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In conversation with: Helene Murphy, Group People Director

5 April 2023

Helene became Group People Director in January 2021, with a renewed vision for the People function. Leading all aspects of the People strategy, Helene has brought her experience from international start-ups and multi-national organisations to Unite. Here, Helene shares more about Unite’s ambition to deliver a Home for Success for our employees.

Q: As the cost-of-living crisis took hold, what did Unite do to support employees?
A: We are extremely conscious of the pressures that the cost-of-living crisis is having on our people – but especially the lowest paid in our business.

As the conversations around cost-of-living grew, we discussed the ways we could support our employees and introduced additional financial wellbeing measures such as educational webinars and new financial support providers. An additional one-off payment of £500 was also made to support our people.

We also announced our highest ever pay award, following a tiered approach by salary with 95% of our employees receiving 5% or more, and our lowest earners being awarded 10%, reaffirming our long-standing commitment to being a Real Living Wage employer.

Q: How do you ensure that employees grow and develop with the business?
A: In late 2022, we were proud to launch The Academy; a fresh approach to employee lifelong learning, delivering a combination of online learning, bitesize modules, and face-to-face learning for all.

Continuing to invest in our people, we launched bespoke Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) programmes, supporting our leaders and managers to become focused, high-achieving, and knowledgeable leaders.

Q: What progress was made in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in 2022?
A: I am excited to have launched our first diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) and wellbeing strategy: We are US, which outlines our plan for the next three years. Our employee forum, Culture Matters, has been integral in embedding our strategic vision. They have sponsored a more inclusive and equitable culture, and in 2022 the forum headed the reform of our family leave policies, promoting more inclusive language and first of its kind benefits for those who experience child-loss. We have bolstered our diverse talent pipelines through sponsorship of National Student Pride and programmes such as #10000BlackInterns, a charitable organisation which provides internships to students from Black heritage backgrounds – both under-represented groups in the labour market.

We also launched a new DEIB learning programme under The Academy, designed to give our employees the knowledge and skills they need to become more consciously inclusive.

Delivering a Home for Success is not just about looking inwardly at our employees and students, but also considering the impact we have on our stakeholders and wider communities. We have made important strides forward in DEIB and Wellbeing in 2022, and look forward to continuing this journey in 2023.

Q: Finally, how do you recognise employees for a job well done?
A: The Stars Awards is the hottest date on the Unite calendar, and I was really proud to host them this year. We recognised our colleagues who go above and beyond in categories such as teamwork, leadership, safety and wellbeing, allyship, and sustainability. The event showcased our commitment to our values, with feedback praising its inclusivity and the opportunity to engage with other teams.