We are super excited to announce our People Hero this month, Ashleigh Hamilton - Head of People at Few&Far. We recently caught up with Ashleigh to find out more about her transition from recruitment to working in a People Operations focussed role and all the amazing initiatives she has spearheaded as a result of the pandemic. Amongst her brilliant academic achievements, Ashleigh is naturally personable, creative and dedicated, qualities which have been key to supporting the team through the challenges faced over the past 12 months.
Could you tell us about your role at Few & Far?
Really, really varied!
Being a HR generalist and owning the People function at Few&Far means that no day is the same and I’m kept super busy!
I’d say a big focus for me and my role especially since the pandemic is employee experience and engagement. Although, I’ve been fortunate enough to lead projects or at least touch on tasks across almost every area of HR since I’ve been here. It’s been the most amazing experience to be able to get involved in so much and build the function from the ground up.
What exciting projects are you currently working on?
Firstly, I am revising our Org Chart and Structure to create more opportunities for internal talent development, as well as new seats for hires at a leadership level to help us drive forward and grow. We’re working towards creating a similar structure for a lot of our tech clients; working in squads and tribes. Forming client based squads will allow us to provide the best service to clients across all of our verticals, as well as creating more collaboration internally.
I don’t see it as a project, more of a continuous and crucial part of people, but I’ve been working on our Diversity & Inclusion commitments over the last 12 months. We are by no means perfect but we have made some positive strides and are all working towards being a more inclusive workplace. Some of which are: Introduced our D&I committee (rotates every 6 months), partnered with a D&I Consultant to deliver seven sessions; workshops, training, focus groups etc.
We’re also completely revamping our Learning & Development for all levels. Beginning with our entry level academy to launch this summer and working up to Leadership level.
What interested you to start a career in the People sector?
I really enjoyed my role in agency recruitment but there was only so much input you could have on the candidate employee experience, once they’d joined the business it was kind of out of my hands. I was definitely always intrigued about what it would be like to be able to change and influence those processes for the better.
I remember going to a client meeting and briefly meeting the Head of People there. I was really fascinated by her role and all of the ownership she had over many different areas and projects. I remember from there I started researching “how to become a head of people”, I took my CIPD that same year whilst in agency recruitment and once I passed I started looking and the rest is history!
What was it like moving from recruitment to a more operational role? Have you got any tips for anyone wanting to do the same?
For me transitioning over was pretty smooth at first as a lot of my focus when I started at Few&Far was hiring. I’d say about 6 months in when I started tackling people projects was when I noticed it was very different and I had to focus a lot more time on my own learning and development. Luckily, being a member of the CIPD there were lots of available resources I could utlise.
For someone in the same boat as I was and wanting to go into a People role, the biggest bit of advice I have is to join HR/People communities! There are a number of slack groups, whatsapp groups, a huge Twitter community and much more. You aren’t going to know everything straight away so don’t be afraid to reach out to your community with questions! And even when you are more experienced it’s still so helpful to get a second opinion and even bounce ideas off of someone else in a similar role with a different view.
What is the biggest challenge you faced at work over the last 12 months?
Definitely the pandemic, even though it started over 12 months ago haha. It caused so much worry and anxiety for people; employee wellbeing, communication, keeping morale, motivation and engagement steady became my sole focus for a while at the start. Looking back I remember how scary it was not knowing what was going to happen, how long it was going to go on for or whether the business was going to survive!
On top of that, switching to fully remote for the best part of a year, when we rarely worked from home more than one day every couple of months previously, was really tough. We realised how much we relied on the buzz of the office and collaborating in person.
To try and tackle this, a week or so into lockdown I decided to begin to host Thursday evening zoom socials where we got together and played a new game each week. They quickly became something to look forward to each week, especially for people that lived alone and didn’t get to socialise with anyone.
Our monthly “employee pulse” survey also very quickly became a crucial part of our feedback loop and provides us with, not only a score, but also detailed information on what’s going well in the workplace and what could be improved.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
Ooh, good question. It would probably have to be creating our “PGF” (progression growth framework), it’s essentially our core competency framework. It means that our employees aren’t just working towards financial targets - behaviours and soft skills are recognised, rewarded and count towards promotions too. In the recruitment industry a lot of companies are focused solely on numbers and unfortunately some really talented people miss out on opportunities to progress their career because they might fall short of their financial target by a mere £200.
To create the PGF we essentially integrated our values with behaviours that are important to us and broke it into four core pillars: Mastery, Leadership, Influence and Enterprising.
We now use this system not only for employee reviews but also in our hiring process and probation reviews. Implementing this kind of standardised, formal criteria around performance and reward that employees understand has been proven to reduce the gender pay gap too!
What do you foresee as a major change in People Operations?
Remote working is here to stay! I personally think companies that aren’t open to remote working and flexibility will be at a real disadvantage, they will struggle to attract and retain talent. People teams need to ensure they’re set up for this structure longer term and that they’re inclusive of all employees and their development, they are on the pulse of how the team is feeling and have regular feedback loops, among many other things.
The use of People Analytics to predict what will happen, rather than asking what did happen and why. Further importance of analytics and ROI to also show the value of the people department, use of it for employee engagement, evaluating recruitment methods, identifying skill gaps and much more.
What are you looking forward to this year both professionally and personally?
Professionally, it would be achieving our growth plans with the support of new processes and structures we’ve put in place and watching the incredibly talented people we have climb through the ranks. Also, being able to host company events, celebrations and really be able to bring our in-person culture back to life when we get together!
And personally, mainly the restrictions being lifted and having an awesome summer! Asides from that, completing my CBT practitioner certification and using my learnings to help and add value to those that need it.
A big thank you to Ashleigh for sharing her story, perspective and practical tips from the past 12 months - we are so excited for what the future holds for her and the Few&Far team.