Value every individual and 3 other tips on creating a galvanised team

How do you build a team of people where each brings their best self to work every day? We asked the people who know: Ruth Partington, CEO and Jennifer Perryman, Head of Human Resources at Empower Translate. As the Best Place to Work winners at the 2021 Market Research Society (MRS) Awards, here are their top tips.


Value every individual 

For Jennifer, what sets Empower apart is that they treat people as individuals. “We’re not just employees: we don’t even use that term as a business,” she explains. “Even though the company is growing, it still very much feels like we’re a family with family values. We can all be ourselves, be open and bring everything to the table. 

“And that’s what matters to people. It allows them to be innovative and not fear suggesting ideas or questioning something. It’s all too easy to introduce gimmicks like Yoga Fridays or pizza lunches, but that’s not what counts.”

“I’ve always felt that strong culture and now we’re really reinforcing it with better policies around family, promoting work life balance and career pathing.”

Be truly flexible 

“Work and life are so intertwined these days that it’s impossible to separate the two,” believes Ruth. “We all have emotional calls on our time. When you’re working and you have a call that comes from another part of your life, why shouldn’t you be able to react?”

“It’s about saying, ‘Look, actually we don’t need you to work nine to five. You can work the hours that work for you.’ After all, everybody lives with the best of intentions.”

To bring it to life, Jen explains: “I’m a single mum. I’ve had to rely on a level of understanding and flexibility for me to be able to fulfil my role but there’s never been any question that I could do it at Empower.”

And it’s not just about being flexible with working hours, but also in thinking. “Someone might start in the wrong role but we empower people to move to the right place in the company,” says Ruth. “What if you’re a project manager and would be happier running a service department for example? Allowing that conversation opens up so much more innovation and creativity.”

Listen openly 

Ruth is keen to embed a Thinking Environment. “It’s a philosophy about how to behave in a group,” she explains. “It means we all actively listen, really allowing people to have their voice heard.” 

“It makes a huge difference when you log on in the morning knowing that you are going to be recognised. This is especially true when we’re not all together like in the days before COVID when we could pick up on body language.” 

She also recommends not shying away from difficult conversations. “These are tough times. Especially in this remote working environment, people need to know you are there for them and care about their mental health.”

Communicate everything, even the financials 

The senior team works to ensure every single person in the company understands the current state of play and future aims. Ruth explains: “Our vision, values and strategy are aligned. Everything is connected, everything is consistent. It’s all over the intranet, it’s our handwriting, it’s our tone of voice – all the way through, we keep those values alive.” 

“Our company conference, regular company meetings, CPD training…these kinds of things give people a sense of belonging and communal purpose,” Ruth reveals. “That carries you forward even through quite significant change, which we’ve all experienced through the pandemic.” 

Ruth always tries to keep the human being at the heart of everything, adding: “Be authentic in that! It’s human instinct to sniff out lack of authenticity in a heartbeat.”

“Our aim is to provide longevity and stability for employees and the company so we’re also very open about our financials, ensuring everybody is aware of targets and actively involved in playing their part.” 

Jennifer believes that the best communication is 2-way. “Everyone gets the opportunity to contribute and I think that means they genuinely feel they play a part in the journey of the business. Decisions aren’t just made and dictated down. We always consult the whole way through.”

“It’s a really beautiful cycle,” she adds. “The more invested people are, the better they feel, the better they perform and the better the results for the business.”

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