What leaders think
Brian Murray, Group HR Director, Nomad Foods
What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?
I have been very busy preparing for our annual HR conference which involves 17 participating countries. The restrictions on travel due to COVID-19 has meant that we have been able to open it up to far more colleagues than in the past! We will have two half days with a blend of audio visual and breakout rooms along with external thought leaders’ input, all facilitated with videoconferencing technology.
Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?
I chair our global incident management team and the prospect of a 2nd lockdown is obviously an ongoing discussion. During the first lockdown our 13 factories were nothing short of awesome and operations continued throughout. The role of the committee is to ensure all our people come to work in a safe environment and we maintain business continuity.
The 2nd wave has an element of unpredictability primarily because this time there is greater freedom to interact with people outside of the work environment. And of course it coincides with the cold and flu season which is an added complication.
In retrospect what would you have done differently in lockdown and therefore, how may this shape your thinking for any future lockdown (local or national)?
In February, as a result of a trip I made to Italy, we were able to react very quickly ahead of the government lockdown. My flight was delayed and I spent several hours in Rome airport watching the impact of Covid-19 play out on TV. I came back to the business and implemented a global incident team the next day.
The reaction from the business throughout is nothing short of fantastic. Our amazing culture genuinely paid off in the crisis with everybody committed to doing what was needed to adapt, to protect the continuity of the business and enable us to deliver on our purpose of ‘Serving the World with Better Food’. In hindsight we would perhaps have put more focus on securing back up testing capability.
Given the reliance on technology during lockdown, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/ workforce transformation in the short-medium term?
Technology is already enabling greater agility in the workplace. We can pull in talent from around the organisation, enabling us to create virtual project teams instantaneously when opportunities arise.
Interestingly, in a recent Agile Working workshop, the coach suggested management thinking hasn’t really changed for the last 100 years. The Covid pandemic has challenged this thinking and leaders at all levels are changing their approach to reflect the need for greater empowerment and agility.
What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?
Even pre-Covid we were looking at the future of work and the pandemic has accelerated this. In our view, the office should be a place to meet with others, formally and informally, a place to exchange ideas and to build social and professional networks. It should be a place to do business and not just a place to sit. There are certain things we can do just as effectively working from home such as video conference meetings. So, the emphasis is to change the purpose of when we come together.
It is likely we will have a hybrid model combining office days with working from elsewhere but the overriding objective remains the requirement to meet our business needs.
There was a dramatic reduction in our carbon footprint during lockdown, what is your business planning to do to help continue this going forward?
Sustainability is core to our business, and we’ve made significant progress in such areas as better sourcing, better nutrition, helping people to eat a balanced diet and live a healthier lifestyle. We’ve also focused on our operations and our impact on the environment. Without doubt we will travel a lot less in the future. Travel budgets have already been cut but this has to be balanced with the genuine need for personal connectivity.
It will be important to still have leadership visibility with local teams but fundamentally we will all be challenging the need for the level of business travel we experienced pre-covid now we have established effective virtual working.
What changes personally will you keep from the lockdown period going forward?
I am very pleased that my wife “encouraged” me to use what was previously commuting time to go walking together. We have been clocking up about 30 miles per week and have really enjoyed the exercise. It’s a brilliant way to spend time after work to decompress and focus on personal well-being.
Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)
I have a real passion for sport, and I was inspired by the Spanish triathlete (Diego Mentrida) who was in fourth place when James Teagle who was in third place took a wrong turning at the end of the race and Diego would have come third as a result. He stopped and allowed James to finish in his rightful position of third. For me it symbolised a real act of kindness. We have seen during Covid a shift in levels of kindness generally and for me this was a wonderful example.
Did you manage a holiday this summer and if so where / how did you spend it?
This year’s plans were a family holiday to Colombia to meet with and celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. Obviously, this was cancelled and replaced with 5 days on the Isle of Wight. Despite being initially deflated we had a fantastic time, made all the better for being back together as a family. I also found that my adult children have acquired a taste for Edinburgh gin which I had bought prior to the trip.
Any words of wisdom?
Having been through this year which has been difficult on many levels for everyone, it is more important than ever to recognise great performance where people have gone the extra mile. From a mental health perspective those people who are isolated or unsure whether they’re doing the right things, may not be getting the immediate endorsements or recognition they would have got so easily when in the office. Leaders can’t do too much of it.