Ruth Penfold: That time I realised that change is the only constant

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Ruth Penfold is a well known figure in the HR industry and has spent her last few years leading talent acquisition at popular media tech firm Shazam. Here she discusses the important factors of successful employee engagement.

I wrote last year about the shifting mindset of the workforce, and the way that we as employers need to rise to meet the challenge to engage and retain our people.
At the time I wrote about our four key areas of focus being:

Openness

• Being clear on what your purpose as an organisation is, and giving people the chance to see how they connect to it. People want to work for something they can feel proud of, and feel like they are contributing something of value.
• Keep it real. REALLY real. You need to share enough of your business so that the wrong person will be put off, but the right person will stay. Be honest. The people that stay will be looking for the same longer term commitment that you are.

Togetherness

• The people are what truly matters. I’ve written about this before. 95% of the people I speak with say that the people are the thing they enjoy the MOST about their current role. Give people the chance to get to know your people and find out what they are all about.
•People spend so much time with one another, we become family at work. It’s therefore importance to provide space for collaboration.

Opportunity

•People are looking for how their work fits into their own overall story. They aren’t looking for guarantees of progression, just an idea of the possibilities. Also by giving people the space to grow, to think, to develop their own ideas.
•Helping to map out some potential options for your prospective hire could mean the difference between hiring a great candidate and not.

Individuality

•I’ve written about this also in the past. People thrive when they allow themselves to be just who they truly are. I have learnt first hand, that being able to come to work as myself is when I truly began to shine.
• We can do that as Employers, by having our leaders be as real as real can be, setting the precedent for the wider organisation.
So these things remain. But let’s add a few more for the workforce of tomorrow:

Awareness

• Things are moving faster than ever before, and our brains are definitely one of them. There is talk of an 8 second filter to decide; is this thing worthy of my time? We have to engage our people in the right way and with the right level of efficiency.
•I ncreasingly people will have an environmental approach, so people really do care a great deal about what they do and why they are doing it.
• People will also have an increasingly pragmatic approach to work and, having witnessed or been part of financial crashes, will be a little more risk averse by design.

Entrepreneurship

• The spirit of the entrepreneur is alive and well and growing in your business. Harness it. People want to evolve, upskill, develop and learn fast, they want to feel like they are truly innovating, so find ways to turn entrepreneurship into intrapreneurship. Give people the space to innovate and grow and harness their energy in the right way; their ideas and innovations could have a profound effect on the potential growth for your business. Listening and reciprocal education are key, because you will learn a lot more from them than they will ever learn from you. You just need to make sure your company is actually listening.
• Freedom is also important. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ is a clear sign of that. Are there things you could do to offer more flexibility to your team?

Diversity

•Diversity will be – and should be – the norm, and our organisations need to not only reflect that, but also celebrate that. Traditional categories will continue to decrease in relevance, so as businesses, we should be aware of that. People entering our workforce today really are truly worldly, and will often have been to around 11 countries by the time they are 16 years old.

Digitality

•I feel like I might have made that word up, but it works so I’m keeping it. The vast majority of us are now ridiculously efficient at using technology, and increasingly we will find people might communicate a little better via screen than in real life. We can overcome that as employers by encouraging in person collaboration, and supporting our people to develop their other communication skills where needed.

So here are my top tips for your business, and the things you should focus on, allow and give space for:

• Be authentic, honest and open as much as you can.
• Keep your internal processes simple, quick and effective; but most importantly remember that one size does not fit all.
• Listening and reciprocal education are key. Create as many opportunities as you can to learn from your people.
• Find new ways to promote organic growth internally, empower your people to support their own growth. Pay attention to diversity, make sure you are creating an environment that provides everyone with an opportunity to thrive.
• Support real life collaboration and communication through both your office environment and the space you give people to collaborate.
• Be flexible; perhaps it’s time to lose the 9-5 mindset?

Happy, fulfilled people = healthy happy thriving business, it really is that simple.

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About Ruth Penfold

Ruthie has around 15 years experience in the recruitment industry. Her first 13 years were spent in a number of small, boutique largely contingency firms which set her up perfectly for the pace of the ‘StartUp’ space. She moved ‘in-house’ for Shazam in 2013, and now leads their global hiring. She believes that brilliant people are the lifeblood of any successful business and is excited to share her experiences in evolving the recruitment practices at Shazam with you all.

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