Workplace Webinars: Building a Business Vision that People Engage With

Sally Hetherington   9 April, 2021
Workplace Featured

Every startup has a business plan - a formal document that contains the goals of the business and the plans to achieve them. But in order to make your business really scalable, you need more than a stock-standard plan - you need a vision - the impact that you want to make as a business. 

We were joined in our recent webinar by HR specialist and co-founder of Thriving Tribes, Yssine Matola, who gave us a better understanding of what company vision is and what a business should be doing in order to fine-tune and action that vision. The webinar was hosted by Eva Evangelou, Customer Success Director at Onalytica

A recap of the webinar is also available as:

  • A podcast, to listen, click here.
  • A video recording, to watch, click here

Yssine, who sees herself as a creative and data-driven problem solver, is passionate about facilitating a slick and inclusive employee experience in an engaging and collaborative way. She has been an HR generalist for over 10 years, with a special interest in the tech field.

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She started the webinar by giving an understanding of what Thriving Tribes does, explaining that the company supports startups and growing businesses, mainly in the UK and France, by crafting scalable HR people experiences so that they are always ready for the next step. “This usually covers talent acquisition and employee experience, HR compliance, team performance, and culture - all the usual HR bits.”

When Eva asked how the company came about, Yssine was happy to elaborate: “I've been in HR roles for about ten years now, mainly at tech companies. And I guess it all came up to a discussion we had with Aurelie [Cyrille] who is the other co-founder of Thriving Tribes. Similar to me, she has been in HR roles for about ten years.”

“While discussing our HR philosophies and what we are doing in our roles and what we are seeing - it just kind of came naturally to create Thriving Tribes - taking on consulting clients and then to push all these ideas around scalable processes and really expand inclusive leadership, all the things we believe in. And we've been so beneficial for businesses. So that's how it kind of came about.”

Yssine then went on to say that she has a high level of activity and needs to do things outside of her regular job: “I think that’s just to stimulate innovation and increase the impact that you can have, and not being obsessed and frustrated with one thing. Starting Thriving Tribes was a way for us to live our passion for people development and HR innovation.”

When asked to elaborate on the understanding and importance of a strong vision, Yssine had the following to say: “A vision is aspirational. It's why as a business owner, as a leader, it's looking forward and defining what you want your impact to look like, and the difference you're going to make. Why you are doing what you're doing, basically. And I think that having it clear in your head is good, but it's not enough to be able to articulate it - you need to communicate it in a way that people will believe it, be inspired by it and rally around you. And I think that’s what a strong vision is - being able to get people around you.”

Eva then asked her for some practical advice on how businesses can articulate this vision to their employees and customers. Yssine agreed on the importance of being able to do this: “It's very important to be able to communicate to employees as well as customers and basically all the partners you will be working with - all the people you will need to get on board. So if you look at employees and prospective candidates, your vision is what is going to inspire people to do the best job. We all want to have a positive impact and we all want to make a difference. So being able to understand what we commit our time to, and what all this is about, is really important for most people.”

She then went on to elaborate on the steps businesses can take to build this vision: “There’s a framework that I like, from a book by Simon Sinek. It's called “Start with Why”. In it everything is basically a circle - you've got to see the ‘golden circle’. So you have your why, in the middle [of the circle], then you have your how and then you have your what. Your why is what you should be starting with. That's your vision. That's your purpose. That's everything that's embodied by your leader, your CEO, your founder.”

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“Then you have your how. That's more your C-suite. But ask: ‘What's the strategy and what's the direction we want to take and how we are going to actually do it?’ And then you have your what -  your products, your services, what everybody's working for all day, every day.” 

“I think what's really important is to be able to have those three things very clear, very separate. And once you have that, you don't have to worry, because there's a lot of things right. There's the vision, the mission statement, the purpose, the strategy - so many - but if you just focus on your why, your how and your what, you'll be able to do something that's comprehensive and people will be able to follow you.”

When asked for an understanding of the difference between your mission statement and your vision, Yssine explained: “Your vision is your why - so if you look years ahead - what you will have achieved, the difference you will have made and the impact you would have had on the world. That's your vision. That's long term - what you want to achieve. Then if you look more at the how it's going to be a bit more practical. It's going to be everything around how you're bringing your vision to life. That's the strategy, the planning. Find your unique selling point and then you go to the what, and that's the actual execution.”

Eva asked Yssine to then take this a step further by explaining how to use this vision to grow a business. Yssine believes that it’s very easy to lose touch and get sidetracked when starting to grow a business: “You start to spend less time with people one to one, so it's more complicated to give people context because you're just not chatting with them every day as you're doing it. So it's very easy for people to lose the big picture and this alliance.”

“And silos start to form and you have conflicting priorities in between the different parts of your business. You have your sales department trying to get your clients across the line. And then you have your product team trying to build the product. And sometimes it just doesn't align. So you really need to have a clear vision and have everyone aligned moving in the same direction.”

You need all your leaders to be aligned and able to prioritise and to bring back the focus where it should be when it's needed. That's the main bit. And that's going to really impact team performance and employee engagement when you're scaling, then there are a few things that companies usually do when they start to get organised around that.”

“There’s a framework that most companies use - objective and key results - which is basically making sure that you define your company goals, your department goals, and that they all work together. And then if you want, you can have your individual personal goals. But you know that everything is always moving in the same direction and that you have just a few key points that you're focussing on at the time.”

“That's another thing that's important when companies are growing because there's just so much to do. And the possibilities are endless. So being able to again, focus and recenter to what they're doing to achieve at the moment is really important.”


Yssine believes that this focus on matching your vision and company culture should start right at the recruitment stage: “It’s really important to have a very good recruitment process, especially when you're scaling when you're going to be doubling the size of your team and you're going to be hiring 50 people in the coming months. It's so important that your recruitment process is spotless. It needs to be as fair and unbiased as possible.”

“A lot of companies use interview scorecards, for example, before starting hiring and putting job ads out and so on. You agree beforehand on key criteria. ‘What do we really need this role to be able to do?’ and what impact you want them to have. And then you have your set of questions that are just focussed on those key criteria. You don't have random questions - it is the same set of questions for everyone. And you make sure that you evaluate those key criteria that are important for you.”

“And they are so important because when you hire, when you're in a rush, it's going to start to be a little bit dependent on people. Some people are just going to take a call here and there, others are going to do some tests... So having a strong database recruitment process is really important when you grow and always making sure that all the things that you're evaluating relate to what you're trying to achieve as a company and what skills you need to bring in, in order to achieve your vision.” 

Eva asked Yssine to elaborate on the use of a standardised interview for every candidate, particularly if a role was multifaceted and required different sets of skills. Yssine explained further: “When you work with scorecards, you would agree beforehand on how important each criteria are. So you will have a score system for each. You would define this when you create your scorecards: what are the things that are more important than others? And maybe some people are going to score higher in some aspects, but that's not the most important lesson, not what you're really looking for.”

“At the end of the day, the candidate that's going to come up is going to be the one that is going to score higher in the things that are the most important for you. It's sometimes not about years of experience - for example, if you look at tech and some of the recent roles and skills, some did not exist 10 years back. Sometimes it's really about what we're actually able to do and the outcome, and what we are able to create in the role rather than how long we've spent in an industry or how long we've been doing a role. So what's also important is, as part of your recruitment process, to be able to evaluate, like having tests, having examples, talking about situations rather than asking just questions about concepts and ideas. It's really to be able to take out of this recruitment process what you're actually going to need for the role.”

When asked about how to bring in more diversity and inclusion within the recruitment process, Yssine advised: “Diversity and inclusion are big topics, but if you look just at the recruitment process, what you should be doing is making it inclusive in a way that people who process things differently still have the same chance.”

So that means, for example, that you should allow for preparation and let people know in advance if you're going to be asking them to do something and what it's going to be about. So people who are, for example, less outgoing, will have the same chance. You can also consider adjustments with regards to the tests that you're doing, for example making sure that the conditions will work for people, that they would have enough time and that it will work with their personal circumstances as well.”

Yssine then gave the following example: “If part of your recruitment process requires, for example, half a day on-site, presenting... I'm a single parent and I have my children. What do I do? I have to pay for child care to be able to come to your interview. That's the same with all the topics around diversity and inclusion. It's about when you're building your process, when you're preparing the things that you want to do, having that moment where you have to think about making it inclusive, and making sure that you're not going to exclude people from your process.”

“You have to separate diversity and inclusion. There's a path around attracting candidates and having them applying and having them come into your company. But then there's another part that I would say is even more important - and that's keeping them. And how do you make sure that they feel like they belong and they feel like they can be their best selves and contribute and be heard?”

“So if you want to improve diversity and inclusion in your company, those are the two things you need to look at. You cannot just focus on recruitment and you cannot just focus on your processes. You need to look at both. But then if you're looking at improving diversity as part of your recruitment process, you need to also improve the pipeline. So that means for example that maybe you're just listing your ad on your websites and those candidates you're trying to attract don't know about you, so they're not going to apply.”

“And if for example all your employees are part of the same network and are talking to the same type of people - they're going to talk to their friend about your role and you're not going to attract anyone different. And if you're doing outreach - if you're headhunting - look at candidates who are not the typical ones you have in your company. You will always find the same schools, all the same alumni from the same companies. So you have to look at different profiles. And then there are a lot of specialised recruitment agencies or a lot of non-profits - organisations of all types that can help you in targeting different types of candidates.” 

“Another thing that's very important with recruitment is your talent brands because if you manage to reach out to those candidates who are out there and are different to the majority of your company - if they look at your websites and look you up on the Internet and the press and what they see is so far away from everything they are and they just don't feel like they're going to fit in, they're not going to want to apply.”

“What is paramount if you want to improve diversity and inclusion is to make sure that your leaders are aligned and that they're ambassadors because there's no point in trying to do anything if you know your head of functions or your managers are not on board - if you haven't talked to them about it if you haven't explained to them what you are trying to do, why it's important and how you want to approach it with your company. And there's no point trying to do only one type of action and having just your HR teams reaching to diverse candidates because you need buy-in and you need alignments from your managers and from your leaders. With inclusion, it's about applying a lens to everything we do. So it cannot be only in one part. It cannot be only the recruitment team that's going to work on it. That definitely needs to be something where your whole company is aligned.”

Yssine believes that to assist with understanding employee engagement, leaders should be familiarising themselves by reading books on intrinsic motivation, growth mindset, freedom and responsibility: “That's the type of reading that would be recommended to make sure that they don't do anything that's counterproductive and to learn from all the companies that have tried stuff before. I think that's the first step - to make sure that you're familiar with those concepts, then I'd say try and break away from practices that are not really productive, or having very rigid annual cycles or your engagement and interactions with your employee will end up being just tick box exercises.”

“It's going back to the why and always asking what are we trying to achieve and why are we doing that. Because if people feel that they're not being heard, that you’re asking them to do things that don't really matter and that it's not about the value that they can add, they are not going to be really engaged.”

“Focussing on outcome is usually a very good one if you want to improve engagement and ensure that people are aligned behind your vision and are going to do their best. And maybe it's not your way - that's also why when you're hiring other people as you don't want everyone to be thinking like you and doing everything like you. It's giving them the space to be able to find solutions to problems. Focussing on the outcome and steering away from micromanagement and giving people the tools they need to do their best work and then just letting them do it.”

Yssine believes that managers should move away from an annual cycle: “It's thinking about what people really need and how people like to interact because if you think about employee experience, you can compare it to the way that people consume products and how they interact with brands. If someone needs something or has an issue with a brand, they won’t wait to get an answer, they want it now. We all have the Internet. We all have Google. If we need something, we're going to Google it and we're going to be looking for it.”

“So it doesn't make sense to have to wait a year to discuss with your manager your progression or your career opportunities. The way you've been performing needs to be continuous. People need to receive feedback when it's going to be useful, not when it's convenient for you or for your calendar. But when it's going to actually have the most impact and when it's going to help them get better at their roles. I think trying to move away from annual cycles for performance and development, and trying to be more continuous is something that works better.”

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There are a lot of tools that are available that allow for pulse surveys, continuous cycles where you can identify each project any time that it's needed. You can discuss, go back, and talk about the experience and how things have been and what are the learnings - in a timely manner without having to wait to do it. So, yes, there are tools and frameworks that are available for leaders who want to try new things.”

When asked how to drive engagement when working remotely, Yssine said: “In terms of remote working, managers and leaders - all those people who will be having those touchpoints with employees - their roles are even more important than before. It's all about genuine interactions and taking the time to thank people - to have this relationship that's authentic. Where you genuinely care for people. Companies who've been going through this lockdown and remote working periods who have done well - that's what they've been focussing on.”

“Another thing that's important is to think about how you share information and how you communicate, because if you're a company that was used to being in an office and people were able to just talk if they had a question, or hear something and offer help - all these things disappear when you're remote.”

So there's conscious work to do on how we make information available and how people can find the tools, the information, the support that they need to do that role. And maybe that means that now we have to start writing stuff and being kept up to date. But you cannot just move everything to Zoom because it just doesn't translate.”

“And even if people see tons of meetings all day, every day, they still won't have what you have in an office with those same discussions and seeing and hearing something that's happening in another discussion and being able to jump in. It really needs to be conscious about how we share information and how people have what they need to do their role. So that's the two-part. The first one - checking on people and making sure that they're actually okay, and the other one is about adapting the processes and not just thinking that we can just translate everything to Zoom and that is going to work as before.”

Yssine finished off with some final words of wisdom: “I think it's really important to think about your customers and what they care about and what's important to them. We’ve seen a lot of examples recently. For example data concerns, data privacy and data collection in big techs. People have concerns about how their data is being used. Then if you take a very different industry, for example, fashion, we've heard concerns around being ethical or sustainable practices. So whatever our industry is, whatever kind of work we are doing, at some point, something like that is going to get big. So it's good to know where you stand, why you're doing what you do and what's important to you, before this kind of stuff just blows up in your face.”

Part of your company vision should include an employee experience that rewards and inspires. Book a demo with Staff Treats today and start rewarding for a better experience.

Sally Hetherington

Full time teen wrangler, part time writer, passionate traveller and wannabe chef.

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