The concept of Workplace Champions has become much more prevalent in recent years.
Many employers have realised how useful these employees can be in achieving a wide range of goals, from encouraging L&D to improving mental health.
By effectively utilising your own Workplace Champions, you too can unlock these benefits – but where should you begin?
What is a Workplace Champion?
A Workplace Champion is an employee that is dedicated to improving a certain area within the company. They’re generally high-performing, engaged employees that can pass this enthusiasm onto others.
So, what does a Workplace Champion actually do? Within their designated area, they assess the current status quo in the company and work out how they can improve it.
For example, a training champion will actively look for skills gaps and approach management with ideas for how to fill them.
Because the scope of the Champion is small and limited to one area of the business, they can dedicate more of their attention to it and uncover insights that would otherwise remain buried.
They should dedicate time each week to gauging employee feelings about their area and communicating this to management.
Employees are also able to approach these champions about their concerns. For example, that training champion that we’ve mentioned will be the point of contact for all things training related, so if an employee wants to further their education, they know who to talk to.
If there are changes within the champion’s area, then they’ll play a key role in managing this. Never underestimate the value of communication during times of change within the business.
You can even use shorter-term Champions to help your team adjust to a new type of software or system. Facebook Workplace advocates for the appointment of a Champion to teach and mentor employees and increase their likelihood of adopting a new system.
Here are some examples of the areas that Workplace Champions can hone in on:
- Mental Health
Workplace Champions are so useful because it’s nigh on impossible for upper management to be aware of everything that’s bothering your employees. Not everyone wants to kick off that awkward conversation with their boss, and even if they do, many aren’t sure how to go about it.
Workplace Champions exist to bridge this gap and give you insight into the real day-to-day lives of employees. They aren’t micro-managers, they’re pioneers and points of contact for their designated responsibility.
How are they Beneficial for Employers?
As these kinds of programmes are relatively new to the workplace, the impact has been mainly researched in the short term. However, the early insights are overwhelmingly positive – both for workers and for their employers.
The biggest impact will likely be on the culture of your workplace, as implementing an effective Workplace Champion shows a proactive step by upper management. In a study examining visionary leaders, researchers found that proactive management drove improved growth for the company overall. When compared to others in the same industry, they were performing at a rate of up to seven times better in terms of stock market value. Show your employees that you’re a visionary leader with schemes like the Workplace Champion and monitor how it impacts your growth.
If you’re struggling to find or attract talent within your industry, then Workplace Champions could help diversify your talent pool and improve your employer branding. Something as simple as designating a Disability Champion can attract a whole crop of new candidates that may not have felt motivated to apply with you in the past.
Over a third of employees reported that perks and benefits are among their main considerations during the recruitment process. This means that implementing strong Champions in attractive areas like Learning & Development or Wellness can do more than just retain staff - it can attract new employees too.
Workplace Champions can also help staff who are dealing with mental health issues, as an employee may feel more comfortable opening up to a colleague rather than upper management. This information can still be fed back (with the employee’s permission, of course!), keeping the management team aware of any adjustments that may need to be made.
Mind, the mental health charity, found that making mental health and staff wellbeing a priority will lead to higher staff satisfaction levels. Appointing a Mental Health Champion and creating an open environment to discuss mental health issues will lead to happier, more engaged members of staff.
Different Types of Champions
Dispersing responsibilities among different champions allows people to specialise in their area of expertise and bring their past experience to the table.
Training and development champions can be particularly effective in improving the employee experience. They work more closely with colleagues than upper management and can be more equipped to suggest relevant training.
They can also spot any existing skills gaps and work towards filling these. They may see colleagues struggling with tasks, or find alternative options within their development path.
Mental health champions can also be well utilised within the organisation. Assigning an advocating for those experiencing mental health issues can go a long way in opening up communications channels and supporting staff who are struggling.
Safety champions can be on the lookout for risks that have been overlooked, help implement new safety policies, and ensure that safe practices are being followed throughout the business.
Wellness champions can speak to their colleagues and find out which healthy initiatives would be the most useful, whether it’s a bike-to-work scheme, a subsidised gym membership, mindfulness classes, or free healthy lunches.
Millions of employees in the UK struggle with their work-life balance, wellbeing and welfare. As an employer, if you prioritise these external factors, your employees will be better placed to excel in their role.
If you’re deciding which kind of Champion would be the most useful to you, think about the areas in which your business could become a better place for employees, then use Workplace Champions to bridge that gap.
Which Types of Workers make Good Champions?
Becoming a Workplace Champion is entirely voluntary, so a willing employee is a necessity.
By giving an employee these additional responsibilities, your Champions become an example to other employees, so they shouldn’t have negative habits such as such as lateness, unexplained absence or low productivity.
Beyond these basics, you also want to look for those that are truly passionate about the area you want them to champion. If you know that an employee advocates for mental health resources or disabilities, for example, then they may be a good fit for those roles.
Those that have a good social standing within the workforce are also desirable for the position. While it may be impossible to find an employee that is liked by everyone, strong social relationships are a huge benefit in gaining staff buy-in.
Supporting Workplace Champions
Training the Workplace Champion is key to their success. While you want them to handle the role independently, you must give them the tools to do so. One of the main factors that influences the success of a Workplace Champion programme is the support that upper management give.
These employees may need to navigate potentially tricky situations, especially when dealing with mental health or accessibility. There has to be an adequate recording system for issues, as well as options for employees and champions to take any concerns to management.
Communication is important within the management-champion relationship too. If the employee needs further training on the legislation or company stance regarding certain issues, then set aside time and resources to provide this.
It’s not feasible to expect the employee to take on these extra tasks while still outputting the same level of regular work. Identify how much time the role will take out of their usual working hours and develop a plan for how this will affect their other tasks. The last thing that you want is for this person to become stressed and unable to handle the new role.
With designated Workplace Champions, you have the potential to show employees that they really matter to management. From there, the positive effects on the rest of the workforce can transform the environment and your bottom line.
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