At the start of the global Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, telecommunications firm Colt Technology Services launched a range of initiatives to support its 5,000 employees. The organisation quickly realised that it had within its means ways of assisting its employees through a hugely challenging time.
Rob Green, vice president of reward, says: “Our priority has been to support employees in general and to make all of our colleagues, regardless of wherever they are in the world feel supported through these unprecedented circumstances.”
Green joined the global organisation in December 2019, and the pandemic threw upon him and his team a whole new challenge, as he explains: “I never thought that come three months in, I’d be forced to pack up my stuff and go and work from home. I think that came as a shock to everyone.
“As an HR function, our priority has been to support and communicate with [employees] throughout this entire journey. The initial thought was, what can we do? And as a team, we’ve been brainstorming constantly, and we continue to brainstorm.”
Broad wellbeing offering
The organisation has put in a range of initiatives to offer wide-reaching support to staff. Its Safe Workplace Allowance gives employees up to €200 (£183), or local currency equivalent, to spend on making their home workplace safe. This could include monitors, chairs or desks, for example. “That was one of the first things that we rolled out,” says Green. “Not everyone works from home, not everyone has a desk or a chair. And so that’s one way of us helping our [employees] to, as the name suggests, to get themselves safe and comfortable.”
Colt has developed specific working-from-home support material that includes guidelines such as reminding employees to take breaks from their workstation.
Green was also involved in the launch of a Special Assistance Fund in April 2020. This fund is specifically used to help employees who have been financially affected by the pandemic. “We set aside €250,000 (£230,000) to help [employees] mitigate financial hardship or significant loss,” he explains. “I’ve personally been managing that process as a senior HR professional. It’s incredibly impactful for the [employees] that that we’ve helped; in terms of the financial hardship that some people are facing as a result of Covid-19 that can be anything from [their] partner losing [their] job, to medical bills, to potentially getting stuck overseas and it costing an awful lot of money to get back.”
The scheme, which has set criteria, was initially intended to just cover April, May and June 2020, when it was expected that employees would be most impacted by Covid-19; however that has now been extended until the end of August 2020, offering five months of financial support.
Employee recognition awards
Recognition was already a key part of Colt’s benefits offering; it started working with Xexec in 2018 on the launch of its Inspire recognition programme. The programme allows peer-to-peer recognition, quarterly awards, career milestone awards and a CEO award.
Then in May 2020, Colt expanded on this with the launch of a new award in light of Covid-19. The scheme, called Pandemic Hero Awards, recognised 299 employees who have gone over and above what is expected of them during this time. The winning employees were awarded €300 (£275), or local equivalent, into their Inspire recognition account, along with an engraved paperweight as a momentum. The award was given for discretionary effort from, for example, employees that are classed as key workers and have had to work while others have been in lockdown, or employees that have been working to get the offices safe and ready for the return of others.
In June 2020, Green’s reward team launched an additional recognition competition: employees have been asked to redesign images that reflect the employer’s 12 behaviours.
“We’ve asked for all of our [employees] to work with their friends, families, even pets, to come up with the new, behaviour pictures, and we’re then going to recognise them through the Inspire platform with an e-card,” says Green. “So there’s a bit of competition. It’s about our [employees] feeling engaged and part of the community, but also bringing their families and their friends into this.”
Health and wellbeing focus
The health and wellbeing of employees has continued to be a big area of focus for Colt. It has recently launched a Mental Health First Aid programme which will train members of staff to be a first point of contact for anyone that is experiencing a mental health issue. It has also set up mental health webinars which all employees are able to attend at a time that suits them.
Additionally, in Italy, Colt has increased private medical insurance for all employees to ensure that the risk of being affected by Covid-19 is covered. The employer now also has a minimum 90-day paid sick leave period guaranteed for anyone who contracts Covid-19.
Colt has also extended its global employee assistance programme (EAP) so that it is available in all countries in which it operates.
“We feel very much part of the Colt family and we refer to ourselves as ‘Colties’” says Green. “The direction has always been that we want to continue the extension of the family during the pandemic. We didn’t want anyone feeling alone or isolated. We don’t know whether [employees are] living on [their] own, living with family, we don’t know [their] circumstances. That’s why all of the initiatives that we’ve launched are intended to support everyone.”
Colt uses a variety of communication methods to reach its employees, including email announcements, its intranet, weekly updates from the CEO, and Facebook Workplace posts and video content. During the pandemic, the organisation has developed its online employee community with virtual team breakfast meetings and lunches, catch ups and social events such as language lessons and Zumba clubs.
The support that Colt has put in place has been well-received by employees; in a pulse survey conducted in April 2020, 96% of employees said that they are ‘getting the support I need’ during this time, and 98% of employees felt that the ‘organisation is doing an excellent job’ during this time.
“I’m very proud, for someone who’has only been at Colt for six months, to say that I work for an organisation like this,” says Green.
At a glance
Colt Technology Services is a global B2B telecommunications firm. It has around 5,000 employees across Europe, Asia and the US. Across five functions of chief operating office, sales and marketing, finance, HR and general counsel, its key roles include fibre engineers and technical roles in operations.
The average length of service at Colt is 7.26 years. Its employee base is 29.31% female, 70.69% male. Over a third (38.21%) of employees are aged 30 to 39, 30.86% are aged 40 to 49, 15.95% aged 50 to 59, 13.29% aged 19 to 29, and 1.7% aged 60 and over.
Rob Green, vice president, reward, joined Colt Technology Services in December 2019. He started his career in remuneration consulting at KPMG, and then held a variety of reward roles in Citi, British Airways, Starbucks, SSP Group and Tesco.
In his role at Colt, Green is working on shaping the reward philosophies including compensation, benefits, recognition and global mobility.