Josie Mortimer: ‘HR is for everyone’

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We  were delighted to interview Josie Mortimer, HR Director at WW UK, on all things HR:  Josie is exceptionally well versed in the challenges and rewards that come with managing the well-being and growth of 1,300 employees. She has launched and developed numerous employee programmes across the business as well as helping WW to become an award-winning employer, including The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work for and Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work. Josie has also helped WW achieve a Best Companies two-star accreditation. 

Why did you choose a career in HR, what attracted you to it?

I don’t think I chose a career in HR or at least I don’t think I knew what HR truly meant when I started my professional career, but I always knew I loved working with people. From my first part-time job as a checkout operator to my first full-time job as a Retail Manager, where I started to lead & develop teams – something connected with me. When I moved retailers in 2000, I spent more and more time supporting the development of talent in my team. I love to watch people flourish.

Everything we do at WW, in the UK and globally, supports the generation of culture in the organisation. It’s a huge responsibility and one I take really seriously. It is incredibly rewarding to see how a business can change through new initiatives and ideas you and your team have put in place. When you consider all the elements in HR within an organisation, providing knowledge, essential tools, admin, training, coaching, legal advice, talent management and more – it is everything a company needs to be successful.

Talk us through your journey at WW.

I have been with WW for five years, working my way up from the Senior HRBP in Head Office to Head of HR for Operations then on to Head of HR. Shortly after, I went on maternity leave (my husband and I decided to take shared parental leave). After two months, I returned to work one day a week doing KIT days. I was asked to take on the role of HR Director at the end of my maternity leave in February 2016.

My team and I have worked hard to really change how it feels to work here and a few things, in my view, have been key to getting that right:
True business partnership has been imperative – Our SVP & General Manager and I have a great relationship; my team and I are really aligned with the business goals and we are all working towards the same company objectives..

HR is for everyone. I really wanted to ensure that it’s the norm for the HR team to be out and about in the business and be approachable. It’s important for me that people don’t see the HR office as a scary place. I really encourage the HR & L&D team to develop themselves, be bold, have a say, be innovative and I coach them to find solutions and evolve the way they work, in turn helping our people and improving the workplace.

There is no doubt that the growth of your career at WW has been matched by your innovative practices. How challenging is it to manage the wellbeing and growth of 1,300 employees and to foster an environment that they enjoy?

It’s a challenge that I love and it’s a challenge that will continue. As a global wellness brand we need to ensure how we show up externally is represented internally.

As well as taking part in the Vitality Healthiest Employer survey to get a true insight into the health & wellbeing of our employees, we look at employee forums to see how we could best support them, introducing things like; flexible working, wellbeing allowance and ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ – during this time employees can take part in physical activities such as cycling, walking, gym classes etc. In line with our wellbeing strategy, we looked at the potential ways we could support the four wellbeing areas of nutrition, mindset, physicality and finance.

We have introduced a lot of new benefits and I have been passionate about ensuring what we offer our corporate employees we also offer our Wellness Coach population. We have further connected our business both locally and globally by introducing the Workplace by Facebook platform, which has encouraged communication and collaboration globally.

What is exceptional about the company culture at WW and how does it differ from that of other large organisations?

Culture is not something that you can see, except through the physical expression in your workplace. What makes WW’s culture special are the people who are working here and what we do as a business, because we fundamentally change people’s lives including some of our employees as they live the brand inwards too.

Something I am passionate about that we do at WW is celebrate diversity and encourage people to be who they are. This year we celebrated Pride Day and Diwali as well as other key celebrations. Some of our events are inclusive of families: days such as Halloween and Easter when we hold children’s parties in the office which are great fun and brilliant to see everyone wearing their ‘other’ hat as a Mum or Dad, Auntie or Uncle.

All these changes have led to us becoming an award-winning employer. WW were listed within the Top 50 Glassdoor Best Places to Work, achieved a Best Companies two-star accreditation and was placed in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work, achieving an outstanding result with 83 per cent of our employees saying they are rarely bored at work. WW was also ranked second in the Best Companies list and joint ninth for training being a great benefit.

How is company culture developed from the HR point of view?

The culture at WW is strong and clear. It gives everyone an essential framework to work within and progress. As WW becomes the world’s partner in wellness, our employees are at the heart of everything we do. WW aim to have a leading people culture in our industry and beyond, we continuously evolve talent development strategies, comprehensive health & well-being benefits and resources to meet their individual needs. Listening to their needs, giving them room to grow and allowing them to tap into a range of benefits to suit their needs is key to promoting company culture.

How do you find and nurture talent?

As a global brand, we embrace the same Impact Behaviours in order to achieve our Impact Manifesto which was announced at the beginning of the year.

Our Impact Behaviours are Stay Curious, Win Together, Act Boldly and Make a Difference. These are the skills and qualities we look for in new talent and we also encourage existing employees to embrace these behaviours.

The General Manager and I meet with all new starters once a quarter to find out about them and learn about how their induction has gone. Our People Leaders have a clear focus working to develop talent and enhance their team, as well as three forums for our different employee groups; Wellness coaches, field teams and then Head Office.

All our People Leaders receive regular 360 reviews and then follow up one-to-one coaching. We have an internal development programme that is fully created and delivered in-house. We also do quarterly talent matrix reviews looking at the L&D needs of each area of the business to support the L&D plan for the year to go.

Key to all of this is ensuring employees have a voice which is listened to. We have set up both formal and informal channels for listening so that we can stay truly connected to what’s happening investing in our teams and ensuring they can develop both professionally and personally has been instrumental in making a difference in how it feels to work at WW.

Talk us through a few examples of daily challenges for the HR Director at WW.

Time is my biggest challenge. Balancing home life and work life is really important to me. A day doesn’t seem long enough to do everything. I frequently have employees asking for time with me, which I really try never to say no to. People are very important to me and to our organisation and I try to put them at the forefront of everything we do. My team and I are innovative and are always thinking of new and exciting ways to fix problems – it’s really important to focus on what ideas will make the biggest impact.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

The people I work with. Every day is different. I am also proud to be working for a company that has such a positive impact on peoples’ lives. Being HR Director, I have to think about the best ways to improve the people and culture of the company. As long as I know I am evolving employees as individuals and giving them business purpose, then I am happy. When it’s done right, everyone benefits: the people and the business.

What does the future hold?

As WW’s brand evolves, the challenge is ensuring that the people and business are also evolving. We have established our new impact behaviours we must embrace and actions we must take in order to achieve our company Impact Manifesto across all markets and ways of working with these in mind we are designing new ways of working, giving them new opportunities and creating a global mindset.

The future holds many exciting opportunities, with the brand aligning globally to pave the way in wellness and make it truly accessible to all. The focus is to strengthen teams and find new ways to innovate the culture at WW, then project this culture outwards into the world.

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