In this interview we sit down with Lené Marx. Lené leads our People & Culture division at ADAPTOVATE. People & Culture is one of our most important functions for ADAPTOVATE and we pride ourselves on being best in class as place to work for our employees.
Thanks for speaking with us today Lené. Before we start, how have you been coping with COVID-19 living in Melbourne?
It has been challenging, we are taking things day by day and hoping for a bit more freedom soon.
You are our People & Culture lead here at ADAPTOVATE. Have you always been in that career and why have you chosen it?
People & Culture was not what I envisioned as a career growing up but it is the path I’ve chosen to stay on. I studied Drama at Uni and found my way into the P&C world after getting an opportunity as a trainer and facilitator at a small consulting firm in South Africa. It was a pretty easy transition as the training rooms became my ‘stage’ and the training my ‘performance’ with the added benefit of interacting with people and building real relationships.
I stayed in Learning & Development for a few years, honing my skills and gaining experience before I started moving into the HR generalist space. This is where I truly found a passion for P&C! Being part of the many different functional areas that make up People & Culture is an amazing experience for me. It allows you to look at things holistically and tailor your approach and programs to teams’ needs instead of having a one-dimensional view of what’s required. I also enjoy working in a small, growing business, there’s no limit to what you are part of in a start-up business and I love that!
What are the significant changes you’ve seen over the past decade in People & Culture divisions being implemented into organisations?
The biggest changes I’ve seen are:
- A focus shift from having the right processes and policies in place (still important to have those) to having relationships with the team members you are creating those processes for, in essence becoming more consumer-centric. (our employees being our consumers)
- An increase in flexible working arrangement i.e. part-time, working from home, even pre COVID it had become an accepted part of the way we work
- Employee expectations have certainly changed, team members expect businesses to have certain things in place like a value-based culture, opportunities to provide feedback and have a voice, feeling connected and included in the business, and decisions being made
- Going from performance appraisals that include only downward feedback to having more continuous performance discussions with a 360° review approach or in some cases, no performance appraisals at all!
What do you think are the main benefits to a company that prioritises its People and Culture?
I love this question! I think the main benefit of prioritising People & Culture is the ability to attract and retain talented and highly skilled people. When people are the priority, everything else falls into place.
Firstly, this helps ADAPTOVATE to have the right skills and capabilities, in the right places, at the right times. Then, once on board, we continue to develop and foster our team, offering continual career development and growth.
Secondly, our culture is grounded in our values because we live by them and hold one another accountable to them. We celebrate, openly and proudly, behaviours that display our values and we ensure that every team member has a stake in our culture by prioritising inclusion and accountability.
Lastly, because of this ADAPTOVATE is an exceptional place to work! I believe it’s our responsibility to create an environment where people can do their best work, a place where they can proudly be their authentic selves. Prioritising People & Culture means we listen to our employees’ needs, empower our team members, and make changes to foster greater connectivity, collaboration, and communication across every team.
It’s obvious that during 2020 companies have needed to rally around their troops so to speak. What companies do you think have done that well?
For a start the big retailers, they’ve had to create and roll out new policies and COVID safe workplace plans whilst supporting their team members who are dealing with unprecedented pressures of customers panic buying or not following social distancing and mask-wearing rules.
Companies really took up hosting virtual events for teams, with kids and pets becoming part of daily work life, and companies who embraced their presence have done well.
Some examples are technology company HP who encouraged parents working remotely in Singapore to take an active role in their children’s learning, offering employees access to online resources that include weekly literacy activities curated by education leaders. Goodway Group, a Pennsylvania-based digital ad agency, hosted “Family Fun Fridays” for employees with kids, featuring music and magic shows.
Another great example is the Bank of Ireland who has taken a creative approach with their “Colleague Wellbeing” app. Employees can use the app, which can be synced with a user’s Fitbit, to access seminars, a fitness tracker, EAP services and more.
I would like to add ADAPTOVATE to this list too as I believe we have done well looking after our team during this hard time. We have a program called ‘Zen’DAPTOVATE where we run fortnightly yoga and meditation sessions, our leadership has been transparent throughout, we have regular one-on-one check-ins with team members and we’ve encouraged team members to host virtual events sharing a passion so we’ve had virtual cooking classes and an art show to name a couple.
Who inspires you?
There are a few people that inspire me in different areas of my life; first up would be my mom, she inspires me to be the best mom I can be, she is the strongest, bravest, most caring and loving person in my world! I’m also inspired by Michelle Obama, I love her podcasts! Especially the one where she talks to Barack about being part of, and servicing your community, it resonated with me. There’s a lot about her I admire, her strong sense of self, her values, and integrity, she is so graceful yet relatable and I find that inspiring.
Lastly, I can’t emphasise enough the importance of having a good mentor. Mentors can enrich your life on a personal and professional level and therefore my mentor and friend, Charlie Roach, she is someone I look up to and draw inspiration from all the time… whenever I face a difficult situation, I ask myself ‘what would Charlie do?’ We worked together 12 years ago, Charlie was the Head of People & Culture of our team, and she was the first leader I’ve worked with that showed me what great leadership looked like! In return, this has helped me develop my leadership skills and my ability to support, motivate and encourage others.
If you have any questions about ADAPTOVATE please reach out.