Will Over Skill? The challenges of hiring in businesses where culture counts

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The challenges of global management - hiring in face of cultural differences

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend an event at the House of Lords, hosted by E2Exchange — a community of 20,000 entrepreneurs, non-executive directors and investors servicing the scale up community in the UK — and Chaired by Lord Karan Bilimoria, Founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer Partnership, and a Founding Director of E2E

(Full disclosure, I work with E2Exchange to unlock value for its incredible community and assist companies looking for growth capital to find the right investors for their needs) 

Attended by outstanding entrepreneurs such as Paul May, CEO of the national chain of coffee and pastry outlets, Patisserie Valerie and James Hibbert, founder of bespoke tailoring outfit (pun well intended) Dress2Kill, to name just a couple, the morning was aimed at fostering conversation and allowing business leaders to exchange ideas and thoughts — all centred around that constant of the business world — how do you attract and retain talent? 

Those of you who have read any of my previous articles, such as this one, will know this is something that is quite dear to my heart, so I was incredibly keen to hear what the room had to say. 

Before we even get to the more formal part of the morning, it was clear that this is a topic that is here to stay for the time being. Complexities over the UK’s departure from the EU, a more mobile and less sticky workforce and gaps in skills at various stages of business needs were all cited as issues that were making it difficult to manage talent in the UK today. 

Patisserie Valerie opens a new store every three weeks and employs over 6,000 people in the UK. In London, there is a good mix of UK and EU staff. However that is becoming more imbalanced as EU citizens make the decision to leave the UK rather than face the uncertainty that ensued the 2016 Brexit referendum. 

Incumbents to move on whilst still capturing all their knowledge to hand down — though as just mentioned, hand down to whom? This is a pressing question that most likely won't be solved overnight.

Shalini Khemka, Founder and CEO of E2Exchange introduced the morning’s speakers — Sam Kelly, MD of AKQA, an international design and marketing agency and Michael Teixeira, CEO at MVF, an award winning lead generation platform, both of whom gave some great insights into how they approach the talent challenge at their businesses. 

Both were very transparent that they hired for culture, both businesses saw that the old adage of one bad apple spoiling the cart held true, and it was better to get the right fit and then train than to hire someone that had all the skills necessary but was going to be toxic to the organisation. 

Sam talked us through how he reviewed and resuscitated the onboarding process, whilst Michael talked us through how MVF linked company success to team success by providing offsites and events that truly rewarded contributions. 

We discussed how the difficulties in communicating the organisation’s culture in an environment where remote work and staff on demand is moving closer to the norm, not the exception. Tamara Littleton, founder of The Social Element, a global social media agency told us how they were achieving this through virtual events or paying for remote staff in similar areas to meet up. 

As with so much when thinking about talent, everything starts from the top. To paraphrase some of Lord Bilimoria’s closing remarks, if the Board and Executives put culture at the top of the agenda, and value and promote diversity and inclusiveness, teams will follow their lead. 

Ultimately, it would be impossible to capture how engaging an event this was in a few paragraphs, you would need to have been there to truly appreciate the value and diversity of thought that came out of the morning’s discussion. 

Want to learn more about E2Exchange or get involved in the conversation? If you are a Founder or Executive of a scale up business, we’d love to hear from you — sign up here!