FinancialForce.com doesn’t have an HR director as such. Instead they have a senior director for Employee Success. It may just seem like a difference in words, but in fact it marks a completely different approach to the role of recruitment and staff development.
“The title came about because we wanted something that reflected the role – it is about facilitating performance. We wanted to put a more positive spin on it,” says Kirsten Brumfitt, who holds the role at the Harrogate-based firm which was recently named as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces by Great Places to Work.
Facilitating performance means providing the right work culture and conditions for employees to thrive. Increasingly – and across all age groups – that means ensuring they have the right work life balance.
“People appreciate time away from work,” says Kirsten. “We definitely need to reflect that change and that work is no longer about the 9 to 5.” A significant percentage of the cloud accounting firm’s employees work predominantly from home, although they are also encouraged to come into the office regularly to have face to face meetings and to avoid the sense of isolation which can come from working permanently from home.
The firm also ensures that homeworkers feel included through technology such as Google hangouts and Go to meeting and that they are treated equally. For instance, they do an Easter egg delivery to homeworkers so they don’t miss out on Easter activities in the office. “We want people to feel part of the organisation and we have to work hard to ensure that,” says Kirsten. It’s a two-way process in which both employer and employee play their part.
“It is in the DNA of the organisation to support employees and offer them the flexibility they want,” Kirsten adds, saying flexible working has been in place since the firm was set up in 2009 and extends right up to senior leadership – the senior vice president of product development Debbie Ashton has a young family and works remotely, managing to maintain a high level of visibility on the intranet messaging system.
Kirsten only joined the business recently but says she has become “an evangelist” for its approach. “If we want to keep good people we need to be flexible and to trust that they are professionals who will get the job done. The trust works both ways.” If people want to change the hours or location they work their manager sits down with Kirsten’s team to talk through the implications for their team. There may be a trial period to test that it is right for all those affected.
Julie Walsh, UK Media Relations Manager, adds that the nature of the business which enables people to work from anywhere at any time means it makes sense to offer that possibility to staff.
Diversity and employee feedback
Like many in the sector, diversity at the top is an issue, which is in part due to the education system, says Kirsten. Only 20% of senior leadership are women, although at a more junior level that is closer to 60/40 in favour of men which is better than most of their competitors, she says, adding that FinancialForce.com has good structures in place to ensure that talent is recognised and rewarded. Its maternity policy aims to encourage women to return – there is enhanced pay of up to £6,000 a year and women who are coming back from maternity leave are actively encouraged to think if they want to return full time so they don’t feel it is difficult to ask.
The company, which was founded in the US, has grown significantly since 2013 and now has around 241 UK employees, but is keen to maintain its focus on employees, encouraging managers to have regular one to ones, to listen to feedback and to keep communicating so that any problems can be spotted and acted on early.
The proof of the effectiveness of what it is doing is not just through external recognition such as Best Places to Work, but through the fact that 50% of people recruited to the firm come through employee recommendations.
“We offer a good work life balance and are innovative in the benefits we offer, such as community days where employees have a chance to give something back to the local community,” says Kirsten, adding that there are also employee discounts, vending machines offering healthy options, gym discounts and family health packages.
She adds: “The difference is our culture. People see that it is a reality and not just rhetoric.”