The importance of positive work culture through HR

Alicia McMahon, our Human Resources Manager, discusses our staff expansion over the past 12 months off the back of our latest staff social event, detailing the work she has been implementing over the past year to improve HR policies and procedures, drive employee engagement, and build a positive culture within the company.

On the back of a staff social event last week, just one of the incentives in place to drive employee engagement and build a positive culture within the company. I thought it would be the right time to write a piece all about the recruitment and expansion we’ve experienced in the past year, and the projects and systems we’re putting in place to ensure this growth is sustained.

Our expansion over the past 12 months

The company has come on leaps and bounds in the past 12 months, more than doubling the number of staff and bringing the need for new HR procedures and incentives to be put in place. I firmly believe that our people are our greatest asset, and we need to take care of our employees if we want to continue to grow the business. When I joined, the Seventy Ninth Group was a small company with just 6 staff members, but in less than a year, we have grown incredibly fast, now with 34 people working in head office alone – and we’re still growing!

This quick expansion obviously brings with it a lot of challenges, and changes had to be made to bring the company forward and align it with the principles needed for larger companies. You don’t grow from 6 to over 30 employees in a year without the ability to adapt swiftly.  

As HR Manager, I have been busy putting together comprehensive HR policies and procedures, as well as organising staff engagement activities and internal communications, so that this transition in growth goes smoothly and everything is in place to facilitate this (and further) growth.

Developing our brand culture and ensuring inclusivity

Brand and culture are key components of every successful business. Over the past year, I’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy to building a brand culture that works for our company. The Seventy Ninth Group is rooted in the fact that it’s a family-owned and family-run business. Although we have expanded significantly this year, we don’t want to lose that family feeling and friendly, open and honest culture. But we had to balance this with the fact we needed a much more robust HR policy for a company of our size.

Our hiring process has evolved to ensure that all of our recruitment is fair and transparent. Equally we ensure that our internal promotion process is fair and enables progression for all, with clear steps outlined on how this progression can be achieved. We also provide internal support to anyone with any issues with health, illness, mental health struggles or any other issue that they may have.

On top of these more general policy updates, we’ve also implemented several new perks and are looking at implementing a range of additional staff benefits to reward our staff for all their continued hard work. What works informally for a small team doesn’t always work in a large office with multiple departments, so we need a model that supports staff retention and manages expectations.

There are times when fast growth can present some real challenges in terms of ensuring that the culture of a business is retained. But, by ensuring the delivery of effective staff training, protecting business continuity and recognising the diversity of staff, both personally and professionally, and by ensuring that when we’re hiring, we’re not just hiring skills, we’re also hiring the correct personalities, these challenges can be overcome and the growth of the business can be achieved successfully without compromising the culture and values of the company.

Staff social events

One of the things I’ve started to implement is staff events, like the one we had on in August, to get everyone together and encourage the teams to mingle and get to know each other. With so many new faces and a number of existing staff moving into new roles, we felt this was a great time to celebrate the last 12 months of incredible growth and success.

These events go a long way in supporting a great working culture and cultivating passion for the company within the team. If we treat our team well and ensure everyone feels valued, then people will enjoy coming to work and feel positive about the company, helping to create a happy, healthy culture which, in turn, reduces employee turnover. In such a fast-paced environment, motivation is crucial.

Working with us

Staff events are just one small thing in a much wider employee engagement plan. Over the past year, I’ve introduced several new policies, including staff perks such as the employee benefits package PerkBox, health and wellbeing programmes, and investment in training to develop staffs skills helping them to further their own careers and ensure they’re equipped with the tools they need to complete their job successfully. And this is just the beginning; there are many things I’m still working on with senior management to implement in the coming months.

One of the big things we’re doing is reimagining the process of annual reviews to remove the old outdated methods of performance management, which can be disengaging for staff. Instead, we want to introduce something more collaborative and constructive whilst being less formal and corporate. This all ties into the positive reinforcement policy we’re implementing to improve motivation levels, engagement, productivity and retention.

Another great thing about working at the Seventy Ninth Group is that because we’re a smaller, family-owned business, the chain from senior management to junior staff is relatively short. This means that even the most junior staff get to chat with, and be mentored by, the senior management team; which really helps them to further develop their skills and grow within the company. We have an open-door policy here, which means anyone can come and chat with whoever they want to, and it has helped develop a relaxed, open and friendly working environment.

Looking to the future

The learning curve for me has been recognising how employee policies can adapt, depending on the structure of a company. Anyone who has worked in a family business will know how specific the culture can be and I’ve tried really hard to build a vision that supports staff but also retains the intentions of the family who created the business two years ago.

Things change, but some things should stay the same.  

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