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Flexible working has enabled IT firm Kloud to grow rapidly, to retain staff and to have a significantly higher than average number of women working in the organisation, including at senior level. Global Development Director Nicola MacDonald-Dodin talks to Workingmums.co.uk.
The company has grown by 20% each year since it was set up in 2010 by three consultants and specialises in offering Workday, enterprise-level cloud-based software solutions for financial management and human resource. The three consultants did not have the capital at the time to buy physical office space and employed people they had known in the sector for many years. “It naturally evolved that the culture was quite trusting, there was an ambition to create something different, with a smarter way of working at the heart of this vision ” says Nicola MacDonald-Dodin, the company’s Global Development Director.
Kloud now has 73 employees and covers five different countries, including France and Poland. It is headquartered in London, with further offices in Paris and Amsterdam. Nicola says all respond very well to the remote working model it has established and that clients are very amenable to this way of working as it keeps their costs down. “We very much share an ethos that so long as we get the job done it doesn’t matter how we do it,” says Nicola. She has noticed that the clients Kloud works with are becoming more progressive and accepting of the way they work. Some of the early adopters were innovators in any event, but even the more traditional firms who might be wary of flexible working become gradually more enthusiastic once they have built up a relationship with the firm.
The firm’s management style is collaborative. Each consultant has a manager who leads their consultancy practice and who is trained in the company’s flexible culture. Some 38% of its staff are female, which is significant in IT, and although the board of directors is made up of the three founders who are all men, three of the seven-strong senior management team are women. Nicola herself has four children and says she could not work in a traditional office environment. Based in France, she works three and a half days a week, largely from home, and travels for work purposes four days a month.
Many of Kloud’s staff have young children. They include a husband and wife who share the school run between them and a dad who took a month off work on unpaid leave when his son was about to start school. “We find it is a huge benefit for the business,” says Nicola. “We have a 95% retention rate which is in no small part because we give people the ability to work flexibly.” It is not just parents who work flexibly – one member of staff, for instance, is training to do a marathon.
The culture has seen them shortlisted for the Workingmums.co.uk’s 2014 Top Employer Awards and helped them attract employees with a good track record. “Some of our competitors offer salaries that are significantly higher than ours, but we have not seen a lot of people leaving because they really do appreciate the flexibility, often more than monetary rewards,” says Nicola. In addition, Kloud offers other benefits, including long service rewards in the form of Amazon vouchers and paid leave for voluntary work. It is currently looking at providing health cover.
Although the culture has not changed over the past four years, as the business has grown there have been challenges with regard to offering the same benefits across different countries with different legislation and practices. Communication with a growing number of staff has been another area the firm has had to address. Kloud now uses the video and web conferencing system Lync, Skype and Instant Messenger to keep in touch as well as the traditional telephone. The company has its own intranet and has recently introduced Yammer. “It builds a real team spirit,” says Nicola.
Everyone in the firm has to come to a face to face meeting in London every four months, including those based in Europe. The meeting focuses on strategy, training and there is a big social component too. “It’s expensive, but we save money on using a remote model,” says Nicola, “and this has allowed us to grow fairly rapidly. It’s essential to have some face to face meetings from a social perspective so people can interact and feel part of a common vision.”. She adds: “We don’t have a 9-5 working culture and as a result of not micro-managing people we find they will bend over backwards to meet deadlines. There is a real sense of community.”