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ELIZABETH COWPER, VICE PRESIDENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES, TAPESTRY EUROPE & COACH INTERNATIONAL
WELL BEING & DIVERSITY
For our next edition of Mode Meets we felt the hot topics of work life balance and wellness in the workplace would be interesting to address as both are currently high up on any HR agenda.
We thought there was nobody more qualified to discuss this topic than Elizabeth Cowper – VP of HR at Tapestry Europe & Coach International, Global Ambassador of Wellbeing for Tapestry, a mother of 3 children and founder of two businesses:
WoMo - a network to support, empower and inspire working mothers. (www.womonetwork.com) and The Ludo Partnership which works with experts in their field to provide Coaching, Strategic Guidance, HR Consulting and Wellbeing. A way of improving culture, personal & company performance and a workplace engaged by wellbeing.
Employee wellbeing is a key issue that companies are striving to address to ensure that their employees remain happy and motivated at work. Alongside this, flexible working is on the rise, giving employees flexibility on where, when and the hours they work. It's traditionally been associated with the needs of parents and carers, but increasingly organisations are recognising the business benefits of a more flexible way of working.
WHAT ORIGINALLY INTERESTED YOU IN PURSUING A CAREER WITHIN THE HR SPACE?
When I left university, I wasn’t sure where my career would lead. I started in recruitment and ended up moving into an in-house role where I sat within the HR department. I developed a curiosity for employment law and wanted to understand why certain decisions were made. It all began there, then I moved into a junior HR role, and the rest is history, as they say.
WHAT ROLE DO YOU BELIEVE HR PLAYS IN INFLUENCING A BRAND’S CULTURE?
Culture is a way of life in an organisation. Throughout an employee’s career journey, it is important the HR team help inform, guide and embrace the culture. For example, at Tapestry we consider each of the key moments in the employee lifecycle, such as onboarding and promotion. Then keeping our company values in mind we help create an employee experience that ties into our values proposition. We do this through the way we communicate and behave. Culture shows up in how things are done, and it needs to link into the wider brand story.
WHAT DO YOU FORESEE EMPLOYEES WILL WANT FROM TOMORROW’S WORKPLACE?
Employees expect freedom, autonomy, trust and flexibility. No longer do we separate home and work-life, it’s blended, and this shifts how people work. Companies need to embrace new ways of working and measure on output and achievement.
Wellbeing is engaged, happy employees. It is a holistic approach to the physical, mental and social state, allowing people to make a meaningful contribution with a sense of purpose. Wellbeing is more than a gym membership, it is about educating and offering your employees information and support in living a better life, engaging them to make their own informed choices.
THERE ARE MANY WAYS THAT BUSINESS OWNERS AND HR MANAGERS CAN HELP EMPLOYEES ACHIEVE A BETTER WORK-LIFE BALANCE. TO ACHIEVE A WORKPLACE CULTURE WHICH PROMOTES BALANCE, THE ABOVE EFFORTS MUST BE UNDERPINNED BY MANAGERS WHO TRULY GET THE IMPORTANCE OF WORK-LIFE BALANCE. HOW DO YOU ENSURE THIS HAPPENS?
We talk about wellbeing openly in the workplace. We run Wellbeing Weeks and Wellbeing Wednesdays where we hold sessions such as meditation, acupuncture, mindfulness and many others. We encourage our managers to attend sessions and bring their teams. We also host wellbeing weeks with a broad range of options giving our employees the opportunity to come and learn. We share the benefits of how implementing a wellbeing culture benefits our business.
FLEXIBLE WORKING IS ON THE RISE. IT'S TRADITIONALLY BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH THE NEEDS OF PARENTS AND CARERS, BUT INCREASINGLY ORGANISATIONS ARE RECOGNISING THE BUSINESS BENEFITS OF A MORE FLEXIBLE WAY OF WORKING FOR ALL EMPLOYEES. HOW DO YOU ENSURE FLEXIBLE WORKING IS KEPT FAIR ACROSS YOUR WORKFORCE AND, WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF FLEXIBLE WORKING?
We imagine this trend will continue, and we want to support where possible to give our employees a better work-life balance. Emphasis is placed on trust and open dialogue between employees and their managers. It’s about treating our employees as responsible individuals and making choices that support their lifestyles. For example, we have Summer Fridays from late May to the end of August, where our employees are able to finish the day at 1pm and enjoy the warm weather.
IN SOME WORKPLACES WOMEN CAN BE OVERLOOKED FOR PROMOTIONS IF DOING 4 DAYS PER WEEK. IN YOUR OPINION CAN WOMEN RETURNING TO WORK WITH FLEXIBLE WORKING STILL BE PROMOTED AND EXCEL IN THEIR CAREER?
Returning to work is a critical moment for a new parent, especially mums. We offer a formal return to work program to bridge this gap, and we have had several new hires join us when they were pregnant or new mums – including new leaders. We believe that anyone, from anywhere, can have a great idea, and we want to continue to support women.
FOR A RETAIL ORGANISATION WITH EMPLOYEES IN MULTIPLE LOCATIONS, HOW DO YOU DRIVE A CULTURE OF WELLBEING?
With employees across 12 countries in Europe, it is of course challenging to offer wellbeing support across all offices and stores. To overcome this, we have been using an in-house social platform which allows us to share content with our employees. We have made short videos of our speakers giving top wellbeing tips, and sent out information to educate our employees. We strive to encourage our store staff to voice their requests for shift patterns, ask if they need help, and we positively promote a culture of being your authentic self at work. Supporting our retail population as well as our head office teams with our wellness strategy is an ongoing project!
INCLUDING EXERCISE INTO YOUR WEEKLY ROUTINE IS POSITIVELY ENCOURAGED AT TAPESTRY. WHAT IMPACT DO YOU BELIEVE THIS HAS ON EMPLOYEES IN THE WORKPLACE?
It gives employees a break from their desk, keeps them fit, and they return after the class refreshed and able to concentrate better. What’s not to love!
YOU ARE A PARENT OF 3 IN A FULL TIME LEADERSHIP ROLE. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WORKING PARENTS TO BALANCE BEING A PARENT, WORK AND WELLBEING? THIS IS OFTEN A CHALLENGE FOR MANY PEOPLE.
The best advice I think I can offer is trying to do it all will burn you out. You need to have your support network in place, and whether it’s a nursery or nanny, ensure you are happy with your childcare. Also take time for you. It can be hard when you have kids and a job, and it may seem selfish to take time out, but in my view, it’s the only way I can maintain the balance. If I am feeling happy and on top of things, which comes from focusing on my own needs sometimes, I am far better equipped to manage my children and my job.
MODE SEARCH LTD 2020 No. 10889892