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Tending to our Connections : Nurturing Growth in a Hybrid Work Landscape

post by Alex Hens - CEO; Founder; (self-titled) Solutionista


We ended this week with a client visiting HARBOUR HQ. Doesn’t happen all that often to be fair – certainly not since that there COVID malarkey shaped a new normal that is so much more virtual – so it’s lovely when it does. And when it’s a client who we’ve been working within since 2016 then it’s all the more special. I wasn’t involved in the meeting myself but as they left the lovely Sadie stopped by where I was sat to say hi. Hadn’t seen her in ages, but so glad to have a quick reconnect (and a lovely hug). And in summarising how things were going I recounted that there’d been a lot of rethinking and considering of late in regards who we were and who we wanted to be, and I found myself saying “if you’re too busy fighting fires then you can’t be planting trees”. Absolutely no idea where it came from or who/where I might have picked it up from – but from wherever it sprang it just seemed to make sense, particularly in a week when we’d literally taken time out to re-plant some significant metaphorical trees.

Now we may be a software house – but at our core we’re a people business who wanna put people front and centre of all we do. Hell… it’s written right across our website

So whilst it was easy for us to flip to remote working when lockdowns became the thing – we kinda stayed with the flow as whatever might be this week’s version of “the new normal” evolved. We’re so fortunate that we’re in a position to be able to support people who prefer to have a physical distinction between work and home, whilst also being able to support those who prefer working in their Oodie at home – but whilst IM / slack / email and meet / teams / zoom facilitate engagement to a point… it’s still (in our experience) just to a point. Without regularity of 3-dimensional association across the business a certain cohesiveness was missing. We’re emotional beings. We’ve evolved as tribal / community-based entities. And tech interfaces can bridge some of that when miles separate us, but in-person is very much more the real deal.

That’s why after a period of internal consultation this past Tuesday (5th Dec.) saw us coming together as a business, more completely than we’d done now for the best part of 4 years, as the first day back into a formally structured hybrid working arrangement – which starts as at least one day a week in the office and in 2024 steps up to 2 days. But it wasn’t just about coming back in and cracking on. Oh no. This was too much of an opportunity to miss. A chance to really springboard on from where we’ve come, and into a clearer vision of what’s next. Very much “planting trees” mode.

We’ve always strived to be a values led business… but whilst the values we came together as a business to agree on some 10 years or so ago still resonate strongly, it’s fair to say that whilst we referred to them from time to time, we didn’t establish mechanisms to ensure that they could absolutely and truly become part of how we did business. Here was the chance to change that and launch the approach for ensuring so – as well as setting clarity around business direction and an ambitious 3-5-10 year strategy.

Earlier this year we very proudly launched our Employee Share Ownership scheme for all HARBOURites (read more here ) – so we gave commercial clarity too, because we’re working to ensure HARBOUR works like a community, with everyone understanding the impact they can and do have on our shared success… because a great candidate experience and happy clients is, at the end of the day, what this business is about.

Anyway – with that more “corporate stuff” out of the way, with a bit of added Q&A back-and-forth, we were able to crack into the most brilliant part of the day. Concepted and run by Claire (COO) we embarked on a speed-dating-esque session. We had to gather details on each colleague :  their role; number of siblings;  any team sports / pursuits they’d participated in; superpower; challenge.

Like all the best ideas – it was brilliantly simple – and wonderfully enlightening too. Barriers were broken, insights gained and connections re-established or made a-fresh. And then after a hearty buffet lunch (from our fave local sandwich shop – Jane’s Pantry ) the afternoon was split between settling back in for teams who had been more-remote-than-not, whilst everyone also was tasked with spending time looking over the shoulders of the ever lovely HARBOUR Support Team. These are truly our front-line, and where delighting candidates / clients is the game we’re in, these people and what they do are so key to our success – an aspect that can sometimes be an unknown reality for people working away from that truth.

There was also some deeper reflection required in the workbooks we were provided, all to be loaded into the new HR System Claire’s working to set up for us as we step into ’24 (Charlie HR ), and with both company values and overarching objectives as part of that work. All-in-all a pretty damn comprehensive and engaging day and no-mistaking… and very much all about “planting trees”.

So here’s to reconnecting, supercharging collaboration, and growing connected community metaphorical forests. 

#TeamBuilding #HybridWork



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