How to build a great people strategy

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Our very own People Director, Dawn Harrison shares her insights from her career at Atkins, Citi UK, Lloyds Banking Group and now Xpertise.

If you want to build a great environment for people to work in, it has to come from the top down. Leaders in the business must prioritise making this happen. This is not a box ticking exercise, you have to create an environment which lives and breathes a people first strategy. Take Xpertise, a core part of our mission is to be a great place to work. Our core values, vision and purpose reflect this, and we regularly check in with staff through one to ones and surveys to maintain this.

Next a strong L&D strategy. For us this is underpinned by our 5-pillar strategy:

  1. Recruit the right people – we hire people scoring high in “coachability” to ensure they have the right mindset to be successful in our culture.
  2. Develop people – recruitment (and non-recruitment) training designed to develop our People to their full potential. Starting with our 2-week classroom-based training academy and follows their career path to leadership.
  3. Create a values culture – a series of modular training combined with company events designed to build a strong value driven culture e.g. our annual core values workshop day
  4. Build company brand – training designed to link the Xpertise brand strategy to how they communicate and treat candidates and clients.
  5. Motivate & engage our People – ongoing training initiatives designed to upskill our people to increase their potential and energy / engagement levels.

But how do you know if you are making a difference?

What we decided to do at Xpertise was go through the Investors in People certification process. Whilst I was very proud to lead Xpertise to achieve a Silver IIP status at first attempt, what was perhaps more important was the 57 improvement initiatives we were still able to introduce to the business particularly around creating even more employee opportunities to have a say.  This also created an opportunity for me as People director to add value at  board level including reviewing how the senior leadership team could work more effectively together. This resulted in many new focus groups to help both achieve this goal but also to improve how we operate across each business area. Hiring is of course central to our business growth and our number one challenge.

The business success of Xpertise can be directly correlated to the quality of our new hires and it’s great that in my role I can contribute so directly to this success. It is our most important critical success factor and despite Xpertise being a specialist technology recruitment company, this is still an everyday challenge. We have tightened up our hiring criteria, reflected on our mistakes, improved our interview process,  and upgraded our search partners which resulted in a 10% reduction in attrition last year. The global pandemic bought many challenges, but also  pushed even more opportunity into the People team to help drive engagement.

We worked hard at introducing a COVID-19 safe working environment, but we also introduced a range of initiatives such as sleep webinars, motivational talks including, all walks of life from Rugby World Cup Winner Matt Dawson. We also still completed our annual charity challenge! The new working norm has been well received and although we saw some decline in productivity during the first lockdown, we have since developed our flexible working policy in consultation with our people which will stand us in good stead for the future.

There has never been a better time for a People Director to be recognised at the top table as a key contributor to business success.