Your Job Can Be Good For You: Heathrow - Business in the Community

Your Job Can Be Good For You: Heathrow

Read how Heathrow has introduced a people focussed line manager structure to improve colleague wellbeing.

Implementing a ‘people focussed’ line manager structure

What Heathrow did

Prior to the pandemic, Heathrow welcomed over 80 million passengers per year, connecting them to more than 200 destinations across the world.

The impact of Covid-19 on Heathrow in both 2020 and 2021 – and the wider UK aviation industry – was catastrophic.

This difficult period created new challenges for Heathrow, but also new opportunities for it to review organisational structures and role design.

Heathrow Security, which makes up the largest portion of Heathrow’s employee numbers, identified colleague engagement and wellbeing opportunities within frontline operational colleagues.

An organisational design review was launched which aimed to change the accountabilities of frontline managers. With the outcome to be providing focus on prioritising social connections, improving relationships, improving informal communications, and supporting colleague wellbeing. Heathrow wanted to be sure that the needs and wellbeing of its people are reflected in its strategic choices and are visible in everyday decisions.

The review identified the need for the introduction of a ‘people focussed’ line manager structure, separating out operational Security Managers and People Security Managers. This enabled specific individuals to be accountable for the management, wellbeing and care of frontline Security Officers. Detailed discussions with Trade Union colleagues from an early stage helped to shape a proposal to support positive relationships at work.

To embed the new structure, colleagues were enabled to agree on ways of working that supported their own wellbeing. This was done by giving individuals some flexibility to choose when they work, which role they thought would be best suited to promoting their own wellbeing, as well as that of their team, and provided them with the best work-life balance. All Security Manager colleagues were able to decide which of the newly defined accountabilities suited them best and aligned to their career aspirations. 94% of colleagues were offered their first role preference, 92% were offered their first roster choice, and 95% offered their first location choice.

Heathrow achieved this by offering colleagues the opportunity to give their preference based on three criteria areas: roster choice (when they work); business unit choice (where they work); and role choice (what type of work). Heathrow offered colleagues the choice of preference through an online form, or alternatively through a one to one where they could further explore which option best supported their own ‘good job’ aspirations.

Benefits for business and people

The full impact on the business cannot yet be assessed as the structure is still being embedded. However, early feedback from frontline teams has been positive, with many seeing the benefit of having a line manager who has a pure focus on the support, development, and wellbeing of teams. There has been a c.400% increase in one-to-ones which are great platforms for managers to be accessible and visible to colleagues and focus on the whole person (previous one-to-ones were focused on performance only). This creates a space for colleagues to talk about their wellbeing and allows managers to actively listen to colleagues for feedback about issues that might be affecting their mental health so they can take action. Heathrow has also seen an increase in engagement in the Security Manager population due to the collaborative approach to the role change, with managers feeling empowered to make effective choices about how they work and create positive relationships with their teams.

How Heathrow used the Workwell Model

Business in the Community’s (BITC) Workwell Model brings together five enablers that support ways of working which drive long term wellbeing, and four organisational values to operationalise ‘better’ work, underpinned by sustainability.

As part of the organisational review, colleagues were engaged through regular open dialogue, ensuring the vision and benefits were clear and given the opportunity to preference which roles they would be most interested in. One of the main aims of the programme was to improve line manager and frontline colleague relationships, ensuring they had a clear point of contact.

There was an acknowledgement that security frontline roles can be challenging, and the introduction of this role would enable better working relationships that build increased trust between managers and frontline colleagues.

Next steps