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Helping PDS values thrive during lockdown

How to make a hearty Lithuanian beetroot soup or šaltibarščiai featured in one of our 'Coffee Break Learning' sessions. Image by Trevor Pritchard using Creative Commons Licence 2.0 

Our values are a key part of our workplace culture - care, community, curiosity and confidence. They make it clear how we want our teams and colleagues to work with each other. They provide a framework within which we can discuss approaches to a task, deliver objectives, and interact with others.  

People from a cross section of all the teams working in PDS work with me on embedding our values, and they do this this work on top of their busy day jobs. Why?

Because they care about the PDS community and each other, and they want to help make PDS a really great place to work.  

What have we done already?  

Over the last 18 months, we have listened to feedback from teams about the need to refocus and communicate the values. We have organised 'Values Days' featuring speakers who bring the four values to life, and we have linked the values to our staff recognition schemes. 

Recently we have been putting the values lens on every process in the employee experience, from applying for a job interview, onboarding, developing staff, through to leaving the organisation 

We launched a regular Team Health survey to get an understanding of how teams were feeling and what we should be focusing on to support our team culture.  

And then coronavirus came along 

Overnight, work as we knew it changed. 

Colleagues were working many hours to ensure Parliament continued to operate, often from home for the first time, and many had their work priorities changed. These things have an impact on our mental health and wellbeing.   

We introduced a Culture and Values Team and a workstream to focus on the wellbeing of PDS staff. The workstream quickly grew as more people from across PDS wanted to get involved. We hit the reset button, and spent some valuable time getting to know each other albeit remotely, before focusing on how we wanted to support our colleagues.  

What we’ve done in the last 3 months 

We created a digital space on Sharepoint to share information and guidance to help people work remotely. We organised a PDS Wellbeing Week - to encourage staff to take time out to think about themselvestheir mental and physical health, and everything in between.

Activities ranged from yoga to making Lithuanian soup, an introduction to mindfulness to taking a walk around the park. 

We asked PDS colleagues to share their skills, hobbies, and knowledge through a series of 30 minute ‘Coffee Break and Learns. So far we have featured among others 'Learn the Charleston', “Ask me anything” with our resident cyber expert, and 'Learn about being a mental health first aider'. 

We have reached out to line managers with information on subjects such as how to conduct effective virtual 1-2-1s, and checking in on staff, as well as reminding them to take care of themselves. We are creating webinars and online training for managers along these themes.  

Training is being developed for everyone in PDS, which will cover resilience, mental health and wellbeing.  

And we have a regular PDS Quiz, which allows us to see colleagues we don’t have regular contact with on Microsoft Teams, but would usually bump into in the corridor for a chat!  

My reflections

Since COVID-19 hit, we have had many new members join the team who are keen to get involved. That demonstrates to me how much PDS cares about our community. As a group we feel trusted by our leaders to come up with ideas and to make them happen.   

I've also noticed that it has a hugely positive impact on colleagues when leaders engage with activities around our values or work in the spirit of the values. It brings the values to life and shows meaning. If leaders don’t do this, then the values mean nothing.  

What’s next?

We want to:

  • work on the diversity of the Culture and Values Team, to match the diversity we have in PDS - it's not an end in itself, it’s part of our drive to create a truly inclusive place to work
  • reflect on PDS Wellbeing Week and how useful it is for teams and individuals - high workloads meant that many people could not take part, so we want to find solutions to address this
  • carry out a 'sense check' of activities we have done so far against our four values, see where the gaps are and where the focus should be next
  • use the data collected from recent staff surveys on culture, wellbeing and remote working to inform our next steps.   

And then there's the latest Team Health survey, which has been revised based on staff feedback. 

Our values are truly visible in every team in PDS, and I’m hugely proud of what our team has managed to foster.

Read other posts about the cultural values in PDS.

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