2020 Wrap-up by Olga Pollock

Posted in : HR Updates on 5 January 2021
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered: HR Matters

As we begin a New Year it is a time of hope for brighter days ahead. 2020 was an undeniably momentous year that will be remembered in history so I thought I would take a look back on my journey throughout a turbulent year which I somehow managed to come out the other side of.


Back in January of 2020 as we entered a new decade, I shared some of my top tips on returning to work after the Christmas period from the importance of restful sleep and good nutrition, to prioritising and setting goals for the year ahead. And before the holidays are over, we should start to think about all the things we like or even love about our jobs rather than fret about going back to work.


In February I explored what it means to be inclusive and go beyond the potential constraints of equality and diversity that categorise according to gender, disability, sexual orientation etcetera. Inclusion should go beyond this to actively encourage environments that value all employees where they are treated equally and given an equal sense of belonging.

Organisations are bursting with people with different personality traits from the so-called ‘fiery reds’ to the analytical and measured ‘cool blues’ as well as the introverts, extroverts and the somewhere in-betweens. Everyone plays an equal value in the success of the organisation and if they were all full of the same types of people, then this would quickly stifle progress and creativity.

To me this demonstrates the importance of giving everyone a voice and of getting to know everyone on an individual basis through effective leadership. Including everyone by simply asking ‘what do you think’ is one of the first steps in fostering an inclusive environment.


In March I examined the journey of becoming an Employer of Choice starting with why we want to become one in the first place. The desire to become an Employer of Choice must be driven by genuine aspirations to create an engaged workforce where everyone does their best work and are passionate about the purpose of the organisation. Buy-in from ‘the top’ is a given and thorough investigatory analysis to identify how well the organisation is performing and the challenges it faces is necessary before a roadmap can be agreed and put in place to address these.

The Employer of Choice journey is an ongoing process designed to attract, recruit and retain awesome people.


By April we were in the midst of the first pandemic lockdown. When I’d left the office on the 14th March that year, I never imagined that it would be the last time I would see my work colleagues for a long time. In this article I explored the transition from office to home-working whilst simultaneously juggling home-schooling. This was when we were suddenly thrown into a world of Zoom calls alongside our kids and family pets, yet we became very aware of how we were all pulling together as one team. And within our communities, we found ourselves standing at our front doors clapping in unison for our NHS heroes alongside the neighbours that previously we may only have said a passing hello to.


In the heatwave of May I wrote about my own personal tragedy of losing my mother and the importance of kindness. Grief comes to all of us throughout our lifetime. Many of our employees will lose loved ones during the course of their employment. Just because they may appear fine, doesn’t necessarily mean they are. A simple, ‘how are you?’ can be enough to allow that person the freedom to talk and act as an emotional release. A kind word goes a long way and to be given the time and space to grieve, or deal with all the practical things is one of the kindest things that can be offered to someone when they need it most. 


By June we had just about got the hang of home-working and home-schooling, so I used the opportunity to share what I’d learned by that stage about making it work. Planning the night before and having a timetable in place were some of my top tips in terms of incorporating home-schooling into my working day. And probably more important than all was about not being too hard on myself. I learned to accept that while things may not have been perfect, they could have been a whole lot worse as I got to spend every day with my kids safe beside me.


By half-way through the year, we had reached the end of the first lockdown when some employers began planning for staff returning to the office. While some colleagues were raring to return others were more reluctant. This article provided some suggestions on how to manage these so-called ‘reluctant returners’ through effective communication, listening and empathy.


Again, related to the Coronavirus, this article explored why so many of us loved working from home enjoying benefits such as saving money, limited distractions, more family time and greater overall convenience of being at home. There is no doubt that remote working brings both opportunities and challenges for employers. Employers should be open to considering the longer-term capacity to promote and support home-working but a balanced approach which involves some home working is likely to be more appropriate for most organisations.


In September I considered whether we should be promoting career path changes rather than discouraging them and risk losing people to the business altogether. According to research, millennials and older workers are more likely to change career path and seek more meaning. Many employers may not recognise the opportunities that these trends offer the organisation both in terms of retention and attracting talent. But if employers recognise the longer-term benefits of talent retention and the opportunity to welcome fresh perspectives from other departments, then a culture of promoting career path change can only improve employee retention and help attract new talent open to seeking growth and better opportunities.


In October I wrote how the global pandemic had created huge uncertainty among workforces and how employers should take steps to reduce the impact of this on staff morale and engagement, starting with strong and consistent communication. There was no manual on what to do in the midst of the 2020 Coronavirus however in the words of billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, how companies treat workers during this pandemic could define their brand 'for decades'. A good starting point is talking to our people in an authentic and honest manner and involve them in decision-making.


Again, focused on the impact of the pandemic, this article highlighted some of the positive side effects of the several-months-long lockdown including shining a spotlight on mental health and better collaboration among our workforces. No matter what positives came out of the worst of circumstances it was clear that these were not simply by chance. It had been necessary for employers to adopt a more dynamic and responsive, taking one-day-at-a-time approach whilst also being mindful of the bigger picture.


In the final month of 2020, I addressed what to do about long-winded interviewees who don’t seem to know when to stop talking! Inevitably these types of interviews tend to overrun and have a knock on effect on the rest of the schedule but thankfully there are a number of techniques that we can apply to help manage time more effectively. A good starting point is to set the scene by explaining to the candidate how long the interview is expected to last and roughly how much time that equates to per question. Then keep and eye on the time and politely interject if it becomes an issue.

Of course, we can expect to face the odd curveball but generally these steps should limit over-talking and ensure that both parties present themselves in the best possible light.

And so, after an unforgettable year, that’s a wrap, as they say.

Counting my blessings and wishing you more.

Here’s to a healthy, prosperous New Year 2021!

And remember, it might be stormy now, but rain doesn’t last forever.


This article is correct at 05/01/2021

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

The main content of this article was provided by Olga Pollock. Contact telephone number is +44 (0)79 7389 3448 or email oppollock@firmusenergy.co.uk

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