I meet Josefin Holmberg at the Royal Festival Hall in London. She’s fresh from the UK Employee Experience Awards, where she was on the judging panel for the category ‘Business Change and Transformation – Employee-Centric Initiatives’.
“Snappy title, right?” she says, with a wry smile. However cumbersome as the title may be, Josefin is energetic and enthused by the trends that she saw in the finalists’ submissions.
We take a seat and Josefin orders a black Americano. I ask her what felt exciting about the awards, and we get into an animated discussion about employee experience, the role of a modern people function and why the tech industry is a great place to work.
Creating Opportunities for Connectivity
“Firstly, I was hugely impressed by the diversity of the entrants. They ranged from the craft brewery Brew Dog, charities such as Shelter and Care UK, to Virgin Money, Sprinklr and Fitness First.
What was true of all entries is that they came from the perspective of the internal customer/employee and were looking to create connections and build internal communities. That’s new. Once upon a time, HR was all about being a sheep dog. You herded your employees together, and inoculated them with the latest company thinking.
This top-down, one-size-fits-all approach, overlooks the power of the individual, leaving employees feeling like they have no say in the direction of the company, or their place within it.
Nowadays – as demonstrated by the finalists at the awards – a great people function borrows from good marketing practice, segments and connects audiences and builds solutions that serve the people network. HR acts more like a top-level matchmaker, or ‘who’s who’, creating opportunities for connectivity.
Our job is to know the individuals in our business, see the network in the big picture and where connections need to be made or strengthened. In that way, we match problems with solutions to benefit the business.”
Josefin works for True, a leading Silicon Valley based executive search firm working with the most forward thinking investors and innovative tech companies. I ask her what it is about placing leadership into growth tech businesses that she finds so exciting.
Tech – at the Vanguard of a Changing World
“In the tech world, work is not just somewhere you go; it’s something you are and somewhere you belong. Tech, after all, is the sector that is shaping work and consumer behaviour more than any other – including the focus on connectivity and networks that is so fundamental for modern HR. There is something seductive and thrilling knowing that we are working with people who have the ability to change the world.
Our employees are all truly passionate about their work, and serving clients that share this passion. As a consequence, the lines between work and personal life are more blurred than in other places I have worked. The pace is frenetic, and it attracts a very particular type of person: someone who is inherently curious, adaptable and constantly looking to make the right connections in a measured way, at lightning speed.”
A Driven Network of Individuals
True’s philosophy is to hire people that have a clear vision and sense of ownership of their own career. It’s not about spoon-feeding or hand holding. It’s about putting people on the right path and then trusting that they are creative, resourceful, and driven enough to find their own way.
When Josefin applied for the job at True, she told them she wanted to “build something, to disrupt, and to get things done.” No surprise then, that when asked how her previous colleagues described her, Josefin’s answer, with an infectious giggle, is “a cuddly bulldozer”.
She has exactly that energy about her. Friendly, charming, strong, determined. She has a way of grasping and keeping your attention, and her use of analogies to describe her work helps me understand the passion with which she views both the tech industry and the role of the people function today.
Embracing the Different
Josefin also tells me that one of the things she loves about True is that it seems to attract people out of left field.
“For example, I used to be a musician, a singer songwriter touring the world. True isn’t afraid of that. They like that I’m different, and I feel the same about all our employees, and the people we search for.
There is a real opportunity to disrupt and do things differently here, and we are taking active steps to try and bring people with a variety of backgrounds into the industry and join True. I would love to speak to other talent and people leads in this field, and see what they are doing to address this challenge”
Provide the Tools and Get out of the Way
When I ask her how she differentiates True’s position within the tech recruitment field, and her own position within the business, she says:
‘We were founded on the idea that the recruitment industry could be better, and we are always iterating and growing. My internal people philosophy is the same. Hire the best and the brightest, give them the tools and vision to be successful, make sure they are connected to knowledge and opportunity and then get out of their way.’
With which, Josefin takes her leave. She orders an Uber to take her to her next appointments, drinks with two prospective candidates at two different bars. Tomorrow she’s off to a conference in Sweden. “See what I mean about blurred lines and frenetic pace?” she asks with another wry smile.
I plan to meet Josefin again soon to talk more about employee experience and what’s happening in her world at True. If you’d like to get updates about our future conversations, let me know by clicking here.
Written by Robin Bayley