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Zoe Lewis Interviews Sophie Metcalf

In our latest interview, Zoe Lewis, Director of Coaching at The Leadership Coaches, caught up with Sophie Metcalf, the new Interim HR Manager at a research and information charity organisation, to learn about the impact of Covid19 on their charity.

Photo of people with their hands together

ZL: Tell us a little about the organisation you work for.

SM: Following a merger of 2 charities last year, we have around 350 employees and 70-100 volunteers who cover everything from research to education to fundraising for the charity. We are a funded by a mixture of private donations, some government research funding and also some funding from universities. We have 2 big offices one in Chesterfield and one in London, we also have many employees who work flexibly.

ZL: How has the charity been impacted by Covid19?

SM: In many ways we are able to continue much of our work remotely, as we already had flexible working in place, so that was a relatively easy transition. Fortunately with grants and stipends, the charity can continue as it is without furloughing anyone until at least the end of the year.

The charity was just gearing up to have a big push in terms of education and research, so that’s been put on hold as that was going to be delivered during the summer. People were a little disappointed by that and they are having to make changes and push that back to next year now.

The charity has always been excellent at looking after employee and volunteer wellbeing and making sure people have access to education and support as needed. It is a very inclusive place to work and a great working environment for our colleagues.

We’ve just done an employee engagement survey, about how Covid19 has impacted our employees and volunteers and the responses indicate that we are doing well from a mental health perspective. People have always been able to work their hours flexibly and that again has really helped with people already being accustomed to how they work to suit their home and personal lives.

The frustration for many employees and volunteers is that they can’t do the some of the work they look forward to, such as fundraising via face to face events, so there’s a need to think more creatively about how we can fundraise at this time.

ZL: How have your leaders led through the pandemic?

SM: There are 8 directors all of whom are very hands on. They’re excellent at communicating and they’ve kept us informed all the way through.

The charity has a people focus and that is lived out through its values. The values drive the charity toward its vision of allowing people to live their best lives.

ZL: As the interim HR manager, what impact has the pandemic had on your role?

SM: I’m new to the charity, I’ve just been recruited during the time of the pandemic. Having never worked in a charity sector before, it’s interesting and I notice some of the differences to the corporate sector. For example, as I mentioned, its very people focussed, which is brilliant and that also means that some things take a little longer to implement. I’m currently spending much of my time working on projects with the merger and focussing on our diversity and inclusion plans.

I’m also considering the benefits that working flexibly offers us in terms of recruitment, it gives us greater access in terms of the potential talent pool and I think this is an area we can use to develop our recruitment strategy.

ZL: What are the next steps now that lockdown is easing a little?

SM: We’re now talking about how we open the offices again, which at the earliest will be 1st July, we are doing the preparation; ensuring the health and safety of our employees and volunteers, making sure our premises are clean and that social distancing can be maintained, etc. That said, we are not putting our employees and volunteers under any pressure, we know how well our remote working has worked and so that can continue too.

There’s a potential for a reduction in premises costs too as we know how well people can work remotely and are happy to do so.

We also need to consider how we can continue to fundraise in different ways.

ZL: Thank you for sharing your experience Sophie, we wish you and the charity lots of success as you move forward.

SM: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.


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