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Published: 26 Jun 2024

Louise Haffenden, URW – Finalist 2024, Family-Friendly Champion, sponsored by Arnold Clark

Louise Haffenden is the People Director at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), whose top-down approach and passion to drive positive change, combined with a determination to deliver results, has made a tangible difference to the culture and people of the organisation. 

Industry-leading 

Louise embodies the values of URW, as she strives for it to be a more inclusive and diverse organisation that enables its people to thrive. In the two years she’s been People Director, she has led her skilled team to develop and implement industry-leading policies and created a culture that values difference and work-life balance, supporting the needs of all employees. Louise worked with an executive coach to create a talent development programme for emerging female talent to enhance their strengths and develop their goals, with an aim to create a Female Network within the business. Participants received individual coaching sessions to boost confidence, self-efficiency and personal brand, and group coaching sessions to build trusting relationships and provide peer coaching and perspective. This initiative, alongside progressive recruitment practices and a Female Leadership development programme, has meant URW have smashed the industry average of 27% with a 70/30 split of females/males in senior leadership roles, increasing the number of women in leadership roles from 29% in 2019 to 70% in 2023.  

People-centred policies 

Louise devised a dynamic People Strategy to evolve the culture, with a strong focus on learning and development, wellbeing, retention and DEI. This has been brought to life through forward-thinking policies and practices that have won Louise’s team numerous awards, and include: pre and post parental leave coaching for employees and their managers, Talent Development pipelines and development programmes, Female Leadership programmes, menopause awareness day and training, wellbeing activities and events, updated employee benefits including a Green Car Scheme, an Allyship in the Workplace webinar, panel discussions around International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day, mental health awareness sessions, an LGBTQ+ Pride series, and unconscious bias training.  

The success in the culture shift is evident in the 100% of parents being supported to complete a phased return to work after parental leave-, and to aid that return, 60% of those eligible opted to receive parental coaching, and the equivalent of approximately 349.5 wellbeing days were taken last year.  

Leading from the top 

As a working mother, Louise is a strong advocate for working families and leads by example in how to effectively balance working and family life. Louise is the Business Sponsor of URW’s Working Families Network, which discusses topics relevant to working parents and carers such as policy updates, menopausal health workshops, and mental health awareness. Her position on the leadership board enables her to have a positive influence in key decision making. Louise’s top-down approach and dedication to driving positive change has seen other senior leaders modelling these behaviours and ways of working within their teams.  

Outside of the business, Louise sits on the Board of WEST Youth Zone, a charity that is developing a purpose-built facility for Hammersmith & Fulham’s young people, as the HR Trustee. WEST is part of OnSide, a national youth charity determined to make sure that all young people have the opportunity to shine, and the chance to discover their passion and their purpose.