A headshot of Louise Lahiff smiling at the camera against a light pink background.
Louise Lahiff. Image: Version 1

Resisting flexible working ‘could pose a large risk’ to employers

24 Aug 2022

Version 1’s Louise Lahiff discusses some of the key trends HR professionals need to prepare for, including the high demand for flexible working.

Click here to view the full Future of Work series.

As organisations prepare for the future, HR and people practice professionals are at the forefront of transformations, especially when it comes to engaging, attracting and retaining talent.

Louise Lahiff is the director of strategy, planning and people at Version 1. She told SiliconRepublic.com that she didn’t actually set out to work in HR, taking what she referred to as “the squiggly route” to her current role.

“Sometimes non-linear career paths can be seen as a bit unusual, but I view it as constantly changing and ensuring I am doing interesting work where I am learning, engaged and making an impact,” she said.

As part of her role, the HR, talent acquisition and learning and development functions are under her remit, as well as the annual business planning cycle and ensuring the Dublin-based IT services provider delivers on key company initiatives each year.

“This means a huge element of my job is focused on growing, engaging and developing our team. Version 1 is growing rapidly, and we need to make sure we expand our team while we meet the needs of our customers.”

‘We are laying the foundations now to be prepared for the future of work that is coming towards us rapidly’

What are the biggest HR challenges facing Version 1 right now?

I would say that the biggest challenges facing Version 1 – and any business hiring technology professionals right now – relate to growing, developing and engaging our team in tandem with achieving ambitious business growth. We operate a unique business model at Version 1 which is what differentiates us in terms of employee engagement.

Our whole business operates to a sustained quarterly rhythm, and we measure success equally across financial performance, employee engagement and customer success. Each quarter, in each area, we set specific goals and survey our customers and employees to ensure we are making the right impact on them.

If our impact lags in any quarter, or satisfaction dips, we need to react immediately with specific actions. This outcome-focused approach helps us build strong relationships with our customers – and critically it helps us keep our talented team engaged and happy to continue to build their careers with Version 1 for the future.

What HR technology trends and opportunities are you capitalising on?

We’re investing heavily in employee experience, engagement and career development. We’ve focused relentlessly on creating meaningful experiences for everyone in Version 1 and examining all the key touch points of our employees’ journeys.

This has involved implementing best-in-class platforms to streamline and optimise how we welcome employees, how we listen, celebrate and recognise them and all the other important moments that matter in between. I’m very proud of my team for their drive and energy in implementing – in very quick succession – Enboarder, CallOut and our award-winning talent development platform Pathways.

Enboarder has transformed our onboarding experience for new starters, it’s all experience driven. CallOut is our employee recognition platform, where we can give call outs to our colleagues who have gone above and beyond on a project or achievement.

Since its launch in 2021, we have paid more than €800,000 in CallOut rewards to our people, all driven by our people, and I believe the use of a platform like this really indicates the culture of trust and empowerment our people work in.

What has been the biggest culture change within your organisation in the last five years?

Flexible ways of working are of huge importance now. Both our current employees and the technologists we are looking to hire seek remote opportunities, hybrid working and flexibility around where, when and how they work.

Another change that we are currently working on is how we ensure that all Version 1 employees can benefit from our next phase of growth. This means we’ve been working towards making every employee in Version 1 a shareholder.

Partners Group acquired the majority investment in Version 1 earlier this year and to celebrate this milestone in our business we’ve given a bonus to all employees, and that’s indicative of our culture of sharing our profit and success with the people who’ve made it happen.

We already share around 20pc of our profit with employees every quarter depending on how the company and the individual performed, and continued to do so throughout the pandemic, along with a commitment which we fulfilled to not furlough any employees.

To show our appreciation to our people for being with us on our journey so far and to demonstrate that when we all work together to deliver a high performing organisation, we set approximately €8m aside to give a bonus to everybody who wasn’t a shareholder, based on their tenure. We intend to continue to build upon this culture of sharing success with everyone who helps deliver for our customers.

What key strategies, tools and resources are you using to prepare for the future of work?

As I mentioned earlier, flexible ways of working and career development are of critical importance to our people right now and we only see these becoming more important.

Also, we don’t necessarily see tech as a separate industry in years to come. We have a view that it will be in everything, and in fact it already is. In retail, manufacturing, financial services and many other sectors, enabling technology sits at the heart of their business. That means there are huge opportunities for people to build careers for themselves in tech, including those who don’t have a tech background.

We are laying the foundations now to be prepared for the future of work that is coming towards us rapidly. From hiring non-technical graduates and upskilling them in digital skills, to collaborating with fantastic initiatives such as Women ReBOOT, we are creating opportunities for a much broader cohort of candidates to join Version 1 to learn, upskill and attain prestigious technology accreditations, paying for our employees’ industry certifications, exam time, upskilling, and mentoring.

What is the one thing HR teams should either stop doing?

I think unnecessarily resisting the high demand for workplace flexibility and hybrid working could pose a large risk to an organisation, unless their business can’t function with remote workers.

There are many challenges that come with having a hybrid workforce – it is more difficult than having everyone in one place or everyone remote – but organisations will have to adapt their engagement approach and their ways of working to this as it is unlikely to change materially.

The best advice I’ve received is: ‘If you can’t fix it, feature it.’ A HR leader in the hospitality industry where most roles can’t be performed remotely gave me this advice and showed me you shouldn’t avoid featuring a weakness for fear of recruitment challenges.

If you can’t fix or change it – feature it and focus on finding people who want to get out of the house and meet people and socialise instead of worrying about those who don’t.

What is the biggest mistake employers make when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

I think the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to diversity and inclusion is to have a situation where the organisation leaders see it as HR’s ‘problem to fix’ rather than an organisation-wide opportunity to make everyone feel like they are welcome, can be at their best at work and feel like they belong.

This is what led to our #StartsWithaName initiative being launched by my colleague Aoibhe Cantwell, who posed the question ‘How can you belong in a place where people can’t say your name?’ Dr Anita Sands does a brilliant job of explaining DIBs [diversity, inclusion, belonging] and essentially what it tells us is what we all instinctively know – you can have all the diversity in the world and be invited to the dance, but you won’t thrive unless you feel that you belong.

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