Pantaenius, one of the largest yacht insurance providers in the world has had an interesting year as a family-run business. The UK branch was heavily affected by the pandemic, but led by Managing Director Mike Wimbridge, Pantaenius has taken a people-first approach to tackling these issues.
Having only been in the role for the last 18 months, Mike faced the relatively daunting challenges of Covid as a new Director. His people struggled too, having to adapt from a familial and social environment with a close-knit team in a traditionally paper-based industry to a socially distant and remote employee experience.
While Pantaenius’ UK branch had never previously had an official employee engagement or wellbeing system in place, this was not due to a lack of commitment to staff. As a family-run business, Mike points out that many of his team had been with the business for years, and had organically developed a very open and honest relationship.
However, after Covid-19 tore up the rulebook they had to adapt to an unprecedented way of working as a 30-person team. Mike comments:
“However perceptive we think we might be, we cannot speak for another individual. Often, we’re just projecting our own ideas and concerns. Using WeThrive means that we can make real, non-invasive data-based decisions.”
This isn’t corporate lip-service
Having worked for big, multinational corporations Mike felt slightly sceptical about employee surveying and wellbeing programmes. After years of experiencing so many “new schemes” in the corporate world that promised to change and improve the workplace yet failed to deliver, Mike was keen to try a new approach.
After looking for innovative ways in which he could support his people without the power of a corporate HR or People department, WeThrive’s people-first approach stood out as something that made real sense.
Mike describes WeThrive as a “life buoy thrown out into a stormy sea,” offering a thoughtful and constructive way to encourage honest answers from his people. He didn’t want a training platform – he wanted a listening ear and advice.
What were Pantaenius’ biggest challenges?
The biggest issues Pantaenius faced were around communication and empowering their staff to drive important conversations about their work experience. Mike wanted to ensure that he was successfully giving a voice to the team and not making assumptions about what individuals wanted.
One of Mike’s main concerns was that people may not be getting enough time to unwind and separate work and home life. He mentions that, previously, while commuting between work and home was one of his least favourite parts of the day, it gave him something that working from home does not: the time to decompress and divide up his day. Therefore, he wanted to encourage his team to work out what works best for them.
What did the data reveal?
Mike was happy to see that many of his employees still felt there was a strong team spirit, and despite working apart his people had truly come together and supported each other during the pandemic.
Surprisingly, however, the most fundamental information Mike discovered from the data was that his managers had found this time much harder than his employees. WeThrive’s survey revealed that Pantaenius’ managers had spent much more time worrying about ensuring their own team members were okay, somewhat to their own detriment. This is clear in the results, with employees scoring very high in levels of positive attention from management and their colleagues.
Mike reveals that whilst it was fantastic to see that his staff were largely okay, it was surprising to see that even his managers who seemed more robust were consequently scoring lower in areas such as “free from worry” and “headspace”.
So what steps did Pantaenius take next?
Short term changes: clearer communication
Since receiving their results, Mike has now been using different, clearer language when communicating with employees. The most important message Mike wanted to convey was that health and wellbeing is, and always will be, number one.
Mike points out this is something he never authentically experienced in his corporate career, but since making these adjustments he’s had a very positive response. Managers at Pantaenius have started to see this in writing, such as a recent Easter memo that encouraged all employees to take breaks and put family and health first. This message about the importance of downtime was further encouraged by providing employees with an extra day of holiday for their birthday. These small changes have had a significant impact, with employees and managers feeling comforted and reassured.
One of the immediate, practical steps Mike has taken to embed this into the company culture has been to lead by example. For example, if he pops out for a walk during the day to clear his head, Mike ensures he now sends a group message to let everyone know what he is doing. These simple actions reassure staff that it is okay for them to follow suit.
Mike has found that since giving his people more flexibility and control over their working day, he’s been very pleased with the results. Creating a more relaxed environment has already come back in bucket-loads and started to develop a culture of growth and responsibility.
Long-term changes: professional growth and development
Mike was pleased to discover a number of areas in which staff had been trying to break down barriers and develop talent and skills in new areas. Since Covid pressed fast-forward on the digital transformation and flexible working at Pantaenius, employees have had the opportunity to adapt, realising they don’t need to be pigeon-holed into their roles.
This has been a great way to encourage other colleagues to do the same, and build a stronger, more resilient workforce. Personal development and growth has been well received, and while it has been more difficult to embed this into the remote culture of work, it has been satisfying for Mike and his team to see how well his people have adapted.
WeThrive has enabled Pantaenius’ people to “go and ask,” and Mike plans to continue to empower and embolden his people to create an environment that encourages growth and professional development.
What’s next for Pantaenius?
Pantaenius have recently moved to a larger premises at their River Hamble office and are expanding the organisation, strengthening the team and merging existing teams to create a more effective, and cohesive working environment.
For Mike, one of the most important things to focus on in 2021 is cultivating a fun company culture and creating a place where people feel proud to work. By using WeThrive’s survey results and action plans Pantaenius will continue to work through their recommendations to meet these goals.
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