Human & Resourceful

  • Author

    D'Arcy Whelan

  • Category


  • Date

    November 16, 2020


Mel has over 15 years of experience in HR, having held senior roles at Barclays and Tandem (to name only a few) prior to joining Investec where she has been leading the recruitment function for the past three years. Whether it’s leading the expansion of large teams within enterprise, or starting from scratch at start-ups like Tandem, Mel’s experience in developing strategies and processes for growing teams is invaluable. She has provided invaluable advice to Outward’s founders in the past, and we are keen to share some of her thinking in this series.


1. For a Start-Up, the wrong hire is costly and budgets are extremely tight. What is your advice to founders making their first hires?

A good starting point would be to create a workforce plan or skeleton structure. In an early stage venture, the skills and knowledge required to kick-start a business can be very different to those that are required to run it. Hiring good people with a great attitude isn’t always a bulletproof approach – think critically about what is needed now vs. what is needed going forward, and be transparent with those people you engage to support you.


2. Attracting the best talent – how have the priorities of candidates shifted over the last 5 years?

Money is no longer the sole driving factor behind employee motivation. The talent of today are drawn to organisations with a compelling purpose where value is placed on work/life balance, flexible working structures, meaningful perks and most importantly the diversity and inclusiveness of the culture. If you get all of that right, you create a winning secret sauce.


3. Advice to founders growing a team without a Head of People?

Firstly, there needs to be clarity on who in the leadership team is accountable for growing the business from a people perspective. Once this is determined, be clear on what you are hiring for, then build a framework to deliver the message to both the candidates and interviewees.

Regarding the interview process, there should be a fair method in place to benchmark candidates. This will also enable speed and clarity when making the final decision – a necessity given the war on talent! Another important consideration is creating a process that mirrors the company culture. Candidates will likely post about their experience on Glassdoor or other similar websites which becomes a source of truth for how your company is perceived by future candidates.


4. HR, Remote working & Covid-19: what changes are here to stay? And how will businesses need to adapt?

I hope that negative attitudes towards remote/flexible working is a thing of the past, and that businesses realise their employees can be trusted. This is especially important in start-ups, where presenteeism has historically counted for a lot. Founders often want to see employees pour as much of themselves into the business as they do. Covid-19 has forced us to rethink the extent to which this is reflected in physical office hours.

The other big challenge businesses face is how to create and maintain culture in a remote set up. This is particularly difficult when hires are made entirely remotely and they are unable to draw on the experiences and feelings gained from spending time in the team. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem as every business is different, but I would recommend founders to keep circling back to the organisation’s purpose when creating the path forward.