-up opportunities for everyone; our staff, our business needs and our stake holders. An important part of the project was our organisation values and behaviours. The world (at that time) was changing and we wanted to be at the forefront of that change, so that our staff can be the best that they can be. What we didn’t know was, the rate of change that was coming ahead of us, but our work in the last year really did set us up to fully embrace the challenges of 2020.

When considering location, we wanted to make sure that staff had a wide choice of where they work. As an organisation that has members of staff working in a variety of locations on a regular basis, you would say that the cultural shift can’t be that much? For some parts of the business that is true, although working locations, more often than not, were an office environment somewhere. But to ensure that opportunities were available across the whole of the organisation meant that we needed to change how we work for our corporate colleagues, as well as our operational staff. As a result, the choice to work ‘anytime, anywhere, anyplace, while focusing on business needs’ became our mantra.

Keep focused

Tracy Veale, our project manager, was great at making this happen. Keeping the project in scope was hard, as many issues were inter-related and over-lapped with other projects that were in progress at the time. Any recommendation that we made would affect existing structures within Audit Wales, as well as potentially having an impact on our clients. As a team we were acutely aware that business needs would always be the priority. As part of the wider staff engagement, a survey was designed to capture what was important to staff, views on current ways of working and what the future could look like.

Smarter Working proposed alternative workspaces such as pop-up hubs for audit teams. The creation of pop-up hubs would help reduce the travel time to client sites, whilst contributing to an even more sustainable working ethos and help to improve work life balance of staff.

To support staff to make the right choice when deciding where and when to work, a toolkit was provided. The toolkit evolved from a mixture of external workshops and Smarter Working Practitioner Groups, and incorporates simple effective tools that can be used by all at Audit Wales.

As a project team, we wanted Smarter Working to provide a set of principles not rules, and principles that could be applied fairly/equally to any position or role within the organisation. We knew that there was no one size that would fit all but we wanted to make sure that everyone within Audit Wales were able to have choices – to choose the right time (when), the right place (where) and the right tools (how) to deliver the business need (task in hand) whilst considering the impact of those choices on those with whom they worked. The principles were soon incorporated into a new Smarter Working Policy.

Tracy Veale, Project Manager

Change can happen

As we continue to consider our sustainability as an organisation, video conferencing has played a big part in our working lives. Technology continues to change - to enable us to work anyplace, anywhere - as long as the location is appropriate for the task.

The team quickly became known as DG-WOW (Dulliau Gweithio – Ways of Working). The project team initially thought that the changes would take a long time to implement (we were so wrong!).

As a result of the pandemic the rate of change has accelerated beyond what we could have imagined – we recognise that our current remote ways of working do not fully incorporate the choices that Smarter Working gives, but Smarter Working has helped us during this time to adapt to working in different ways and has allowed staff to manage how and when they work, in a way that is right for them and for Audit Wales.

Our Board commented that the Smarter Working Policy was “ground-breaking and innovative”.

Change is continuing to happen as further recommendations are developed into work streams. And so the work and the adventure continues but there is certainly now more colour on the canvas.

About the Authors

Rachel Evans is a HR Partner at Audit Wales and also a part of the ‘Future Ways of Working’ Project Team. Rachel has extensive experience from a variety of private and public sector roles. During her time at Audit Wales she took on a secondment at Cwm Taf UHB. She also completed the Active Citizens programme in conjunction with the British Council.

On International Women’s Day 2015, as part of the ‘Women making a difference’ project Rachel was a facilitator at the Welsh Women’s Summit at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. She loves travelling and having adventurous holidays. In her spare time she enjoys baking, where the HR team always enjoy a slice of lemon drizzle cake with a cuppa!

 

With a degree in Geology and Geography, Tracy Veale started as a graduate trainee with District Audit.

She is responsible for a number of audited bodies, and involved in several internal corporate groups and networks. As a Trainee and Apprentice Line Manager, she sits on the FATT (Financial Audit Trainee) Group. Tracy is also a member of PAWB, the equalities interest group, the internal Women’s Network and an Environmental Champion. She has been heavily involved in Graduate Recruitment over recent years before taking on the project lead for the third transformational project - DG-WOW Dulliau Gweithio - Ways of Working.

She loves to spend quality time with the family, walking her four-legged fur baby and chilling in front of a box set.