An interview with KBE Drinks’ HR Manager, Karen Murray

July 2020

An interview with KBE Drinks’ HR Manager, Karen Murray

It’s certainly been a busy couple of months here at KBE Drinks. In the first of a series of weekly interviews with our Leadership Team, we sat down with KBE’s HR Manager, Karen Murray, to discuss how her department has evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, Karen. How are you?

I am very well, thank you. It’s been a very challenging but proactive couple of months!

Take us back to March, just before we went into lockdown. What did you do to prepare?

Our first focus was how to protect our staff given the developing situation that we were facing. Ahead of the government’s advice, we decided to work from home. The COVID case numbers were rising and it felt the best decision to protect our staff at that time, not all staff had worked from home before so it took some coordination to ensure everyone had what they needed. Certainly, when that decision was made I don’t think anyone pre-empted how quickly it would escalate into lockdown and everything that followed. We originally had in our mind, as I’m sure most businesses did, that we would be at home for a few weeks, but that obviously transpired into several months.

How did the introduction of the furlough scheme affect your planning?

The Furlough scheme has been a great support for us. From an HR perspective, it brought a whole new channel of challenges because it was a brand-new scheme. Initially, the outline of the scheme was announced but much of the detail was drip-fed. At that time, we relied heavily on the government’s daily updates - I’ve never watched the news so intently! At first, there was much interpretation of what was being said, but fortunately, as time has progressed things are much clearer which has helped us move from being reactive to much more proactive in our planning.

For those who weren’t put on furlough, it must’ve been a challenge to transition to working from home?

Yes and no, once you are set up and working you quickly find your flow. However, not being able to interact with people face to face can bring new challenges when entering into an extended period, it was completely new territory for us all. There was definitely a transition period whilst we adjusted but ultimately everyone has found their way.

We did a communication piece for those continuing to work from home and those on furlough because some of our biggest concerns throughout were, and continue to be, the mental and physical wellbeing of our staff. We needed to give clear advice on how to keep a healthy mind and work ethic during lockdown as well as know who to call if anyone needed a little extra support. Everyone has different circumstances and it was critical for us that every member of staff made the move to working from home as smoothly as possible.

How would you say your department’s day to day has changed?

We are still finding our new normal however many of our ‘typical’ HR duties still needed to happen, we had staff working and on furlough so whilst we juggled the furlough scheme and the ever-evolving situation we still had the day-to-day to manage to a degree. The need to stay on top of government updates was a priority to ensure we were acting in the best interests of the business and our employees.

What have you learnt about yourself during the pandemic?

For me, it has been the ability to respond, no matter how much you might prefer structure in various forms in your life, we can react and change, it might not be our choice to be so reactive, but I think we all have it in us to adapt and adjust to difficult situations. We can all be super flexible, work in parameters we’ve never experienced before and still come through the other side. We can do it. I think sometimes we put limitations on ourselves as to what we can and can’t achieve but actually when needed, I think you can achieve so much more.

What would you say is the most positive thing that you’ll take away from this experience?

What a strong team we have! Every single person in this business has shown a real commitment and have fully understood why we’ve made the decisions we have. Whether it's putting people on furlough or working from home, no one has complained. Not once. I know it sounds cheesy, but I’m proud of how our business embraced the current situation and continues to evolve as a consequence.