How to Put Culture at the Centre of Your Hiring Strategy

On Episode 92 of The Talent & Growth Podcast we were joined by Isabel McParland, the People and Talent Acquisition Partner at BVNK, who have been on a real growth journey during the last couple of years to the last four months. We were fascinated to hear about how they have managed to maintain their integrity around putting culture at the centre of their hiring process. Isabel shared her insights on how culture-centred hiring can develop your business and grow it in the right way. Read on for the highlights of that conversation. 

What do you mean by putting culture at the centre of hiring?

Throughout the entire process, it’s been very apparent from day one, that having the right skills is important. There’s no two ways about that; you have to have the right skills to do a job, but having the right attitude is also essential. That’s something that we prioritise over everything else. We’ve managed to grow a culture that’s very fast paced and allows the people who work for us to really thrive. In order for that to happen, we have to have the right people come into the business in the first place. 

At every interview stage, culture is assessed by every single individual who does the interviewing. In order to be a successful candidate, you have to pass all of those cultural things that go on throughout the interviews. We either have like absolute yeses, where we cannot wait for individuals to start, or unfortunately they don’t come and work for us. We explain that we don’t just want culture fits, we want culture ads. Those are people whose first question is, ‘What is the culture?’ That automatically tells us that culture is important to them. In order to build a healthy culture, you have to have people who see culture as equally important to them. 

How are you implementing culture in the hiring process?

Our hiring process is structured towards culture. Candidates will always speak to a member of the talent team first. I never like to use the word interview, I always just call it a chat. It’s just so we can understand them a bit more, and they can equally get to know us a bit more.  Then they will speak to hiring managers, and then they’ll speak to me as a member of our executive team. But they always speak to a diverse range of employees, whether that’s people from all around the world, a mix between males and females, etc, we make sure that we are giving a whole view of the business. 

They will always speak to an executive at the end, that’s always the last stage. That’s something that we implemented about six months ago and we’ve seen great results. I think it’s really nice for candidates have buy-in from the executives, and it shows the importance that BVNK places on our talent and the people coming into the business. The flip side of that is that our executives have an opportunity to meet people before they come into the business. The executives also get a say in whether they think they’re going to fit into our culture correctly or not. It really shows that we have buy-in from every stage of the business.

How do you maintain solid and understandable boundaries around our culture, yet still make sure your hiring process and environment inclusive?

We put in good processes that allow us to do things quite quickly. For example, when a hiring manager says they like who they just interviewed, we know what the next step is, without even having to think about it. That does speed things up. I think the next thing is bringing on the right hiring managers who are inclusive, who have the right vision, who know the type of person they want to bring into the team. Outside of a culture-based system we do reference checks. All of our offers will be subject to reference checks, which is to make sure that their previous companies have also seen the traits that we’re looking for as well. We try to be efficient and make sure we haven’t missed anything while being quick.

To hear more about putting culture at the centre of your hiring process, tune into the full episode of The Talent & Growth Podcast here

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

How to Build a People Manifesto

On Episode 90 of Talent & Growth our guest was Eleanor Gooding, the People & Culture Director of Boost Drinks. She’s a passionate HR professional with a fascinating history in various different industries. Most importantly, she’s a mum who cares deeply about other people. During the podcast we talked about people manifestos – what are they? How do you make one? What difference do they make? Just in case you missed it, here are the answers in a handy blog!

What does a ‘people manifesto’ actually mean? 

It’s like a constitution that sits behind other HR and people policies in our company. It outlines our beliefs, our pledges to our people, and our expectations. So it’s a written piece of work, and it’s quite concise. It guides us in lots of things that we do and gives our people a sense of security about our environment. 

Where did it come from? What did the creation process look like?

It came about because I was looking at our contracts one day and I just thought they were just awful things. That’s one of the first points of contact anybody has when they join us, so I wanted to update them. I got talking to an employment lawyer who specialises in doing contracts and I explained what I was trying to do. She said it was worth doing a piece of work to identify all of the things that we really believed in, then people like her could figure out how to get those things into a contract that makes signing sound friendly. It would be written in Boost’s voice rather than that legal contract voice. 

We formed a small Working Committee, sat down and decided that this was not about the business or how we work, this was about how we wanted to treat our people. This wouldn’t be a code of conduct. This was really about the overall experience that we wanted to give to our people. We ended up putting in three sections, which were our beliefs, our pledges and our expectations. It forms a contract between our people and us. That’s how we started the process. 

What does your people manifesto look like?

The first section is what we believe. We believe that the boost spirit is unique and special, and we all have a responsibility to look after it. Your experience of working at boost should be positive and rewarding. There’s an equal give and take between you and boost. Our values and behaviours live, breathe and evolve over time according to the needs of our business. We believe that being a high quality progressive employer is worth the effort. 

We also took the time to assess where we were with things, because in some aspects we are really advanced, while other parts are still a work in progress. That translates as us identifying where we need to grow saying ‘this is important to us’. We have an energy or spirit, which, when you walk into the building, you can feel it. You can see it in the way we do business, you can see it in the relationships that we’ve made with people and so on. We’ve been trying to capture what this spirit is in our values and behaviours programme. 

The second part of the manifesto is what we strive to do. We strive to create a fun and rewarding environment where you can develop and be your best self, to treat you well, to support you and work through challenges with you and to be fair, ethical and transparent. We started with D&I training for everybody in the business to understand why diversity in every aspect is a positive, and how we’re going to benefit as a business if we all can come to the door as ourselves, not the person we think we’re supposed to be at work. As a leadership team we’re working to create an environment where everybody can develop and be the best staff. Putting all these things on paper requires work from us. That’s a manifesto that we have to live up to. 

The last section we have is what we expect from our people. We expect you to help us to grow and win and be the best it can be. We expect you to fully immerse yourself with our vision, your strategy and your job. We expect you to be accountable for your actions and behaviours, we expect you to live by the Boost values and behaviours and be a positive ambassador for Boost. If you think about all of those things, writing down ‘you’ll be a positive ambassador to boost’ means that your contracts can refer to it. If you’re having a conversation with somebody about their behaviours, you can say, this is what we’re striving for here, it’s all written down, it’s all really clear, but your behaviours right now aren’t aligned with this. You can also use it positively and say ‘here’s a medal because your behaviour is aligned with our manifesto every single day’.

What advice would you give to other businesses who are looking to create their own people manifesto?

Do it. Pick your moment, because this is the kind of thing that if you did it too early it might backfire on you. Don’t try and say ‘we’re perfect’. You should always be clear that there’s an aspiration behind it. It’s got to be transparent too. It’s got to be something people can look at and resonate with, and you have to live up to it too. Where possible, be open with people about what you’re trying to do. My advice for any company would be do it, you won’t regret it. Just be careful of your timing, because you need to be able to walk the walk once you’ve put one in place.

To learn more about people manifestos and how they have impacted the culture at Boost, tune into the full episode of The Talent & Growth Podcast.

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

Creating a wellness programme for your business

On Episode 76 of The Talent & Growth Podcast we were joined by Kel Hartman, an amazing chief people officer who’s got an incredible story and plenty of experience, and most importantly, she’s passionate about looking after the people in your business and she’s got some great ideas around how to do that. We asked Kel about how to promote the wellness of people in our businesses. 

We’ve seen a lot of news around a recession being touted, so the power seems to be shifting into the hands of the companies rather than the candidates. It’s very different from last year when companies were pandering to people because there was a lack of talent. With that in mind, do you see the emphasis on staff’s wellbeing taking a backseat?

I think it will, and these things are worrying employees, people are worrying now for their finances and asking if they can provide for their family. That has an impact on mental health, because there’s stress, there’s anxiety, they can’t sleep, can’t eat. I think with wellbeing, whether it’s financial, physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, they all tie in together. People are being let go, and are those companies giving them psychological support? Are they helping them with their CVs? I see a lot of CEOs making this crisis about them and not their people, it’s really crazy. This is the time where they could show the employees what type of organisation they are. How are they taking care of the people that are let go, and the people who have stayed there that will feel so guilty with remaining there, because surviving a recession has a psychological impact on people.

You have a wellness programme at Chipper Cash, could you tell us a bit more about what you created there and how it worked and how it looked?

Sure. They didn’t have a wellness programme at all before I arrived. They’d put together a proposal but it mainly focussed on budgets, it wasn’t about mental health. I really wanted the programme to be holistic, and it really changed things. For a lot of employees, like those that were dealing with work stress there was a lot of burnout. In a scale up company, there was a lot of personal stuff that was going on to people who were just coming out of COVID. There was loneliness – I think that’s a big factor – and there was a lack of connections. 

One of the first things they did is listen. I was speaking to a lot of people, just checking in, getting to know people from wherever. One of the first things I wanted to address was stress and burnout, so we had a session with a psychologist, Dr. Babb and she ran a session on stress and burnout. People were just ‘like, wow, this is incredible’. Then there was one that they wanted on having a positive mindset, where we had around 80 to 90% of attendance for the whole company, including all our senior execs. We bought Composure Psychology in and African psychologists too, because we needed to reflect our people. That was one holistic fit, so then we started running monthly workshops, where we had breath work, then Angie Cole running our male mental health programme, we had Emily Paolo who was incredible in creating within your power for women. We looked at all the different spectrums. We had the parenting programme as well, which was incredible when we did that. So the parenting programme had three cohorts, as well, so there were different programmes going on simultaneously. But you know, not everyone’s a parent, not everyone’s a male or identifies with them so we had different communities come up. We didn’t have a pride community, but now we do. We ran committed connection workshops, just for people to connect. As you can tell there were so many different elements of the programme. We had a budget for working at home stipends, that was a new one, we gave equity to all sorts of organisations. We ran a bazaar to do a boxing session with the employee. There were so many different elements that people could pick and choose from, so we had a very high percentage of take up in our programme.

What advice would you give to businesses who want to start to create a culture that allows their staff to bring their whole selves to work? 

Go out and speak to your people and really, truly listen and be vulnerable. Share something about yourself to make sure that you’re creating a safe space, because when you ask for help you share some of your stories. I think that is the best way. It’s a start if you’ve got no budget for some of this stuff as well. Another thing is making sure that everyone takes their holidays and their time out, I think that’s so important. I never used to take my holidays. I thought it was so cool, but it’s not. I’ve learned a lot and now I love my holidays. When people are on holidays, as a manager, don’t phone them and email them and slack them and message them all the time. Support people’s time off and make sure that you know that they’re having the break. People don’t think they need time off, but they do. I think flexibility is cool, too. I know some people can’t always use them to travel, they’ve got to go to appointments and things like that or have different needs. I think every individual is different, so they’re going to thrive in different ways.

What advice would you give to individuals who want to support their own well being a bit more consciously?

Set boundaries, and be really clear about what yours are. If you don’t do that (and I certainly used to be guilty of that), what happens is people just get used to it. If you just say, ‘yeah, I’ll do that’ they come to expect it, but as soon as you say no, or ‘I’m not coming to this meeting, I’m on holidays’, no one really cares. So I think really make sure that you’re setting boundaries, and doing something for yourself that relates to your well being in any way, find something that is gonna work for you. Eat properly, make sure you exercise, do neck movements everyday, get out, go on walks. I do walking meetings, so if anyone can do a walking meeting for their one on one, do that. I think getting out and moving about and not being stuck to your desk all day is really important. 

I think the boundary thing is so important. I’ve just found myself going ‘I love what I’m doing’ and just working every day. It got to the point where my brain was just ready to explode with it, so I needed to say ‘right I’m not going to do any work Sunday, I’m not going to look at anything’. You’ve got to set those boundaries with yourself as well. 

To learn more about how to promote wellness within your business, listen to the full podcast episode here.

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

The Importance of Building Your Internal Culture Around the 4 C’s  

On Episode 70 of The Talent & Growth Podcast we invited Charlie Winton, the founder of OK Positive, to talk about how we can help take our people on the journey of our business. Not only is developing a purposeful culture important for engagement investment, but the nature of Charlie’s business is centred around mental wellbeing and what we can do to look after our people as well. 

Read on for some of the highlights of the episode!

On Episode 70 of the Talent & Growth podcast we invited Charlie Winton, the founder of Ok Positive, to talk about how we can help take our people on the journey of our business. Not only is developing a purposeful culture important for engagement investment, but the nature of Charlie’s business is centred around mental wellbeing and what we can do to look after our people as well. 

Read on for some of the highlights of the episode. 

When did you decide the type of culture you wanted to build internally at Ok Positive, and how did that play out?

We sat down as a founding team very early on to talk about our values and what they meant to us. We asked, what are our morals? What do we care about? That focus came down to helping individuals become more self aware and have access to these tools that they may not have had. What was the longer term goal of that? Well, it’s to stop people from taking their lives, to stop them from going into a downward spiral into more severe mental health issues. Technology was just the vehicle for us. But we wanted to, as a team, believe in our values, and our values were based around how we looked after each other, how we looked after ourselves, and our lived experience. 

So everyone in the business had lived experience of mental health in some form, so they understood the significance of what we were doing, and we would never falter from that path of helping people. That was a big reason why we started off very lean and did it all self funded and bootstrapped, because we didn’t want someone coming in and telling us we had to do things differently. We had our focus, and we still do. That was what we built our values around, and we built those the Four C’s values around what we believed in, and how we’d want to look after and treat each other. We prioritise commitment, connection, courage and communication. We focus on those four areas. If we do that, and treat each other that way, then we’ll succeed. It’s kind of performance versus outcomes; the outcomes you can’t control, but the performance you can. If we deal with that, hopefully the outcomes then come as well, because wellbeing is a very busy market with a lot of people doing great stuff. You need to have that substance and you need to have those ethics, otherwise, you’re going to falter. That’s a big reason why we started off and set that up from the get go.

Why is it important to you to take your people on the journey of Ok Positive?

Ultimately you’ll have a longer term strategic vision that aligns with what you want to achieve, and the business will perform alongside that. So for us, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve openly always said that wellbeing is still nowhere near where it should be in terms of priorities for business, so it’s not about getting a market out there. That fizzles out after a year, two years. I’m doing a massive amount of market knowledge and research. We’re finding that businesses that have traditionally put in applications and platforms are losing engagement. They’re losing uptake to it, they’re losing the support of the businesses that they’re working with. The reason for that is that they’ve rushed into it saying, ‘this is what we think will work’, rather than ‘this is what works’. You need to speak to people, you need to have conversations with them, get feedback, reiterate, you need engaged and inspired employees and founding team members rather than people who’ve just come in because they’re jumping on the bandwagon that you’ve got a great salary and a great benefits package and the hours are good. From my perspective, it’s about bringing people on the journey. 

I was reading research through a partner of ours called Discover Your Bounce, and they said that engaged employees are 45% more productive than disengaged ones. Obviously, you’d expect that, but actually inspired employees are 55% more productive than even engaged employees, so what that means is people that actually believe in what you’re doing care about it. I’ll give you an example; when I worked with financial payments, you wouldn’t think that was something that would make you really keen to go out there and say ‘I’m selling financial payments to a company’. Actually, it was positioned as helping small businesses to fight the big giants and actually have a say, in the light of giving that person who’s setting up a store a chance to live their dream. That narrative gives you an inspired employee, that narrative motivates you to do well. It’s similar to recruitment. Most recruiters are focused around how many fees they made, but for me it was how many jobs I got for people. When you look at it that way, why am I getting up at five in the morning to go and work, go to the gym, work early doors to go and hit numbers? Be motivated by the fact that it could potentially change their lives, it could lead to something that does really well for them. That’s the bit that inspires people to do it. That gives you a far more successful outcome, I believe.

As you as you scale as a business, how are you going to ensure that every member of the team or the company can come on that journey with you?

Factor in the values. As companies grow and scale, obviously, that’s a great problem to have, but they do it very quickly. You rush into recruiting, you potentially don’t take as long as you want to have done to recruit and vet people that come into the company, and whether they’ll fit or whether they’re different and will provide new insight. One of the beautiful things about diversity and inclusion being much more of a focus is that you now have so many different personalities and people that will have new ideas that innovate. For us moving forward, we will always keep that feedback loop open. We’ll use our own tool within monitoring people’s mental health, making sure that they have a say, and a voice in the company to make changes. For us a wellbeing strategy brings people into that culture. So what do we want out of it? Well, we want happier, healthier, supported people, and we want them to be listened to. That’s grand, but you’ve got to put a number on it to be able to tell if it’s working or not. We say we’re going to spend X amount of money to make sure it gets to X level on a mood rating. We’ll say ‘you know what, we’ll ensure that our mood rating never goes below 60% out of 100’, that as a standard. If it does, we know there is a negative culture coming in, so we’ll need to do something about it. We put in systems that we want to reduce sick leave and those sorts of things. We want to reduce staff attrition, so put numbers in and make sure that we are held accountable to them. 

Ultimately, culture is just caring, allowing people to innovate, to be part of that journey and have a say in it. Whether you’re a new graduate or a senior leader, everyone has great ideas, it’s not just designated to anyone who’s in the C suite level. Just keeping that mentality, as you grow is vital. Why on earth would you not want to do that? Admittedly, businesses will turn around and say, ‘well, we’ve got 30,000 employees, we can’t do that’. There are always methods though – you can get regular real time feedback now from a load of providers. You can look at different areas, focus on different deliverables metrics, but provide people a voice so that they come on that journey with you. That’s the focus we’ll have as we grow.

To hear more about how to improve your company’s culture, listen to the full episode of The Talent & Growth Podcast here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

Implementing a four-day week and still being client led 

In episode 65 we were joined by Andrew Cross, Founder & CEO at Goosechase to discuss a very hot topic, how to make a four-day work week work. In this episode we talk about Goosechases experiences pioneering and trialling the four-day work week. 

We covered the results that Goosechase have seen from their trial, the draw backs and how a four-day work week has implemented talent attraction and retention. 

Below we outline some of the ways businesses can implement a four-day work week and still be client led. We hope you find them useful. 

When moving to a four-day week, what did you have to take into consideration? Were there any boundaries which had to be implemented to ensure that it was going to work? 

The world doesn’t really work on four day weeks now so our first concern is always that the clients are expecting communication – you can’t just go dark on the fifth day of the week. Upon implementing it you have to constantly be aware that there’s external considerations.  

There is also the question of how flexible you are with your team with which day they take off and whether or not you let individuals chose. We looked into some companies that had already written up their results and the one thing that we took away from that is to make sure that the day that people take off remains the same. Otherwise it’s a mess trying to collaborate with people and get together; if they all take different days off there is never going to be a day where you can get on a call or all meet. We realised early on that Friday’s would be the day off, then we had to consider the outward facing component. In our customer facing team, a couple of people every week take Wednesday off instead and will work on the Friday. That way we have a standardised schedule and make sure we still have coverage on the Friday. It’s a bit of give and take and having a flexible mindset, but those were the two main things that we had to figure out early on. 

Many companies I’ve worked with are client let and feel like if their clients want something on a Friday, then they’ve got to be there on a Friday. Is it as simple as having people swap their days? Or was there anything else which helped you have a day off when you’re client led? And do you think that it’s scalable? 

I think it is scalable and will benefit people. The more people that adopt the four day week, then the more common it will be for people to say on their website or on their email autoresponders that they work a four day week. It will eventually be acceptable, just like people don’t always expect coverage on Saturdays and Sundays. 

When you’re client led, it’s definitely a little bit trickier. We know that anybody who is creative is going benefit from not being sat down, like a robot, cranking out work for an entire five days. If you can position it in a way that lets your client know that you’re going to produce better outputs as a result of doing this, a lot of clients will be fine with this. They may not get as much response on the Friday, but the benefit and net results will be there.  

There’s some work that maybe is more hourly or time driven. We said we can’t have a two tier system internally where some people have to work a little differently due to the nature of their work. We decided that we would deal with the challenges of some work being harder, for example, sales is often very call driven with calls coming in during the day. But we made peace with that to make sure he have quality internally to be able to supercharge our creative people, who do produce quite a bit more by having a fresher mindset and not pacing themselves and grinding through the week.  

Find out more about the four-day work week and Goosechases experiences by listening to the full episode here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

Creating a safe engineering culture 

Joining us on episode 53 of Talent & Growth was Samantha Mountford, CTO at Feast IT. In this episode we discuss what a safe engineering culture is, how we can make our culture safe and still drive high performance and how companies go wrong when building an engineering culture. 

We’ve taken some of the key points for creating a safe engineering culture and outlined them for you below, we hope they help! 

Let’s define what we actually mean by a safe engineering culture. 

It’s an environment where developers feel like they have the space to plan and deliver their work, but they also have the space to grow and develop. They need to be able to do that without feeling like they’re under pressure to deliver deadlines that they didn’t agree to and be able to move quickly without being put in a position where they can make a major error.  

The feeling of anxiety is one that I know well from my years as a developer. I was full of questions and concerns. Can I ship this code now?  If I don’t work late to get this feature delivered my project manager is going to get it in the neck from a client. I’ve got five tickets to deliver but I wasn’t to spend some time learning and I’ve been asked to take on more duties. No one seemed to understand that all of that was too much for me and the quality of my code will suffer which means that it will take longer to code review, longer to QA and I’d feel the weight of that all.  

I want to avoid these scenarios for my team as much as possible. That’s not to say there isn’t a desire to get a lot done quickly, but the solution isn’t to work people to burn out. I’ve seen a lot of burnout in people I’ve worked with so anything we can do to stop that is really important.  

How do we enable this safe engineering culture in a start-up, which typically involves the cliché of long hours, intense pressure and working non-stop? 

I try to make it really clear that a start-up culture is one of pace and ownership- not presentism, long hours and unrealistic deadlines. In terms of ownership, we make sure that everyone has the capacity to affect positive change, then they can own and optimise their processes to get work done quickly and safely. Keeping pace involves setting a target or deadline and being committed to hitting that. We want to give people the confidence to set ambitious targets, feel like they have control over the way they work and they have access to data to help them make informed decisions. They also need to know that they have the support of the wider team to be able to deliver in the timeline they’ve set. 

How do we make sure that the culture is safe whilst still driving that high performance? 

You need a strong and short feedback loop, allowing developers to voice their concerns and opinions often and making changes quickly based on that feedback. One to ones are a great place to gather this feedback, as well as team retros where you can agree to try something new quickly.  

You also need to have a blameless culture. It’s rarely one person’s fault so we should instead approach an investigation to see what could have been done differently as a team. For example, are there alerts that should be set up to notify the team and if not why not? Or is there a manual process that should be been automated? AWS had a major outage of one of their storage solutions, due to a single developer following a manual playbook and making an error on a command that they ran. They should have never been put into a position where one line of code written in the wrong way could cause that much damage (loss of customer data). 

The great thing that AWS did was acknowledge that they needed to improve the process and did it quickly, therefore protecting their developers in the future. There are lots of questions employers can ask themselves. Did we require that code have test coverage in the code review process? Did the developer that run the code review process actually have the space and capacity to do that thoroughly at the time? Are you giving developers the ability to monitor their code and production to know when things go wrong? Do you have the appropriate level of logging? There are many steps that would protect a developer from feeling like one of the many thousands of lines of code that they write might cause a major issue.  

As well as a blameless culture and tight feedback looks, we’re also shifting to using cross functional product teams to deliver value. The smaller, more focused teams are able to optimise their process much faster and find a way which works for them.  

Listen to the full podcast here.

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

Why Candidates and Organisations Need to Take Culture Seriously with Chelsea Foxwell

In a recent episode of our podcast, we were joined by Chelsea Foxwell who is the Head of People at Uptake Strategies, a healthcare consultancy whose clients are amongst the top twenty pharma brands. Uptake Strategies help clients with their brand launch, their strategy and planning, their capability development, and their internal teams; all aimed at enabling clients to make a bigger impact on patients’ lives.  

She tells us about the importance of company culture for both a candidate’s and an organisation’s perspective and shares some useful tips for candidates looking to identify how they can assess their cultural fit with a company from the outside.  

What’s your perspective on the importance of culture and values for attracting and retaining talent?  

Both are incredibly important for retaining and attracting talent. Candidates ought to spend more time exploring the culture of an organisation before they join, and organisations should spend more time explaining their company culture and the ways in which they work.  

I would encourage anyone who’s interviewing to find out how the company is testing their cultural fit. It’s not necessarily a reason not to hire someone, but it can make a candidate’s onboarding and their chances of success more challenging if some of their behaviours aren’t aligned with the company culture.  

In the past, I had a member of my time tell me they felt like an “organ rejection,” they felt so different to the culture of the company that they felt as though they were being rejected every day. Eventually, they left, after eighteen months. So, I think it’s probably one of the important factors when considering talent retention.  

I think the key thing many leaders don’t think about is the shadow of a strong culture. In one of my organizations, we had a huge culture of family orientation, but it got to the point where people didn’t challenge each other because they were afraid of breaking up ‘the family.’ So, there is a dark side in the shadow system of the strongest cultures, and I think it’s important for people to understand both sides. 

What can a candidate do to assess the culture of a business from the outside? 

It’s not easy. When I coach people for interviews, I ask them questions like “what does success look like to you in three years’ time?” and “what happens if you make a mistake?” The answers they give tend to give an indication as to what they value and their mindset when it comes to learning and failure.   

In turn, I’d encourage candidates to ask recruiters those sorts of questions too; “what’s the company’s response when things go wrong?”, “what happens when things go well?”, “how will they assess my performance?” This way they can assess what the team relationships are like, whether there’s a growth mindset or not, and they’re questions I rarely hear from candidates. Candidates need to spend more time thinking about culture, and less time thinking about the technical aspects of the job; they wouldn’t be in the room if they hadn’t already demonstrated they could do those.  

What sorts of questions do you ask candidates during interviews to ensure the company maintains its culture of kindness as it grows?  

We ask them quite pointedly; “what are the three qualities that you value in other people?”, we ask them to “give us an example of when they’ve helped somebody else succeed in their role,” we ask them to describe a time when they gave difficult feedback to a colleague, a client, or somebody who works for them; we ask them about a time when they made a mistake, and what they learned from it. Also, questions about the future and their aspirations; what their perfect job and perfect environment looks like.  

Every question is aimed at helping us identity what type of environment they’re likely to succeed in, how they take and give feedback, because humility is a big part of who we are; there’s no space here for individual heroes. Ultimately, these questions help us identify whether they’re likely to flourish at Uptake Strategies.  

Click here to listen to the full episode.  

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

The Cultural Challenges of Growing a Start-up Business

We were so excited to have Jess Szucs on the podcast recently. Jess is the Head of Talent at Fathom, a fast-growing start-up based in Bristol. 

We got to pick her brains on the challenges of growing a business, as well as some great tangible takeaways that we wanted to share with you in this blog below! 

So what are some of the challenges of growing a startup business?  

“It’s a very long list! And obviously, not every startup will experience the same things. I think one of the things that you’re looking for is what the message is that comes from the founders because they are defining the working atmosphere and how they want their team to behave. 

You also don’t want to overdo structure and process in a small business, but equally, you don’t want it to become a chaotic environment that you’re in. And I think the other thing that could happen is, especially if you have a core group of friends who are, you know, having a good time, but they are also making a good business, you could have a lack of seriousness. And that could become something that you really want to avoid, especially when you’re talking to clients.  

You have to recognise the fact that, yes, if you have a good culture, people will go the extra mile. But they still have lives and families and kids and friends. You have to create an atmosphere where there is a work-life balance for the people who want to have that work-life balance. 

Does culture need to be defined from day one? Are there unwritten rules where you should start thinking about that? 

“I think culture shapes on its own wherever you define it or not. And, you know, let’s imagine that you have a group of founders, and they sit down and say “yeah, this is how we want to operate. And this is how we want to, like run the team” – it’s a useful exercise, regardless of what it’s going to be. But then the people who come in and their experiences and their culture will eventually contribute to your own culture.  

And I think if you define it in a way that you don’t really allow it to grow, that’s also not really a good thing.  

I think when you’re starting off, it’s good to have an understanding of how you want your employees to feel, And how you want them to cooperate. That lays down the foundations of how professional and strict or flexible your business will be. If you have good foundations, I don’t think there’s anything specific you need to worry about.” 

What else makes a culture healthy? 

“I think emotional safety is definitely number one. So if you create an environment where your people feel safe, to be themselves to talk about their ideas to contribute, you’re basically a start-up that your employees feel engaged in because they know that they don’t have to be stressed about coming to work.  

There’s a natural, relaxed environment that they are in, and they just realise that they can do whatever they feel it’s necessary to grow the business within sensible limits, of course.  

And the other thing is genuine and open communication. And I think that goes a really, really long way.” 

To listen to the full episode, click here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.