Tackling the Current Climate with our People First Strategy - Maureen Penfold, Moore Kingston Smith

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06 Jan 2021

In recent weeks, we spoke with Maureen Penfold, Managing Partner of Moore Kingston Smith about the firm’s People First strategy and adapting to a new way of working. Maureen shares her insights on operational change, engaging with her team and clients as well as planning for tomorrow.

We have always been a people focused firm, with equal emphasis on both our people and our clients, and our people first strategy has been tested and strengthened considerably during the course of the year. 

People are at the heart of every decision we make as a firm, with our focus being on positive engagement and communication.

Our people, united with innovation and creativity, have helped us navigate the challenges we have encountered since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Operational Change

When lockdown was introduced in March 2020, we instigated a swift turnaround, with our teams leaving our offices and 650 people suddenly being required to work remotely. Thanks to a great deal of hard work by our fantastic teams, this was a remarkably smooth process – particularly considering we had to make this decision overnight and have all our people set up to work effectively from home the following day. 

Over recent years, the firm has made significant investments in its IT infrastructure as part of its overall growth strategy. This innovation unknowingly laid the foundations to enable our people to work from home very easily; for the firm to function operationally; and for us to be easily able to maintain high levels of client engagement. 

In times such as these, a swift response is clearly paramount. A concise and clear communication plan was developed from the outset to ensure that everyone was fully aware of how the firm was reacting to the new restrictions and alert to the changes that were being made.

As Managing Partner, I introduced fortnightly firm-wide updates to speak to all of our people directly via video conference. This format has been fundamental to our ability to communicate changes and key messages internally, quickly and personally. It has also been extremely beneficial by providing a two-way communication channel for people at all levels to feedback and ask questions about the changes to our ways of working and what the future may hold, via a live chat function.

On the client side, we also ensured that agile and flexible client engagement took place regularly to ensure that both our teams and clients were sharing information and developments as they occurred. As a client-focused firm, it was really important for us to ensure that our clients knew we were on hand to advise and support them at every level – from answering operational queries and IT support, to questions about what government advice meant for their businesses. The increase in client conversations has strengthened our relationships - which can only be a good thing for the future. 

Team Engagement

As you can imagine, our emphasis has been on video for communication and interacting with our teams working from home.  

We invested a great deal of time in enhancing the mental health and wellbeing support available to our teams – as well as increasing our people’s awareness of mental health and the support that is available to them. Wellbeing has always been paramount to our firm, because our people are so important to us. Indeed our focus on wellbeing, and accompanying initiatives, were formally recognised when we were awarded Silver in Mind's Workplace Wellbeing Index 2019-2020 - alongside our signing the Time to Change Pledge.

Meanwhile, our Social Committee focused its efforts on delivering interactive and fun activities for everyone to join in. They say that laughter boosts physical, as well as mental, health – well there was certainly a lot of that through various games and competitions! We have held yoga classes, online social events, interactive baking sessions, as well as tailored Mental Health Awareness seminars and talks.

Throughout the last eight months, we have conducted firm wide Pulse Surveys every few weeks to gather information and feedback from our people to understand how everyone is feeling and coping with remote working and the isolation that often accompanies this. This has been instrumental in shaping the way we work and how we maintain our firm's culture – ensuring everyone is interconnected with their teams and can continue to develop and thrive in their lives and their roles.

Recruitment and Onboarding 

I am pleased to say that we have been able to continue with elements of our strategic recruitment at a senior level, as well as our yearly intake of trainees.

Our onboarding, induction and training processes have seen a combination of in-person and virtual sessions, which have been largely very successful.

Our challenge is to develop and improve the journey of our new intake as we recognise that remote working could remain in place for some time. Delivering the technical side of our work is straightforward; but it is essential that we consider how people get to know the teams they work in and ensure that our trainees have the opportunity to work with partners and managers from all over the business.

Change for tomorrow

Throughout this unique period, we have continually learnt lessons and adapted the ways in which we operate as a firm. This, in turn, has led us to consider changes to how we might work in the future. 

Adapting to clients’ changes within their own businesses and changing markets have informed the ways in which we work with clients. This has highlighted areas where we can further develop our client engagement. From lessons we have learnt, we can better advise our clients on the changes they could introduce in certain areas. This openness and collaborative thinking is certainly an area we intend to build upon in the future. 

This period of change has reinforced and enhanced our people first policy. It is more important now than ever to really listen to people – both our own people and our clients – and respond, with actions, accordingly.

Despite the challenges, which we are all still facing at the moment, I believe that the speed in which we adapted as a firm and the lessons that we have learnt have set us in good stead for the future. We know that wherever there is adversity, opportunity is not far away – we will harness this opportunity and take it forward as a firm, and we look forward to a successful future.

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