28 February 2017

We’ve always done things differently at UKFast, our approach to HR included. financial times lawrence jones mbe hr in business ukfast

I honestly believe that in a company like UKFast, which has a relatively flat management structure, there is no need for a human resources department.

Unfortunately HR has a reputation for being too strong and powerful. Ruling with an iron fist and being tied up in bureaucracy.

Ultimately, we’re all grown-ups so we don’t really need HR, we need common sense. That comes easy when management layers are working at the coal face with their teams; there’s little need for an external HR function, it’s managed within teams and senior management.

We’ve always had this approach and it’s been a personal goal of mine to know everyone by name in the business. Of course, as we’ve grown that has become more of a challenge but it is my aim for the whole team to feel comfortable coming directly to me or our MD Jonathan if they need to raise any issues or talk about anything.

I spoke to the Financial Times about this earlier in the week, you can find the article published today on their website.

During the interview I was asked about data. Whilst data is growing in importance in every business, we’ve found that when it comes to HR there’s a risk of focussing too much on data and forgetting the people behind the numbers. When we first began gaining momentum, I set a focus on monitoring call time constantly but it didn’t work. People work better when they are motivated and empowered, not when they feel under the cosh. Instead, we trust our team to work efficiently and we reward people with our raft of unusual benefits like trips to Las Vegas and skiing in Verbier, or with our weekend-long music festival, last year headlined by Example.

I prefer to enable people to develop in themselves, that’s why we have an onsite gym and steam room, daily fitness classes and intolerance and allergy testing. Health and wellbeing is a far more important part of ‘HR’ than red tape and having a head full of numbers.

That’s not to say that data isn’t important. We psychometric test all candidates and new recruits, giving us a comparable graph of how someone learns and thinks, so that we can tailor training and see how they’d fit within teams. It also helps us to predict how people will work together. We also do ‘milestone’ reviews at every key stage – three months, six months, one year, etc – to find out how they’re getting on and how we can improve. The data should supplement the human side of supporting a team. Ultimately, you want to spot problems before they happen. I don’t want data to be the driver.

Whilst not having a focus on traditional HR may seem like a controversial move to many, for us it works. Our management team fulfil that role as naturally supportive people. I believe that if you get the right people on board from the off, there’s no need to treat people like children who need wrangling, which, to me, is what the traditional HR function is at risk of doing.


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