This was first published on LinkedIn Talent Voices.
This month sees us launch our new purpose: Enabling You to Thrive in a Changing World. Like any campaign worth its salt, this tagline isn’t something we landed on overnight. Our purpose captures the reason why Hydrogen and Argyll Scott exists and our vision for what we want to change in the world.
Where we’re coming from
In the 16 years I’ve been with Hydrogen Group, I’ve worked with people from all over the business. This perspective is proving to be a real asset in my role as CEO, and has helped shape my vision for the organisation as we move into the next stage of our evolution.
But who I am outside of work has also played a huge role, as it does and should for all of us.
I grew up in a household where the understanding of sacrifice in the pursuit of success was a central concept. Between them, my parents attended 10 Olympic Games spanning four decades, in their capacity as National Coach for Women’s Gymnastics and BBC Commentator for Gymnastics. As a serious gymnast myself, I learnt skills which have stood me in great stead for the world of work. These include concentration, focus, mental resilience and awareness, but also the importance of relationships (here between me and my coach), routine, structure, progression and planning (the list goes on)!
Finally, I had that incredible feeling of happiness coming from the pride I felt when I achieved the goals I had worked tirelessly to achieve from an early age. To me, that is the feeling of thriving. It could have been from winning a competition, but it could also have been learning a new move or finally staying on the beam for a full routine!
When I was asked to be CEO, I was on maternity leave. I know my previous contributions to our culture and work style played a big part in our founder Ian Temple’s decision to offer me the role. Before the pandemic, we were already offering our people the choice to define their workstyles, which seemed ‘out there’ to some at the time. For example, we introduced ‘I own my time’ to allow our teams to work when and where they felt most productive, which had a hugely positive impact on team morale.
Being a sector entirely focused on people, it has always seemed strange to me that organisations have largely avoided tapping into how their people feel, think and behave. At Hydrogen Group, we don’t want people turning up because they have to. We want them there because they feel inspired, happy and motivated to succeed; that looks entirely different based on who you are talking to. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a place for performance indicators, but it’s what you do with them and how you use them that we’re working on.
Giving people choices
I strongly believe if you treat people like adults and give them autonomy and responsibility – they will respond accordingly, and most of the time, positively. It’s about enabling people to thrive and giving them space to keep making the right choices for themselves and our business.
It’s not up to us to make people thrive; it’s about giving our people everything they need to enable themselves to do – and this all comes down to an individual’s preferences, passions, and priorities. When empowering people to be the best versions of themselves, I believe in prevention rather than cure. Wellness days won’t improve someone’s life in the long term; we need to go deeper. I want my teams to understand what makes them tick and conversely, when they’re not doing so great, what they can do to get back to a good place.
Speaking from my own experience, I’m in a new role with an 18-month baby so I have to be mindful and deliberate about how I go about my daily tasks. Visiting our city-based office two days a week allows me to balance my roles, so that I can give my best to the business and my family. I have a clear system to keep me organised; I prep and plan, and am ruthless with where I spend my time to ensure I stay ‘in control’. That sense of stability works well for me, but may look different for someone else at a different stage of their life/career. Having that choice is crucial to success.
I love that our teams don’t have to ‘choose’ between work and home life. If going for a walk during the day or after a difficult call helps you re-gather your focus, why shouldn’t you be able to do that? It takes a huge amount of pressure off when home and work life can co-exist. And if our people are thriving, so will our business.
Changing our language
Historically, success has come down to how you are seen by other people. Do you wear a suit? Do you travel internationally? Do you have a prestigious title? I want people to understand what success looks like for them. To that end, a big part of this project has been changing the language around how we are feeling beyond, “I’m fine.” We encourage people to track how they are progressing on their journey at any given moment (what we call our thrive-o-meter!).
It goes without saying that inclusivity is a crucial part of this conversation. We also ask people to identify their triggers. For instance, what barriers are preventing them from thriving? Is it isolation, family pressures or even a colleague relationship that isn’t working out? We then talk about soothers to get back to a place of thriving – from getting out in nature to dedicated play time with their children. If you understand your own triggers and soothers, you can plan better, work better, and feel better.
Why it’s important to ‘enable’ people, rather than prescribe
From the first day of school, our children spend most of their lives having to make decisions for themselves. To me, loving my son is giving him the support and tools to recognise what makes him happy, what success looks like, and the confidence to go for it. I don’t think my team should be any different.
We must prepare our children for the world they are going to live in; not the world we live in. The same applies to the Gen Z-ers entering the workforce. We’re seeing more recognition now for the soft skills people possess – not just whether they have a degree or can spell. This is where our purpose really kicks in.
Our role is to enable people with the right tools and support, rather than do things for them. This isn’t a soft or fluffy proposition, and we’re already seeing great results. From a business perspective, it is a no-brainer. If we can get 20% more productivity from our colleagues, simply by giving them the time and space to think about themselves and realising that one size doesn’t fit all – why wouldn’t we?
A changing world
To speak to the second part of our new purpose, the world is changing. This is only going to accelerate over the next 10 years, driven by issues like climate change, AI and geopolitical shifts.
By having a focus on our purpose, why we are here and the impact we want to create, we can deliver more. As a business, an employee, or a candidate – we must re-evaluate what makes us thrive all the time. We’re working to understand what our clients and candidates need to thrive in their individual roles and in their wider businesses.
For candidates, this means really understanding what they’re looking for in their next role that will light that spark. What do they want to achieve in life? What’s important to them, and what does their working environment need to look like to support this?
For clients, we’re getting under the skin of their business to understand the kind of people they need to help them succeed. For example, if the role they’re trying to fill needs someone in the office five days a week, we won’t put forward candidates we feel perform better in a hybrid role. Instead, we’ll look for great candidates who thrive being in an office environment. It’s about putting the people and their values first, and going beyond transactional partnerships to enable long-term success.
I’d like to leave you with a simple thought. Imagine a world where every person knew what they needed to do in order to thrive in life. Imagine every business knew what they needed to help their people succeed. Imagine if we all understood our triggers and soothers. We’d have better mental resilience and stronger relationships with our friends and family. The world would be a happier place.
I’d love to hear what you think about this – please share your thoughts with the #TalentVoices hashtag.