EXCLUSIVE: Ocado offers employees regular Covid-19 testing 

Employee Benefits Reset 2020:  Supermarket delivery service Ocado is offering employees Covid-19 testing during the pandemic.

In a session titled ‘Aligning employee needs with shifting business goals, Andrew Baille, reward director at Ocado, explained that the organisation has had to think of its employees from a heightened wellbeing perspective to keep them safe and protect them during these difficult times. He said: “We wanted to reduce any of the anxiety that employees experience so now employees on a Tuesday and Thursday can receive a test as part of being a front-line worker. [This is] something that Ocado committed to early on to make sure people protected and play our part to make sure we limit the spread.”

Alongside testing, Ocado’s wellbeing strategy during the pandemic has been to ensure that all employees are mental and physically looked after to help alleviate any anxiety or worries they might have. “Never underestimate the importance of access to the service such as EAPs [employee assistance programmes],” added Baillie. “It’s significant and fantastic for those people that benefit from the service. We have helped employees that are going through challenging times.”

A potentially challenging aspect of the pandemic is recruitment due to the social distancing restrictions that are in place. However, Baille has seen a positive side to this way of working during the process that saw Ocado recruit a further 5,000 employees.“We had to change the way approached [recruitment]. We really had to change the way we engaged with prospective employees,” he explained. “We opened up the opportunity to more online interviews [which] means that people will be able to interview at their convenience. [with] more people working from home, on furlough, or who have lost their jobs, we wanted to make recruitment more 24/7 rather than being within the core standard hours, five days a week”

This meant that managers at Ocado could hold more interviews than they would have been able to if they took a traditional approach. Alongside reducing the time between interviewing and hiring, it has also improved the overall employee experience for new recruits, said Baillie.

Ocado has 18,000 employees globally, of which 13,000 are based in the UK so getting communications correct has been key during the pandemic. The organisation introduced live streams with leaders in conjunction with question-and-answer sessions, employee forums and touchpoints.  “We’ve really had to take a step back because communication has been absolutely paramount during this time so we started to utilise more forums to make sure that the wider audience stays connected,” said Baillie.

He explained that reward is about more than just pay and is more about the overall employee experience with engagement a key driving factor: “You have just got to get that right so it’s less of a distraction  to your employees. It’s everything else that you do on top of that makes a difference; what engages employees? That’s what makes them want to turn up in the morning. Step back to understand what is it that we can do differently and it starts from day one with engagement.”