Redvespa EX Award winner

February 27th, 2019

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“Humankind were independent and their process was really rigorous and robust, which really resonated with us.  The feedback from the EX Awards programme was also great in identifying areas we could work on.  I would recommend it to everyone.” 


Redvespa were the winners of the Best EX in the Small – Medium size organisation category at the Humankind Employee Experience Awards in November 2018.  We caught up with Blair Loveday, Chief Culture Officer, on his thoughts about the awards and to gain some insights into how they are approaching their employee experience within their organisation.

Winning this award and being recognised in this space was “awesome” for the team at Redvespa.  They didn’t enter the awards to win, but to gain insights into how they can improve their experiences for their people.  Taking part in the programme and then winning the category was an added bonus!

“We’ve gone through a lot of change throughout the last few years, and the fact that this award came through feedback from our people, was quite humbling,” said Blair.

Unfortunately, Blair was unable to attend the awards night, but this was heart-warmingly justified, as shared by his team on the night in their acceptance speech – he was in Vietnam, building a house for Habitat for Humanity!  Whilst the team received their award on stage, Blair received a text saying they’d won, followed by a photo shortly after of the team looking absolutely thrilled.

Blair said, “the happiness and delight on their face was ‘that moment’. For me, that’s what it’s all about – putting our people first and creating moments that matter.”

CEO Sarah Gibson was also unable to make it on the night as she was off pushing herself to the extremes down at Outward Bound!  Blair credits Sarah for helping the team as individuals – by gaining cultural experiences outside of work, which in turn is great at helping them with diversity and inclusion.  He said that their trips were a reflection of who they are and the type of organisation they are and that doing things that aren’t necessarily work-related, but actually doing something for good is something they’re all very passionate about.

In Blair’s mind, more companies are starting to recognise that culture and employee experience is central to how they’re going to compete for a great workforce in the future, but don’t necessarily understand how to get there – where to start and what to do.  Making changes in an organisation that are necessary and sustainable in order to thrive and succeed can be very challenging. This is often easily said, but not easily done.

Redvespa has always had a strong culture. However, in the last three and a half years, they’ve really focused on the science behind it and positioning it as a strategic pillar.  Rather than having it as a plan and an initiative, it’s an integral part of their DNA.  Their culture and employee experience is visibly there.  Being deliberate and having it as part of their game plan has helped with this.

Although they’re not a large company, they saw the importance of implementing a Chief Culture Officer and a Chief Knowledge Officer, who work very closely together to oversee these elements of the business.

“To implement these fundamentals well, you need to be passionate and deliberate – you can’t just leave it to a working group.  You need people in your organisation that know and love what they’re doing to drive this,” said Blair.

“During the first twelve months of our journey we ran research and gained feedback so we could specifically design an experience that was unique to Redvespa.”

CEO, Sarah Gibson wanted to make sure there was a strong ‘people-first’ focus, so they designed a model around collaboration – the secret sauce of their company is not just one-to-one management, but one-to-many.

Redvespa aims to hire the best they can, the really talented people, and they like them to be able to give back – using their ‘squads’ for the day to day stuff, their ‘guilds’ for growth and development (personal brand, etc), and ‘tribes’ to share that information.

“It takes courage to implement a model like that; to help the team collaborate more and grow relationships.  Our team are rarely in the office, so it was important to create multiple touch points within our company – opening up and being transparent so that everyone feels really comfortable to talk, no matter what level they’re at,” said Blair.

Everyone at Redvespa has a cool induction story – it doesn’t start the day they arrive – it starts when they first sign their contract.  They setup a series of activities throughout the first four weeks, which are all designed to make their new employees feel at ease within the company.  They get their first message from the founder and CEO to recognise who they are, they receive a gift, and have some organised meet-ups before they start.  In addition to this, the interview team listen throughout their interview for something that is special to them, for example their screensaver might be setup to be the Hurricanes, if that is something they are passionate about.

Blair said “what we’ve done really well is focus on developing a deeper layer around wellness within our business.  Whilst we have policies and guidelines, we have really unleashed our empathy lens so that, if an event happens – a moment that matters, we will do what we feel is right for Redvespa and the team member and we are very deliberate about this.”

This was evident in the employee survey that was conducted by Humankind as part of the EX Awards.  Blair said “it’s making sure we get to really understand our people and understand that when a ‘moment’ happens, we can work out what’s the right course of action and do what’s required to pick them up.  As the team gets bigger, that’s our challenge – to scale and not derail!  It’s about really capturing those moments for our people so they feel like an individual, rather than a number.”

The EX Awards were a great way of getting like-minded organisations to come together, sharing their stories and insights, recognising the challenges and different landscapes.

“What I’d like to see moving forward is organisations starting to share their EX.  Humankind are doing a great job of this,” said Blair.

“Whilst we’ve won an award in this space, we’re still super curious to see how we can do better.  Talking to different groups, realising the challenges they’ve had and evaluating that against where we’re at is a good thing.  I’m a big advocate for more sharing and less boundaries.”

Blair said that although Redvespa are not ones to shout about success, they like it when everyone else talks about it and certainly enjoy celebrating it.  He said the feel-good factor from winning this award was great.

Blair said, “A big focus right now is our retention strategy: we’ve got some very clever people and we want them to grow and do amazing things with us. It’s about being able to help give back, help each other, add some skill in the game, and grow individuals.”

“Our goal for 2019 is to continually improve our employee experience – we like to try and stay ahead of the curve in the culture space so we will be looking to keep pushing the boundaries.  We want to talk to more people, create awareness of employee experience, and the importance of looking after your people.  Winning the award has given us the confidence that we’re on the right path.”

Culture is at the heart of everything they do, which came out in the EX programme survey – they care for their people with their hearts and for their business with the mind, meaning they can make tough calls when they need to. Having a good balance between business focus and people care is essential.

“The top result in our survey, which I was very proud of, was that people felt safe. Our consultants are going into different environments with different people all the time, so it’s nice to know they feel we’ve got their backs,” said Blair.

The awards were a great way to get independent feedback.  Blair said, “nothing really beats opening yourself up to an anonymous survey where people can let loose!  We wanted it to be inclusive – warts and all – and so this year we included our sidecar model, which is a contractor base to get some further information and insights.

Redvespa do not enter many awards, but feel with some awards, results can be manipulated if people are prepped.

“Humankind were independent, and their process was really rigorous and robust, which really resonated with us.  The feedback from the EX Awards programme was also great in identifying areas we could work on.  I would recommend it to everyone,” said Blair.

Blair had some tips for anyone looking into starting out their journey on employee experience:

“Starting out on this journey is pretty frightening – it’s not mature yet and people don’t know how to dive deep into it. Being authentic matters and our experience is that you should do what’s really important for the organisation and the team.  Our model is uniquely Redvespa and part of the secret is that we got 70% done with the design, knowing it was sustainable and doable, and then handed it over to the team for their tweaks and input.  It’s about capturing the voice of your people and doing what’s right for them rather than what might be ‘trendy’ or what needs to be done.

In Blair’s view “it’s also about doing the small things really well. There’s a lot of hygiene stuff in employee experience and culture around remuneration, flexible working environments, and learning and development, and you need to be doing these things well. But there’s also lots of other things you can be doing that don’t cost a lot. This is where you need to be curious about your work environment and talking to your team. Because this is often the source for great ideas and ideas that matter to your people.  We’re at a stage with our culture maturity, where it’s not just about me in this role. Our culture and employee experience is a team sport, where everyone owns culture, and everyone owns employee experience.”

Humankind note

As part of our ongoing commitment to providing the best Employee Experiences, helping organisations to help their people love what they do, we will be sharing all six of our winner’s stories from the Humankind Employee Experience Awards 2018!  Watch this space…

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