I still find it hard to believe that we’ve been living and working differently for over a year now. For the entire financial year covered by our 2021 annual report and accounts, published today, we were living through and responding to the challenges of the global pandemic. 

When I reflect on the achievements we’ve made in that year, it highlights for me how remarkably resilient we’ve been as an organisation, and as people, to keep moving forward. We’ve continued to make progress towards our goals, in extremely challenging circumstances.

Every one of us has been affected by the pandemic but we’ve stayed committed to our mission, and worked hard for our members and levy payers. All in spite of challenges the like of which none of us could ever have imagined before March 2020. 

What I’m personally most proud of, as Chief People Officer, is how we’ve never stopped supporting our people particularly in terms of work-life balance and well-being when things were tough. We are also continuing to make meaningful progress on our diversity and inclusion journey. My hope is that the PPF is, and continues to be, a great place to work for everyone. 

A seamless move to working from home

As in many work places, our way of working has evolved beyond recognition in the last year – a fact I hope we’ve reflected in the photography we’ve use in the report.   

Thankfully we had the technology in place to allow us to transition to home working quickly and seamlessly. We even brought forward some of our IT transformation plans to enhance remote working.

Working from home isn’t new to me, but it has been for many, and it’s redefined the meaning of bringing your whole self to work. The window we’ve had into each other’s home lives has helped us appreciate each other as unique individuals, not just colleagues. We had to quickly get used to the reality of endless video meetings, and the interruptions of home life. Children – usually mine! – pets and unexpected deliveries! 

I’ve been moved by the way people have adapted so well to it prioritising our mission alongside the added pressures of juggling home-schooling for significant periods. Not to mention the anxiety we all felt as the reality of the pandemic unfolded.

The importance of wellbeing and self-care

At times, it’s been all too easy to get caught up in the busy day – Zoom-fatigue is all too real – so we’ve encouraged everyone to take time for self-care. The well-being and mental health hub on our staff intranet has been the place for our people to find tools and advice to help them cope, reflect or to join a social event online. 

At all time we’ve kept a close eye on the road map out of lockdown and changes to government advice, so we’ve had the confidence we’re doing the right things for everyone’s safety and well-being. Again, via our intranet we’ve kept everyone informed of any updates which we’ve reviewed as restrictions have changed and eased.

An inclusive present to build a diverse future

Perhaps this period of uncertainty and change has further fuelled our desire to have a culture where people feel able to be themselves at work. We’re addressing areas of under-representation by recruiting people from diverse backgrounds at all levels. Not only are we creating a more inclusive present, we’re making sure we have a diverse future pipeline of future leaders. 

We’ve also demonstrated our commitment to being an employer of choice for all in a number of ways:

  • In March 2021, we published our first Diversity Pay Gap report to be transparent about our ethnicity pay gap    
  • We became accredited as a Disability Confident Leader, and are keen to encourage other organisations by sharing our experience in widening our talent pool by recruiting and developing opportunities for people with disabilities 
  • Having achieved our previous Women in Finance Charter target early, we set a new target to have 45 per cent of women in senior management positions by 2023

Empowered to deliver excellent service

It’s certainly been a year like no other, which makes me particularly proud of the way our people have felt empowered to continue delivering excellent service to our members and levy payers. Everyone’s worked incredibly hard to maintain our high levels of service while also the successfully managing our £38bn fund.

As we look to the future, and return to the office we’ll continue to support our people as we move to a new model of hybrid working – balancing the needs of each individual with what we, as a business, need to deliver our mission. It’ll take time for us to settle into the new normal but we’ll continue to prioritise protecting our members financial futures.

I’m confident going forward we’ll embrace this next stage and that together we’ll develop and grow as an organisation, and as people, to go on to achieve many more successes.  

Katherine Easter is our Chief People Officer 

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