STEVE: And hello. Hi. Verity and Tom.


TOM: Hey.

STEVE: Welcome to The Experience Designers.

TOM: Thank you for having us.

STEVE: So, Tom.

TOM: Yeah.

STEVE: Let's kick off. A little bit about yourself. Intro.

TOM: Yeah, my name's Tom. I've been working within work for five years, six years. Currently at hibob, working as -- heading up the Nordics roll over here. So heading up the expansion of the company to Stockholm, originally and further afield. That's me, really. Two-and-a-half years here.

STEVE: Awesome. Cool. Where were you before? Just out of interest.

TOM: Company called Qubit.

STEVE: Okay.

TOM: Which really do understand employee experience.

STEVE: Right.

TOM: Yeah.

STEVE: Okay. Very cool. So you've kind of been in HR experience, kind of arena, what, since graduating? Or ...

TOM: No. So my -- my experience and my -- more of experience comes within sales, essentially. So I've worked within being a BD or BDM, for around six years now.

STEVE: Awesome.

TOM: Yeah.

STEVE: Verity.

VERITY: Hello.

STEVE: How are you?

VERITY: I'm good. Thank you for having me. So a little bit about me. So I'm going to bring something slightly different to the table, because this is my first proper career job here at hibob.

STEVE: Love it.

VERITY: I did my masters in English Literature and my undergrad in Film and English. And I landed in a tech startup, which is quite interesting. And I think what I can bring is a different perspective on my expectations of what a modern workforce should provide, because this is my first role. And in a very forward thinking one as well, which is all about the employee experience. So that's kind of what I can bring to the table today.

STEVE: Awesome.

TOM: On a side note, I did politics and geography.


STEVE: Okay, that's super. Well, actually, that's the kind of expectation that I had coming -- coming here today, which is funny because I really wanted a -- I don't want to say younger, but it is a younger perspective. And to get -- yeah, just to see, because everyone has a different perspective and view on the world. So before we get started, I have a surprise for you both.


STEVE: So as you both -- because Tom, we missed each other literally this week in Stockholm.

TOM: Yeah.

STEVE: And Verity. In fact, I met you both last year in Stockholm, and I know how much you like the Nordics. I know you've got a particular thing, Verity, about the Nordics.

VERITY: I am a bit obsessed.

STEVE: You are, aren't you?

VERITY: It's getting a bit weird.

TOM: Just even dressed quite like [inaudible].

VERITY: I love it, I love it.

STEVE: So, I thought -- I thought this morning at a very stupid early hour, but anyway, I don't know if either of you have come across bread and salt.


STEVE: Yeah?

VERITY: We had -- we had our Fika break there.

STEVE: Awesome. Okay, so in my humble opinion, and I've only been there two and a half years, they actually do the best bullar. So I actually brought all the way from Stockholm two types of bullar.

VERITY: No way!

STEVE: Which is a cardamom one, and a -- what's the other one? It's a -- that's cardamom and that's -- what do you call it?

TOM: That's very sweet.

STEVE: There we go. See? Now Tom won't -- Tom won't be speaking for a while, now.

VERITY: He's straight in there.

TOM: I love it! Thank you very much.

STEVE: You're very welcome.

VERITY: That is amazing.

STEVE: A little bit of Stockholm with me. So -- okay, so look, let's jump right in. Let's kick on about -- because there's a lot of talk about employee experience. And there is a lot of talk about employee engagement. And at the grand old age of 44, employee engagement's been around an awfully long time. And I'm really fascinated that it's kind of coming back again in a really weird way. And I guess it probably hasn't ever left, but it seems to be getting traction again. So I just wanted to throw it kind of back to you both to really just discuss employee engagement. What does that mean to you both? What's your perspectives? And then we can get into employee experience as well. Any thoughts?

TOM: Yes. Shall I go first?


TOM: So I think employee engagement, I've been only -- been there working five years. And for me, I really only understood it whilst working with -- at hibob, within the sort of space where you can pick up the knowledge around it. I've always felt it, but didn't know how to attach a word to it.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: So, we've all been through periods of -- personally, I've been through periods where I've been so engaged, I'm working so well, and, like, at a level where maybe I didn't even know that I could work at. I'm sort of spamming off emails, I'm writing articles and whatnot, and I'm really proud of the work I'm doing. But then there's other times where I don't even want to come to work.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And I think that's when you, -- for me, that's what I see is engagement is when I'm wanting to get out of bed that hour earlier and I'm wanting to leave, and I'm not finding that as a sort of tax on my life.


STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And yeah, how I see engagement is difficult to measure. I think it's like an individual thing, and that's why I'm giving my personal experience on it. I think you can feel happy and that can be engagement, or you can feel really productive, that's how I see it. But there's a lot of different variants on that. What do you think Verity?

VERITY: Absolutely. I think as -- we've spoken about this quite a lot.

TOM: Yeah.

VERITY: And I think engagement is quite an emotional word. And it is very personal. So for me, I feel like I'm more of an advocate for the company, when I'm engaged, which is obviously in the company's best interests. So I'm more likely to be posting on LinkedIn, sharing my experiences with my prospects, with -- with my employees. So that's a really big thing for me. And again, it all comes down to productivity. And, you know, if I want to come in early, it's not because I feel pressured to come in early, it's just because I want to get that extra hour's work in.

TOM: If I'm -- if I'm productive, I'm happy. Because I feel like I'm doing a good job.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And if I feel like I'm doing a good job, that sort of makes me feel like the world is right at work.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: I guess what makes me really engaged here at bob is the ability to be more autonomous. So being able to carry outside projects that aren't actually related to my day job, that is for me engagement.

TOM: Yeah.

VERITY: And having that there means a lot to me. And I would want that for my next role as well.

STEVE: So what drives engagement? Where -- if you were to put accountability to it, you know, who's responsible? Who -- where does it sit? Where is that kind of stemming from?

TOM: I think a lot of it's to do with the culture and the environment that you work in. I don't want to -- I'm trying to stay away from the word "experience," but it's the environment that you work in. And that's nurtured and cultivated, in my opinion, from the top down. When you're building a company, there's only a few people in the room at that time, and if they can define a culture or work on a culture, and as you grow and get more employees, that culture should evolve, and mold with the thought process that initially went into it.

STEVE: Mm-hmm.

TOM: So I think it's the responsibility primarily of your founders, or your C level, or the people running it from the start. But I think you've got to take your own responsibility of being engaged, because we all -- we live some -- we live in a site workspace where people like to complain. It's easy to jump on that bandwagon. I think if you can take yourself away from that. Like, everyone's -- I'm not saying that I'm not, you know, haven't been there and responsible for it. If you can take yourself away from that, I think that's sometimes quite difficult. It does -- the onus is on you, but I think it stems from the people running the organization.

STEVE: Yeah. Management leadership.

TOM: Yes.

STEVE: Stems through. With more hierarchy.

TOM: Yeah, yeah.

STEVE: Yeah, definitely.

VERITY: I would also add as well, it's about defining what are the right behaviors that we should encourage in the workplace. And they have to be good behaviors. So not just burning out and working way too hard, but encouraging positivity. This is something I've been speaking about a lot with HR managers at the moment, is just finding out what are those right behaviors, and -- and just encouraging that. And people will figure it out for themselves.

STEVE: Yeah, yeah. I think one thing to mention as well is I think there's -- we shouldn't have an expectation that we should be engaged all the time.

VERITY: Mm-hmm.

STEVE: Because, you know, as humans, we -- you know, we have our good days and bad days. And actually, when you're not having a perhaps as an engaged day, that's cool, too. And sometimes people need reflection, or just that period of like, but it isn't judged, or then becomes a thing, which actually isn't. So people are given that -- allowed to give that space as a culture that is either supportive, or allows people to just be a little bit more, okay, just be themselves. And then they'll -- they'll come back to the table and all, you know, things change. So it's a mental health aspect as well I think in this somewhere, for sure.

VERITY: Totally. This is something Tom, you've actually spoken about a lot recently, is engagement. Again, it goes back down to that emotional thing. So it kind of puts pressure on people to feel engaged all the time.

TOM: Yeah.

STEVE: Interesting.

TOM: It does. And I think -- I think it's all about trust. I think the people, the leaders of the organization, whether it be managers -- and I think a lot of engagement needs to come from managers, but it's the company's responsibility to provide those managers the tools to engage their teams. But I think when it comes to leadership and mental health, and saying you're actually allowed to not be engaged today, you're actually allowed to have an off-day, that comes from training I believe, and development, and more around sort of human development, rather than just developing them as an employee, developing them as a person and trying to round them off as a manager so they can actually allocate their resources in the most efficient and productive way to their teams.


STEVE: Yeah. So what -- okay. I find there's a -- and I know we talked about -- we didn't want to mention the M-word.


STEVE: However, generations. Because there's definitely been a lot of talk about this kind of clash happening at the moment, where there has been this kind of acceleration of, I think, just evolution of people generally, I think. And there's been this kind of, you know, this kind of either autocratic, or command-and-control style leadership which, you know -- and then you've got this new wave coming through and then this kind of clash happening at the moment. What have you seen? Have you seen anything to support that, or anything that you've come across or heard?

TOM: I actually -- I like the word. The M-word. I only like it now -- I used to not like it, but I like it now because I find it really interesting, because I think it should be, like, sub-categorized into, like, loads of different things. I think it should be, like, almost like three parts of -- because that -- that era was so disruptive.

STEVE: Yes. So Verity and I have agreed there's a ...

TOM: You're not allowed to use the word.

STEVE: Well we can, but then there's going to be a forfeit. Which -- no I'm only joking. Go for it.

TOM: But I think I haven't -- talking about my -- talking about our experience right now, the workforce is incredibly young. I feel I'm out of the team on our level, I'm one of the oldest in the environment. I'm 28.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: Which is fantastic. I think it just depends. I think -- I speak to people all the time, running people teams, and we sometimes have conversations around this exact thing. And it mainly boils around mental health and people -- people maybe of old generations -- and this is generalizing -- don't see it as, like, a -- see it as a faux pas to talk about individual things like that.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: Again, generalizing. A lot of people don't see that. But maybe if you blanket it, that might be the case. I think maybe that's why people clash.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: I think age has always been a clash in workplaces.

STEVE: Yeah, I don't think that's changed. So -- but it's always been the same.

TOM: Yeah, but I think it's just highlighted now.


TOM: And I think even stuff about mental health can be blanketed. And I think people can take that word a bit too literally and talk about it like it's nothing.

STEVE: Well, I was -- I mean, I was at an event, which you two would have loved actually this week, which is in our new office at the park in Sota [SP??], and Singularity Nordic were running an event. And Laila who's one of the chief exec who runs the Singularity Nordic part anyway, she raised a really valid point around mental health. And there's been a real correlation around the increase in mental health, versus the exponential growth of technology. And in a -- but in addition to that, just the amount of stuff and information that we're having to -- to deal with. And the only thing we have is time, and we've only got so much time. But now we've actually got so much more coming at us in that kind of tiny bit of time that we tend to have, certainly when we're awake, that -- that there's some correlation around mental health problems around that as well. Which is really an interesting, interesting view around that. So look, just in terms of experience, let's jump to that. Let's make a change. So, "Employee experience." Those two words right now. They're really hot, which I think it's amazing. I genuine -- I've been around long enough to say, I'm really happy to see this now very much growing in pace and a movement's happening, for sure. Because, you know, it just hasn't -- it hadn't been 20 years ago, this thing wouldn't, you know, employee experience and actually designing it, it's like, "Wow! Okay." So we've gone and got this thing in employee engagement, which tends to be a bit more reactive in how it makes you feel. Whereas we have employee experience, which can be actually designed and preempted and created in a way that actually then people experience it more proactively. So that's how I see it. How these two ends kind of coming along. So just what's your -- what's your views around employee experience?

VERITY: Sure. So again, Tom and I have been doing a lot of ...

TOM: We talk a lot!

VERITY: Yeah, we do. Well, we both work in the Nordic region together, so we do talk a lot, I think every day. So yeah, I think what we've spoken about is the real difference here is the engagement is more emotional, but the -- the experience is more holistic. So it causes a lot more elements. For example, the well-being, the performance review, the culture, the environment that you work in. It's -- it's a lot more different elements to one kind of holistic area.

TOM: Yeah, it's all encompassing?

VERITY: All-encompassing. Yeah.


TOM: I think it's also on the responsibility of the organization, which I love. I think engagement almost is something which, like, employees should feel, that's on you to be engaged. But experience is, as you said, something that organizations have a responsibility to refine, define and execute properly and mold.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And it's a topic that I've become naturally weirdly passionate about. And I think it is on the -- it's on the responsibility of the organization -- to make sure the experience of the individual is a good experience. And I love that about that. And I think engagement is a direct correlation of it.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And I think if you can get the experience right, which is incredibly difficult, based on everyone being different ...

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: If you can get that right.

STEVE: Yeah. And I think genuinely, I'm not just using another two buzzwords, but this for me is where design thinking really plays a part, because it's human centered. It's, you know, using a, you know, empathetic viewpoint, it's understanding the needs, wants and desires of -- of every single person. So, you know, when I look at kind of employee journey, employee experience, I kind of break it -- I -- in my mind, I break it into kind of four areas. So you've got hiring, onboarding, culture, and exit. And exit is so underrated. I mean, you could design an exit experience, how that looks, feels, and then engage -- engage in that super simple.

STEVE: But you do that through carrying out research, understanding it, and creating, obviously a journey map for some kind of insights. And then, you know, ideating and creating some ideas around, like, how can we then solve some of the issues? How can we get more boomerangs coming back into our business? So even just that very small snippet, you can design that. The big challenge that I found, and I haven't got the answer on this one just yet, although I'm hoping to get there, how do we design a full end-to-end? Because if you just break those four areas down for a minute, each of the stakeholders are just vastly different. And think about that in a large organizational structure and culture. That's the challenge that I find. I think it's -- you can do a candidate experience journey program and experience design, you can do it definitely in onboarding. I found that some of the content recently I shared got quite a lot of engagement. It seems to be a hot topic, still. Still can't believe companies don't get that. And then there's culture and exit. So I -- yeah. I, you know, that's my viewpoint. That's how I kind of see it and view it from my perspective.

TOM: I think it's much easier to see a start-up and trying to execute a good experience plan, because you can see everything in the room.

STEVE: Yeah, very good. Very true.

TOM: You were saying from a larger wide scale, that must be so difficult. I think, like, people -- people, like, see employee experiences -- well, I see employee experiences, the number of interactions you have across your life cycle. But if you have -- if you don't have as much control -- that's not necessarily the right word, but maybe you don't have the right people interacting with those individuals or individuals interacting with individuals. I think it's around hiring the right people.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And those are the people, and implementing the right tech to go alongside that, because it's digital touch points as well. It's difficult.


STEVE: It's super complex. And that requires, you know, a variety of competency -- revise -- it requires a lot of skills and a lot of stakeholders to bring it together. So that's -- I mean, I'm kind of pinning my hopes on things like design. I think that has a big part to play in organizations. It's already starting to see now, starting to see some real statistics. I think McKinsey were at an event over in Asia a couple of weeks ago. There was a chat there. He was sharing some really nice insights around return on investment and, you know, when we start kind of taking out the fluffy experience words, and getting into some real credible, like, return on investment, that's when the kind of the board level C-suites then start to recognize that. So I'm definitely -- we're definitely seeing it, for sure. Kind of certainly CHR -- CHRO level, and more and more into the -- onto the board level. So okay, let's talk about start-up then. So you -- because you've been around, you know, a tech environment of fast growth. Well done on the investment I read this morning.


TOM: 20 million. Yes.

STEVE: Yeah!

VERITY: And that was our Series A post.

STEVE: Love it! That was out of someone's back pocket. No, there you go [laughs]. And I saw Josh Bersin talking about hi-bob as well, right? So, by the way, I'm not endorsed today on hi-bob, I just -- I'm sitting in their office with two people I met and really like. So it's kind of -- yes, that's why I'm here.

TOM: You're allowed to say it.

STEVE: Yeah, yeah. It's good. So yeah, just tell me a little bit -- yeah, just tell me a little bit more about what you see kind of from the HR tech environment, and what kind of -- what's happening in that space right now.

VERITY: Sure. So it is a very interesting space. I think there's a big gap in the market in terms of experience-led HR tech.


VERITY: There's a lot of great tools out there which are really good for kind of doing your HR day-to-day. But really, in terms of experience design, I think that's the next step in the evolution of tech. So it's something we're -- we're obviously working on, and touching on at the moment, but I think that really is the natural progression.

STEVE: Yeah, yeah.

TOM: I think it's gone through a bit of a revolution over the last sort of five, six years, even though I've only been working in it for two and a half. But from what I just see just in investment, you know, out of any sectors had more investment in the tech space. So that's one thing. But also just the way that it's viewed within the organization and the importance now people -- it plays within organizations. People are starting to actually wake up and smell the roses about it all. Which is -- which is great when you sell it. Yeah, I think you're right. I think employee experience will be the next design model in regards to tech, a hundred percent.

STEVE: Come on, Verity.

VERITY: I actually remember from your previous podcast, Steve, which was in Denmark with -- was it Morton?


VERITY: Yes. And he was -- had some really interesting stuff to say about the consumer experience, and how that ties in with the employee experience.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: And I think, you know, with things like WeWork and Slack all creating this kind of world of ease and instant access, and more mirroring your home everyday life, and I think, you know, in the world of HR tech, that should be happening as well.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: Creating something that's more user friendly, like an app. I think that will be the natural progression as well.

STEVE: Interesting. Because I've heard on, actually a few points this week, I think some of the challenge at the moment is just the sheer volume of providers at the moment.

TOM: Saturation.

STEVE: Super saturation.

VERITY: Yeah, yeah.

STEVE: I think what -- what also that -- what's happening, and what -- and I've heard this on a few occasions is literally -- so even just a call earlier, is I think organizations are really struggling to actually choose, and to have a very clear brief around, "Okay, this is exactly what we're looking for." They've really understood that, you know, their users. They've really done the background and the research to really understand the needs and wants of everyone who share the experience of that tool. So I'm -- I'm certainly seeing that. Certainly on a larger scale, organizations are needing a lot more kind of scoping and understanding before they then go to market and be clear. Because I think -- and I know it's probably a common thread, but you know, rather than finding the tech to solve your problems, actually solve your problems first, and then build your tech out from the tech stack, from that -- from that -- for backwards, the other way around the right way.

TOM: I think -- just speaking about London, I'm sure they get absolutely bombarded, not just from recruiters, which do a great job of that.


TOM: When I first started joined hi-bob, I just realized I made the biggest mistake, because everyone I was targeting had been targeted by recruiters all day. But actually, we do cut through the noise, hopefully. But I think, yeah -- I think the saturation, it doesn't help itself. And I think people then automatically think they should be investing in -- in things and in technology, when sometimes that isn't always the case. I think there's a lot to be said about offline and using technology to provide that conversation.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: Totally.

TOM: I think some tools do that fantastically.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: I think the more that tools would provide a platform to have that conversation offline, then maybe even a counterbalance where, you know, technology gets taken away. But I doubt that's going to be ever a case.

STEVE: But here's the interesting thing, because I'm -- nature always finds a way of balancing out, right? Generally. And I think it applies to business and industries. And I think at the moment what I'm seeing, and you'll probably see that what, you know, various blogs and things that are kind of dropping out at the moment. I think as there's been a huge plethora of HR tech companies, the conversation has been come louder. The drum of human. I don't know if you've seen it. I have, and the recruitment is like, how do we remain more human? How do we remain -- and it's really interesting that actually, you know, in a way, we're kind of getting a little bit like, no, we need to protect the human aspect of this stuff. Because as exciting as the tech is -- which it is -- we need to keep this human aspect and not allow it to then consume.

VERITY: Totally.

STEVE: You know? We need to keep it balanced, for sure.

VERITY: Yeah. It's something I feel really strongly about as well, even though I work in tech.

STEVE: That's good, yeah.

VERITY: Yeah. For me, the best interactions I have with technology is when they facilitate human interaction. And so for example, if I get a notification on my phone, a calendar notification to have -- to call someone or to have a meeting, or if it's a reminder to follow up with someone, I love to check if they're okay, or even just to organize to meet face-to-face. That's what I think technology is really good for.


VERITY: And that's how I try and use it. In my personal life, at least it's just more of a healthy approach, I think.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: And also, just from what you were saying at the beginning I think, you know, it's really interesting how, on LinkedIn, like, the top soft skills for the future are all about emotional intelligence.

STEVE: Great, isn't it?

VERITY: And yeah, that gives me a lot of ...

STEVE: It's fascinating. I think, was it last year's LinkedIn big, you know, the big Connect event they did? When -- I mean, I kind of went, really, is that what it is? They said the number one skill this year that's needed is soft skills. And I was like, "Okay," you know? And I remember this years ago from -- in the call center, customer service arena where that was all about soft skills, engaging customers. It's crazy. It's like, wow, okay, it's coming full cycle again. It's -- yeah, it was all about soft skills. You know, in the -- especially in the 2000s, when you had, like, let's say, Orange back then, building huge kind of 2000-seat contact centers.


STEVE: And that was the direct face of their consumer brands. So of course, they wanted that real kind of customer soft skills, engaging way of dealing with their customers. I don't think that's changed much, but I just think it's quite interesting how now the rhetorics come back to, "Yeah, it's now soft skills in today's market in 2018."

VERITY: So there's nothing new.

STEVE: Well, kind of. No, but yes. And I think actually maybe it just tells us what -- it tells us actually -- it just reinforces the human aspect, is that's what's needed. So question for you both.

TOM: Yeah.

STEVE: Okay. So does tech help to improve the employee experience?

TOM: Yes, I believe it can. I think it's based on the solution that you need to the problem that you need to find a solution for. I think we talked a bit about using tech from a problem or having a conversation, then -- then implementing some tech. I think it is based around that. I think the employee experience if it's crowded, and if it's flooded for a reason which isn't relevant to the actual problem, I think, no. But I think if you have a problem at hand that you want to tackle. For example, if you have a communication problem, and you implement Slack. Slack is a -- probably the best example I can think of in regards to not only taking over the world, but also improving employee experience. Like, I use it constantly. I find myself Slacking people right next door to me.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: Which -- which it's got its negatives, sure. But it's a really easy and intuitive platform to use, so I feel like my conversation is actually just as good as it would be if it was talking to them right next door to me. So I think, yeah, used in the right way. And I know that's a bit of ...

STEVE: No, no. No.

TOM: Get out of jail free card, but used in the right way, yes.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: Used just think that you need technology within your company. No.

STEVE: Yeah. What's -- you know, what can tech companies do to -- to ensure that they are really hitting the mark in industry? What can they -- how can they ensure that they're not just one of the other thousand that are out there?

VERITY: Good question.

TOM: Difficult. And the expectation is ...

STEVE: You're a salesman, Tom. What a unique selling point, mate. I want your USB. I want it now, come on.

TOM: I think when you work in technology, you automatically have these expectations, which the company should provide you, right? Whether your expectations aren't very high, or whether they're very low, there's almost like this ladder situation where companies are pushing the boundaries to how far or what they can do to look after their employees. And then that almost has this element of -- the word's not arrogance. What was the word about employees? Self-entitlement.

STEVE: Ah, okay.

TOM: Slightly.

STEVE: Yeah. Yeah.

TOM: I think that makes it difficult for companies to actually -- to develop a good experience for their employees.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: So I think, how can companies stick out from the crowd? How can tech companies stick out from the crowd in regards to that is incredibly tricky. I think having a culture which is open, trusting the people that you hire, being transparent. I think that's a massive part of it. But there's so many components of employee experience that's the difficulty here. Whether it be the environment, whether it be the digital products.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: Whether it be the onboarding or whatnot. I read an article which highlighted the 15 points.

STEVE: Yeah. Yeah.

TOM: And it's difficult.

STEVE: So here's the interesting -- you can -- I'm gonna keep going back to design. I mean, you're obsessed with the Nordics, I'm obsessed with design. So -- but again, if you broke any of those components down, so again, there was a case study from Veryday who's now owned by McKinsey in Sweden. Great company, by the way. I recommend you follow. And they -- and they shared a case study around these, you know -- it's quite interesting, you know, designing an office. So normally an organization would bring an architect in to make it look really nice and functional, and look at the areas and ergonomics and all those things.


STEVE: But there was an organization they worked with, where they actually really designed it with the user in mind.


STEVE: And they got it to the point where even when you walked out of a meeting room, they'd specifically designed how many steps down a corridor or quite a lengthy corridor, because they found that -- that's where post-meetings, you're walking out with a colleague or meeting, that's where those little interactions start to cement some real interesting things. So, you know, for me I'm kind of, you know, get really geeky and get into it all. But I think that's something which I think is a consistent thread that I see.

VERITY: For sure. I'm kind of expanding on both of these points. I think for me, I'm quite interested in marketing, and I think knowing who your user is and doing your research based on that is super important. We've had to do it a lot with our Nordics expansion project, and we've come across loads of interesting kind of cultural obstacles that we've really enjoyed kind of overcoming and learning more.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: But that's been huge. You need to know who your audience is. And -- and -- and kind of the nuances that that may entail.

STEVE: Yeah. Okay, good. There was a -- there was a note on our prep doc, which I thought, "Oh, this is interesting."

TOM: What was that?

STEVE: So ...

TOM: What are we gonna be doing?

STEVE: No, it's not that bad, obviously. No. But I was -- yeah, this is interesting. So it maybe touched a little bit on what we discussed, but it was how can companies meet individual expectations? So just yeah, give me your view on that perspective?

VERITY: Sure. So I think we all have -- I'd be interested to hear Tom's and yours, Steve, as well. Because I think what's interesting about all three of us is the fact that we are -- we all have different experiences.


VERITY: In work.

TOM: Yeah.

VERITY: And so for me, it's my expectations. I'm almost a product of my -- kind of this company, and my generation. Because obviously, bob is in an industry which, as I've mentioned, is all about employee experience and engagement, culture. So I've become quite spoiled, actually. I know exactly what a good -- I think I know exactly what a good kind of culture should look like, because we've done so much research about it. So for me, that's really defined my expectations for my whole career. And, you know, it'd be interesting to hear about how your first career jobs defined your expectations, and whether it was a good or bad experience. I see you giggling there.

STEVE: I'm not going to share mine yet.


STEVE: That's a great question. You're a natural podcaster. Right, go for it.

TOM: My first experience was very much a boiler room situation.

VERITY: Uh-huh.

TOM: I lasted about a year and a half there. It was fun at the start, but it was taxing by the end of it. Yeah, I think my expectations have increased a massive amount, I think. I used to work at a company called Qubit. Ex-Google guys. Did a fantastic job, from the physical environment to the onboarding to making you feel like you're really part of the furniture. And that raised my expectations. Free food at lunch. Well, three meals a day. Incredible benefits. You know, I felt incredibly engaged for a long period there. There was some really smart people around me, which really helped. I think as I've gone along, my expectations have come really around sort of three main points: development, like, wellness, which is a broad topic, but I think being just happy in a company which allows you to do that. And then finally, flexibility. And I think that ties itself with autonomy. But I think flexibility as being -- like, I'm -- I have a really flexible role here. And I'm very lucky to be in that situation.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And certain people within the organization have given me that.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And I do -- I do -- I do really respect that. And I think that has given me trust from them, which makes me feel valued as an employee.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: Therefore, I am doing better.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: I couldn't agree more. For me at bob, it's been the flexibility and autonomy that I would now expect from any company I go to. I want to be able to do my side projects and, you know, having the autonomy to work in the Nordics market. We came up with that.

STEVE: I know.


STEVE: How much more committed will you be when you've come up with it, and they give you -- you know, the organization gives you the freedom to then, to express yourself and say, "Okay, then yeah, do the research. Come back, yeah."

VERITY: They've literally just asked us to write a business case haven't they?

TOM: Yeah, like a full business case with all the financials.


STEVE: Brilliant.

VERITY: Which is cool. It's a great learning experience.

TOM: Yeah, it's awesome. Yeah, it's been really good. And I feel like we've been successful in doing it. It's been -- it's been a fun journey.

STEVE: Yeah. See, it's interesting -- and before we go onto mine ...



STEVE: We need to come back to -- just about this flexibility thing, because it's interesting. Because I'll tell you why. Because I -- I'm gonna go -- I'm gonna go out on a limb on this. I think I'm at an age where I've seen a little bit of both. So I've actually -- I was very, very, very blessed and very fortunate to have started my own business at 24.


STEVE: So I've never actually worked for anyone else apart from myself since 24.

TOM: Nice.

STEVE: However, if I was to go back to my 20s. Say in my 20s, 24 to 30, and I was able to whisper in my ear, as a leader of a recruitment company, and, you know, all the amazing things we went through, the challenges. I mean, it's a really hard thing doing -- I mean, I know people talk about entrepreneur now, but I don't -- I don't call myself that. I'll just say I'm a business owner. [inaudible] always have done. So I don't kind of use that word, necessarily. But it's kind of a -- it was -- it's the same thing. I mean, you start up. You do, you know, you need your infrastructure, you need your structure, you need your people, you need to market, you need to create your brand, you need to have your values. You need to set exactly what you -- what you stand for. You need to set quality around your work and the output -- because the inputs are super important to the outputs, and not get obsessed by numbers. It's all about what goes in. But I would say, like recruitment, you know, is similar to sales. It's pretty cutthroat. I think if I went back to my former self, I'll be just going, "Man, you know, wow." Because I was an old school leader. I actually would say I was a proper old school leader back then.


STEVE: Yeah. And I used to judge -- I'd say this out -- I'm not shy. I actually think some of my team, I used to judge them on, like, how many hours a day.

TOM: Yeah.

STEVE: You know, how late they'd stay back? It's bonkers. I look at that now and go, "You're an idiot." I mean, honestly, that -- just that one example. I'm like, wow. I mean, I did some good things, don't get me wrong. But so if I went back now, I'd be "Wow, okay. Do I do that differently?" You know, you have the power to then be, especially as business owners to be super-flexible and get the best out of people in different ways.

TOM: I think that's changed so much in the last couple of years.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: I remember when I first joined bob, I was pretty much like that. I came from culture of, if you're not at work time, I think that's a bit of a disgrace. I used to think that in my head.


TOM: I used to tell people off. Because, like, you can't be eating breakfast when you come in at 9:10. We're not mentioning the names for that one. But I used to do that. And now I have a completely different approach. I think work-life balance is one of those buzzwords which goes around, but it -- it means a lot to a lot of people. And I think it does come back to the trust of the company. And I think, if you can -- if you can get flexibility right -- because I think there are some people that can take the piss.

VERITY: Oh, yeah.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And you'll always get those people.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And that comes again, down to the -- the hiring of who [inaudible]

STEVE: Well, the more rope you give people, you know? There's an interesting about work-life balance. Did I share it with you on LinkedIn? I can't remember. There was a really amazing article. It was Malcolm Larri in Sweden, actually. He shared it because he's big on language. So just a change of one word, right? So work-life balance, work-life fulfillment.


STEVE: Which just spun a whole -- because this whole balance thing. We strive for this balance. So you know, I've been really, really busy last, certainly since turn of the year. And my -- all of last year, I was going to the gym and doing lots of walking and health and -- and that's just gone out the window. So it's all about work-life balance, but it is a health balance, the whole thing. Kind of the work-life balance. It's not always possible, right? So -- but we put pressure on ourselves. "Oh, I want work-life balance." But what does that actually mean? So I think the fulfillment thing's quite interesting. Am I fulfilled in my work?


STEVE: And am I fulfilled in my life? And if I can strive for the fulfillment rather than the balance ...

VERITY: And the meaning.

STEVE: Then there's more meaning, Yeah, far more. So I just wanted to share that.

TOM: Nice. That was a good one.

VERITY: Absolutely. I've heard work-life harmony. But I prefer fulfillment.

STEVE: Yeah.


TOM: I definitely prefer fulfillment.

VERITY: Is more, as you said, meaning harmony.

STEVE: Yes. By the way, my very first job was in recruitment, with a medical specialist recruitment company. Which was actually at the time was leading in the -- in the UK, a [inaudible] group. And it was crazy. It was Rolodex. Literally Rolodex cards and a phone. And a clipboard with your -- with grids, writing down all the doctors' availability. And then when the -- when the hospital then phoned in, say, I don't know, consultant, surgeon, whatever, we would use a fax to fax these CVs. But then obviously, as everybody's competing against each other, we used to obviously turn the fax off, and then switch it back on and then put our CVs in. So that was the kind of, you know, skulduggery that used to go on in medical recruitment back in the day.

TOM: By leaving your phone off.

STEVE: No mobile phone. I mean, no mobile phone.


STEVE: It was all landline. It's amazing what -- what -- yeah, where we are. And just don't forget, we are -- I think what we also have to remind ourself is we are at the tip of the iceberg.


TOM: Yeah, I know.

STEVE: You know, we are -- we as humans, we're only on this planet a very short time. But if you just take a helicopter up, and maybe see the future, it's like -- it's gonna -- there's some amazing stuff coming our way. We just need to keep it under control.

TOM: Yeah, 100 percent.

STEVE: Okay, so just for the audience. So we're sitting here today in 2019. What does the future look like? In say, five years, in the HR tech space?

VERITY: I guess kind of going back to what I was saying earlier, I think HR tech, as with all tech, it's being designed more so anyone can use it. So again, going back to the consumer, so you don't have to be techie to use it.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: It's tech that people actually want to use. So following in the trends of apps like Spotify and Uber, people just want tech experiences when you can click a button and it's done.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: So I think it's gonna get more and more simple. There's gonna be more and more of a focus on UX design as well. And as Tom you've said, kind of more about the employee and less about admin.

STEVE: Yeah, yeah.

TOM: What I would like the future to hold would be more empowerment for people that work within HR. I would love to see the people that are actually looking after the blood of the organization to be -- not respected more, but to have more control and more voice in the boardroom. I would love more empowerment for the people that are, in my opinion, getting it right within the business.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: I actually -- so I was doing an interview with Alastair Gill from giffgaff a couple of days ago.

STEVE: Great company.


STEVE: Great business.

VERITY: So interesting.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: So that will be out in April. So I'll send it over.

STEVE: Please do.

VERITY: So he had some really interesting stuff. I asked the same question at the end of the interview. And -- and he was really talking about what will happen to HR, because it's becoming -- if admin is automated, then it's becoming more about marketing and behavioral science and psychology. And he -- this is him here, but he thinks that HR needs to take more ownership. It needs to be taking -- making more complex decisions and solving more complex problems. Because otherwise, the marketeers are just gonna take all the sexy stuff away.

STEVE: Yeah.

VERITY: So as he said, it's in -- the profession is in a bit of a crisis at the moment. So it really is all about taking ownership.

STEVE: So let's just -- because you hit on something which I really want to delve into, if that's okay. HR as a function, and HR people sitting in HR right now. And I've been -- I've been quite vocal about -- my focus is on the people, because I just think there is a -- there is a real need to help people move away from kind of this process orientated, target orientated mindset, and to add value in the organization with a new set of tools and methods that actually are much more collaborative, much more engaging, and helping to solve some problems in a very, very different way than what probably what they've being used to. And there was a PWC report last -- end of last year for some of the future -- you know, end of the year always the future trend stuff. And they noted a huge amount of inertia across HR right now. There's a lot of people just sitting there waiting and watching to see what happens. And, you know, as we all know here, I mean, you can't sit and wait. It's not gonna happen. So what do you see kind of HR departments and HR profession? Do you have any views around how that might evolve and change in there?

TOM: Yes, I do. I think that the profession has changed dramatically, just even from the title. What used to be called HR Director is now Head of Happiness.


TOM: So I think that's a direct move, going away from maybe the more processed because that's becoming more automated. I think the role within the business will be more centered around culture, employer branding.

VERITY: Which again, goes back to being a marketeer.

TOM: Yeah, exactly. But I think -- I think that's where It will go more so. I think the role will be -- I think all -- I think HR, in my opinion, just selling it for so long, every single person you speak to has different roles -- different roles within the organizations.

STEVE: That's true.

TOM: And I think that's what is exciting, selling to that. But I think that's what's so exciting about the profession itself and where it's going to. Because you talk to the head of people at a tech company, and you talk to the head of people at tech company, they may seem completely the same size, and they are the same maybe culture, but their roles are so different within the organization. So they wear a lot of hats, which I think is great. So I think they've got a lot of room to maneuver.

STEVE: Very interesting. Any thoughts on that, Verity?

VERITY: I think I've said my piece.

STEVE: Have you?


STEVE: Okay. All right.

VERITY: Regurgitated from Alastair Gill.

STEVE: Yes, very good. Very good. So okay, so I -- thank you both so much. I've really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you. Thanks for having me here today.

VERITY: And I'm really excited for my cinnamon bun.

STEVE: Honestly. Honestly. Yeah, my son nicked one of them -- nicked one of them, unfortunately. But yeah, that's -- But no, that's -- no, enjoy. And I hope to see you -- well, I will see you both in Stockholm.

TOM: Yup.

STEVE: Thanks again for your time.

TOM: No worries.


TOM: Thanks.