Unipart Group: Supporting holistic employee wellbeing

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Business in the Community (BITC) member Unipart demonstrates its commitment to embedding responsible business practices and the philosophy of continuous improvment.

Unipart Group provides manufacturing, logistics, and consultancy services across the globe, employing over 6,000 people. Since it began in 1987, Unipart Group has been recognised for its leading role in shaping management thinking. Its employee share scheme, stakeholder partnership programmes, and The Unipart U, one of the first corporate universities in Europe, led to Unipart being called a beacon for responsible business.

A member of BITC since 2007, Unipart Group is committed to embedding responsible practice and behaviour across the business, including through its proprietary business system, ‘The Unipart Way’, which is described as a philosophy of working underpinned by tools and techniques to continuously improve.

Having sponsored BITC’s Responsible Business Award for Outstanding Employment for a number of years, colleagues at Unipart have been thinking deeply about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what it means for responsible employers. In this article, Frank Nigriello, Director of Corporate Affairs, and Deborah Astles, Corporate Responsibility Director, consider what it means for employers to be outstanding when looking after their employees.

By fostering a supportive culture, backed by up-to-date resources, training, and policies, Unipart is showing the way on wellbeing for outstanding employers during, and beyond, the pandemic.

Deborah Astles, Corporate Responsibility Director

“It is about thinking strategically about keeping people safe, not just at work but also at home, or with their friends, colleagues, and families” says Deborah. “Outstanding employers are going beyond the physical aspects of health by making things available that support emotional and mental health and safety.”

Through its extensive network of clients, suppliers and local businesses, Unipart has gained first-hand, leading-edge insights into some of the adjustments employers are making to support wellbeing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been great to see so many companies responding in such a positive way”, Deborah continues. “Simple but important steps, such as changing sickness policies, can ensure that employees are not put in a position of having to choose between doing the right thing, such as self-isolating, and doing what’s needed to put food on the table.”

Unipart has been especially keen to remain agile and adaptive throughout the pandemic to meet the needs of staff working from home, and also to support line managers as they provide support to others.

Unipart has launched updated and improved training to help line managers look for signs that colleagues are struggling and to provide managers with confidence that they can listen attentively to support colleagues.

“We’ve worked hard to support our line managers” Deborah says, “as they play such a key role in supporting people. We want to assure colleagues that it is ok not to be ok, and equip line managers with the necessary tools and skills to manage difficult conversations.”

“It’s an understatement to say that life has been more difficult for everyone during the pandemic” says Frank. “Those people going into work have had to learn new ways of working, new ways of behaving, and sometimes change lifelong habits to ensure they stay safe.”

In order to ensure it has a complete understanding of employee wellbeing, Unipart has conducted regular surveys with staff over the past year. “In many companies, people working from home have reported a completely different levels of stress ranging from isolation, to dealing with increases in workload” Frank explains, “but our HR and communications teams have done a great job in getting these issues on the table, and helping our people to look after their mental health.”

There is a strong business imperative for taking a caring, supportive approach to employee health and wellbeing, and also for recognising differences in individual needs. Deborah outlines how Unipart has worked hard to avoid thinking of solutions as ‘one size fits all’.

“At Unipart, the premise of focusing on the individual is underpinning our approach. We’ve been sharing information extensively to enable our colleagues to consider their own mental health, with toolkits, advice, and guidance signposting actions and resources our people can use to care for their wellbeing or look for further support when needed.”

By fostering a supportive culture, backed by updated resources, training, and policies, Unipart is showing the way on wellbeing for outstanding employers during, and beyond, the pandemic.

Learn more about BITC’s work on health and wellbeing.