Roisin O’Hagan is Vice President of Human Resources at Unosquare, a company that provides custom software and agile software delivery professionals to healthcare, financial services and high-tech clients.
Roisin’s mother was an HR professional — one could say that HR is in her blood. She joined Unosquare as a startup and was quickly promoted to VP. The company experienced extraordinary growth during the pandemic, expanding from 400 to 800 employees internationally. As the company grew so did its values.
We sat down with Roisin to discuss the values behind Unosquare, why having the executives on board and excited about those values is essential, and why they believe in prioritizing their people above all.
Adapting in the Face of the Pandemic
The pandemic changed so much about the way we think about how to balance work and life. While this was an extremely hard time for many, it also provided opportunities to learn, grow and change with the world.
Like many companies, Unosquare has always been actively engaged. They liked to put on events and organize meetings between employees. Onboarding for new team members was done in person and over coffee.
The pandemic stripped everything back — suddenly every interaction had to be done via a computer screen. HR professionals like Roisin were faced with how to keep employee engagement alive and how to continue to grow while encouraging healthy company culture.
Trial and error were part and parcel of figuring out the best way forward. Unosquare organized remote events through Teams and Slack. They even implemented a company-wide 1K run, where participants shared photos of themselves after their run. It was a different way of doing things, for sure, but it helped to bring the team together, even if they couldn’t be together in person.
Implementing Values — and Getting Executives On Board
Unosquare prioritizes its people above all else. This, coupled with a vulnerable and transparent leadership style, promotes trust and yields a trusting team. Roisin maintains that your company’s values are an essential part of the organization as a whole. They can give your team a real sense of belonging. Core values provide a solid purpose and Unosquare identifies five key values, aptly named the Five Fs:
These work as a framework for conveying a clear message to their 800 employees by letting them know what the company stands for.
“Fortune” is one of the more interesting values. For Roisin and Unosquare, fortune is about having confidence in their future. This means ensuring that team members understand that an important core value of the company is that it is a stable place to work. They have a commitment to providing long-term employment and growth, which is comforting in these tumultuous times.
The executive team at Unosquare is actively involved in connecting with employees and therefore implementing those core values. It isn’t just up to HR — managers, team leads, and even the CEO put in a real effort.
The CEO, Giancarlo Di Vece, decided to hold an “Ask Me Anything” session, which he continues to host twice a year. Anyone in the company can ask him a question, whether it be personal or professional. It gives team members a direct link to a senior member of the company and breaks down those proverbial barriers that may exist between senior management and general employees.
Driving Values Home and Creating a Brag-Worthy Culture
Ensuring that the Five F’s are a priority — and establishing them as a norm across the globe — was essential to creating a ‘brag-worthy’ culture at Unosquare. With employees based in different time zones and speaking different languages, it was essential that these values were clear and easy to understand. No matter where you’re reading them, no matter who you are, from trainee to senior manager, the five values have to be clear and relatable.
Commitment from the executive team and CEO is pivotal in any type of organization. It’s crucial for everyone to be on-board, from top to bottom, and that everyone is familiar with the core values. There’s no point in having such a strong framework if no one knows about it.
This can be done by holding monthly all-hands meetings and smaller meetings if necessary. It means getting HR, finance, IT, operations, payroll, etc. together and continually going over the values and the mission. You should also talk about them in interviews with potential employees, to set the foundation for the start.
Another one of Unosquare’s Five F’s is “fit.” That means making sure that there is a match between the company’s vision and the employees’. The COO heads talent acquisition and he does a cultural fit meeting with every single team member who walks through the door. Is it time-consuming? Yes. Does it make all the difference? Absolutely.
Don’t underestimate the importance of reviewing your values. Make sure that as your organization grows, your mission and your commitment to that mission, grow with it. Be open and transparent with your employees: tell them what’s going on in the business. Your team wants (and needs) to know as much as possible about the company that they’re operating in. Keep that door open, always.
Even if you’re bringing in A Players, if your culture isn’t strong from the top to the bottom, they’ll never succeed. If your company culture is strong, then your people will become the culture. If it’s weak, the culture becomes the people. Remember that as you create your own brag-worthy culture!
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