HRD reveals lessons learned during COVID:19

We talk to the HRD of Pernod Ricard Winemakers on teamwork challenges during the pandemic

HRD reveals lessons learned during COVID:19

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organisations have drastically shifted how they operate their business.

For any employer to function properly, it has required geographically dispersed teams to develop the ability to communicate effectively.

This has certainly been the case at Pernod Ricard Winemakers (PRW), which had to manage teams remotely and ensure business continuity during key seasonal activities (such as grape harvest) – all the while keeping the teams safe.

PRW is the wholly owned wine subsidiary of French wine and spirits producer Pernod Ricard, which is one of the largest alcoholic beverage companies in the world.

It arose from the New Zealand and Australian companies, and was then extended to become Pernod Ricard's umbrella organisation for its wine operations in other nations.

So far during the pandemic, the company has seen increased pressure on staff to assimilate to remote working, whilst balancing their personal circumstances (e.g. home schooling), according to Christian Campanella, PRW’s HR, communications and sustainability & responsibility director.

“Although there have been many challenges presented by COVID-19, it has also brought an appreciation of what flexible working can bring to a person and organisation and conversely the role the office plays in driving socialisation, collaboration and creativity for our business,” he said.

Read more: Revealed: Australia’s most innovative HR teams

“From a practical HR perspective, like many other functions we have had to pivot towards digital led ways of working. Whether this was in training and development, onboarding or recruitment processes, we needed to think of new ways of approaching these tasks whilst still ensuring the integrity of the outcome.”

And PRW is far from alone in realising teamwork benefits amidst the pandemic.

According to Forbes, many organisations around the world have found a renewed emphasis around collaboration has led to an increase in innovation, better brainstorming and a more strategic approach to execution coordination.

It cited research in the Harvard Business Review that discussed how during the COVID-19 crisis, leaders at Mars Incorporated have seen a major shift in the way the company's supply chain employees communicate with one another.

It stated that the conversations between remote teams have become more focused and less subjective, and productivity has improved.

Over at PRW, Campanella said there are three major elements to building a successful HR team.

Firstly, you need to ensure that you have a clearly defined HR strategy which aligned to the business strategy and will enable your people to perform towards this.

Secondly, you need to organise the team in terms of skills and capabilities against the core elements of delivery within the HR strategy.

Lastly, you need to ensure that all members of the HR team have clear purpose and prioritisation of projects and tasks leading to delivery of the HR strategy / agenda - and make sure these are measured and tracked.

Read more: Want better output? Then focus on the safety of your team

“There have been a lot of ‘test and learn’ moments whereby we have had to just try different ways of working and organising ourselves and be willing to adapt as needed,” said Campanella.

“Fortunately, we were already an organisation that embraces flexibility, has great technology and manages across multiple countries so we were quite used to working remotely, to an extent. We had great foundations to build upon.”

Campanella also told HRD that wellbeing has become a major focus for him as the pandemic has progressed.

“The reality is there is a level of fatigue in the system and this will continue for some time as we navigate this new normal,” he said.

“So, it’s important we provide avenues for our people to be aware of their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others and to have the necessary support mechanisms in place to address any concerns.”

In an environment of uncertainty and remote working, this has driven the need to increase the frequency of communication across the business.

“We have taken an approach of over-communicating with our employees and ensuring they were armed with the latest information,” he said.

“Whether it was updates on Government COVID restrictions, business performance, key areas of focus or reminding people about topics such as wellbeing or the business strategy, it was important that we were giving our people confidence and providing them with a level of security.”

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