Opportunity knocks...

In previous posts I've touched on how the culture change has affected our People and how leadership is not a position, but an action.

This post follows the same format of it's predecessors which involved Karla and Karen. I'll be asking the questions and then our Head of New Channels & Cross Sell, Jo Whiting, will be answering; telling us about her career development and journey during her time here.

How long have you been at HomeServe? What roles have you had? What is it that you do now?

I have worked at HomeServe for five years, a milestone that was recently celebrated by the company. Throughout this time, and especially within the last few years, I have been given incredible opportunities to take on different roles and develop as a professional and as a leader.

Initially, as a Marketing Manager, my focus was very much on process and detail but as I stepped up to a more senior level I recognised the need to shift this focus towards engaging my team and driving strategy. And, despite this being during the time HomeServe was experiencing regulatory challenge, I was given the chances and the support to progress.

This was accelerated when Greg joined the company and started to drive the People culture that we have now. He recognised that I could adapt my skills to support a major business change project which was a great opportunity for me to make a difference.

Then in May last year I took the step up to an exciting new role as Head of New Channels and Cross-Sell after taking 10 months off for Maternity leave. The leadership team believed in my potential and it meant I did not have to put my career or family life on hold, because HomeServe has allowed me to do both.

Greg: I would not be much of a talent evaluator if I had not realized right away that Jo had all the technical skills but more importantly the drive and desire to be a leader in the new kind of Customer focused business we were going to build at HomeServe.  It seems so long ago that Jo worked with a handful of very driven People in Paul Gomersall's early direct marketing team to begin what seemed at the time the nearly impossible task of restarting acquisition marketing from the still warm ashes of the FCA investigation.  Jo was one of those who never flinched and helped to grow acquisition marketing back into a core strength at HomeServe.  That Jo and the team did first primarily in direct mail while waiting for digital and our other channels to develop is a great story for another day.

You’ve recently returned from maternity leave. Is the environment supportive enough? Any surprises?

As well as returning after 10 months out, I had to step up to a new role. I was prepared for this to be a challenge, but within two weeks back I felt like I’d never been away. This is because of the People of HomeServe: I am surrounded by a great team. From my first day back it was clear that everyone was striving to achieve the same goal and we were all on the journey together. I was also given the flexibility to reduce my working hours, giving me extra quality time with my son. There is no battle between getting a work-life balance.

The only surprise when returning was the number of new faces, but from a growing company I suppose this is to be expected.  It just meant more People for me to talk to and share new experiences with.

Greg: We could not wait to get Jo back as we knew the new products and channels would give her so much to work with on her return.  We also knew that she would be able to step up into her new role as a Head of Department without missing a beat.  How did I know?  You can just tell with some People that they will just not let themselves fail if you just give them enough support and direction. They will do the rest.  Jo was at this point; the point where she was ready for take off.

How did your manager help you prepare to step up to a Head of Department level?  What is more important – formal classes or on the job development?

We work in an environment where feedback is encouraged and achievement is recognised and this has helped me know that I am heading in the right direction. I think trust has also been a big thing; I have been given the opportunity to drive projects independently, but have the reassurance that should I need help or advice, it is always there.  My peers have also been extremely supportive, offering honest experiences, feedback and sharing useful tips.

Supported by the company, I’ve completed my Chartered Institute of Marketing formal qualification which has given me a good foundation of theory to use at work, and this has been balanced by ongoing on-the-job development. We have so many initiatives available to us including an over-subscribed business ‘book club’, a great mentor programme and Greg’s door is always open if we want a 121 or even just a chat about how things are going.  There’s also a programme of internal courses run by our Learning team, and all leaders are currently taking part in a year-long development programme.

One thing I really love though is that we’re encouraged to get closer to the front-line, by spending time call-listening or visiting Customers’ homes with our engineers.  This helps us to understand the impact we have on the Customer experience and ultimately how we can support one another in our daily roles to drive that effortless journey.

Ultimately I think it is down to the individual to drive their own development, however it is made much more effortless when you have all of this available to you.

Greg: Jo is a young leader who will take everything you can offer in development and then will repay you ten fold.  Leaders and managers need to find these People, give them the tools they need, and then get out of their way.

Has the effortless strategy made your job easier?  Does focusing on People and then Customers really work?  Are there conflicts between targets and looking after Customers?

I constantly hear and read from top business leaders that Employee engagement is key to a Company’s success. I have seen this first-hand over the last few years at HomeServe - our People are put first and Customer satisfaction and growth has just followed as a result.

Our employee engagement score has recently been announced and we’ve seen a transformational change over the past few years.  This hasn’t been down to one thing - in fact, it is all the little things that have been implemented that have come together to make this difference.

However, one of the big changes we’ve experienced is that, right through the business, we are empowered to do the right thing. If something doesn’t feel right, we do whatever we can to change it and our regular Customer and People First forums give us the opportunity to do this.  Receiving positive feedback from our Customers makes it all worth while. 

When we introduced our People Charter last year, I was appointed as a People Champion to help being our Charter to life. I’m lucky that this is an easy job because everyone is already on the journey with us.  It helps that we have a strategy, and more importantly we all know the part we have to play to get there.  Seeing 2,500 People heading in the same direction is pretty exciting and as long as we continue to do the right thing we will go from strength to strength. I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.

Greg:  When you try a People first strategy there is always that moment where you look to see who will really run with the empowerment and then you just hold your breath waiting to see what they will deliver for the Customer and the business.  Jo has delivered again and again.  The new business she has helped to drive the past 3 years is the solid foundation on which we all build our future.  I know I'm not alone in wanting to see what Jo will do next.