Connecting Company Purpose with Engagement at not on the high street

Last week we were delighted to welcome Jess Taylor, People Director at notonthehighstreet to talk to us about her three-year journey to date with notonthehighstreet (NOTHS). We learned how Jess brought her team on an engagement journey from HR process to a really meaningful connection with the organisation. Thank you Jess for a thought-provoking morning!

At Let’s Talk Talent we believe that connecting people and purpose is key to business success and we live that through our own manifesto. Here I’d like to share some of Jess’ story and a few key takeaways that I hope will encourage you to think about how your organisational purpose fits with the way you engage and develop your people.

Jess’ story

One of the best bits of starting a new job is the fresh eyes, those first few weeks and months are so precious to be able to ‘experience the experience’ without bias”. When Jess arrived at NOTHS feelings were high and investment in engagement covered “everything from massages to yoga, ping pong, Friday cheese parties, summer parties and Christmas parties”. But something was amiss.

Important people metrics were not as healthy as they could have been, and this was impacting business performance. Attrition was high, employees were, on average, not staying longer than 16 months, pay to revenue ratios could have been better, and there was evidence of siloed thinking and working.

Data showed that despite highly visible engagement efforts, the fundamentals of employee experience needed some attention. “I knew we were at a point where although the underlying brand was brilliant, something wasn’t quite right.”

Jess bravely took her case to the board and over the last three years has re-shaped the employee experience around NOTHS’ unique proposition and purpose. From our discussion, these are the three points that really hit home for me:

1. Be brave

It was a brave step to cut through all the noise and take a fresh look at fundamentals- and to take this to the board. HR data showed that engagement was not always linked to outcomes or advantages to the business and rewards didn’t necessarily fit with the workforce profile.  Being brave meant taking people back to the ‘why’, going back to basics and questioning whether you’re doing things because they look cool or because you really want to make a difference.

2. Join up the internal and external brands

Once you’ve got back to your ‘why’, question how your internal and external brands fit together – does your internal employee experience match up to the external customer experience? “Never lose sight of why people work for you, at NOTHS it’s all about connection and building a really thoughtful connection with the Partners we work with and our customers, as well as the connection between our teams and with each other”. This connection is central to both the internal and external brands.  

3. Think of your business as a lab not a factory!

“Get your people team to think lab and not factory, focus on experience and not process” is the advice from Jess “continually test things out and learn from things especially when they go wrong”. Ensuring a connection between the essentials of culture, the physical environment and IT infrastructure gives NOTHS the flexibility to pivot and focus on where they need to spend more time and energy.

Fast forward three years

Over the last three years, Jess has led the business through change including the recent formation of a new senior team. Through these changes, Jess has paved the way to a bright future by being brave, connecting internal and external brands and thinking of the business as a lab and not a factory. Engagement levels and confidence are returning, and purpose is well and truly part of the fabric of NOTHS which is incredibly inspiring when you step in even for a short while like I did last week.

I really believe that if who we are and what we do are built on the same purpose and values, then you’ll be more resilient during hard times and truly enjoy success when it comes.  It’s certainly the case at Let’s Talk Talent and for NOTHS too. Thank you to Jess and to all our participants who joined us.

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