The Power of the People

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In an earlier column on sustainability, I focused on process and waste, but sustainability is about so much more than material life-cycles. Successful sustainable businesses also need to perform financially, culturally and socially. It’s about taking the long-term view – and, in my view, the greatest asset to help you achieve that is your people.

The creative collective of businesses I chair has recently won both Best Employer awards and been included in the ‘UK’s Best Workplaces’. I’m incredibly proud of that. Our team members stay a long time, with nearly half with us for six years or more now. The business implications are legion, from internal stability to less time and money wasted on handovers, bedding-in or recruitment agencies. Business is a human activity, but if leaders over-focus on sales and spreadsheets, the real stuff might be passing them by. We believe in having an open door, even if that means it’s rare not to have an HR issue before 11 every morning!

Workplace cultures are tribal, so we try to include future colleagues wherever possible when we recruit new staff. Whilst we don’t always get it right, we mostly do, and those that fall away are often those who don’t meet the company’s values. We have a strong vision of collective respect and expect a strong buy-in too.

As a boss, you have to learn to follow the enthusiasm, as well as the talent. Seeing beyond people’s immediate role is important, as is keeping abreast of generational change. We’ve developed HR initiatives ranging from flexible and work-from-home days to a floating day for special personal occasions, as well as input days for continuing education and a paid day each year to engage with a chosen charity. Special employee effort is recognised in a multitude of ways, from spot awards for going above and beyond to our quarterly and annual values-based ‘EPIC Awards’ (Entrepreneurial, Personable, Intelligent, Collaborative).

It’s a no-brainer that a happy company is not only more productive but creates a better experience for clients too. Investment in people always makes impeccable – and sustainable – business sense.

Claire Menzies, Chairwoman, Istoria Group

Image: Istoria Group board by Martin Parr


About Claire Menzies

Claire Menzies is Chairwoman of Bristol- and Indianapolis-based Istoria Group, a creative collective of three established sister agencies and two innovative start-ups. She is a proven entrepreneur, sustainability champion and passionate advocate for a triple-pronged ‘people, planet and profit’ business vision.
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