Eat is 20 this year. The time has flown by. We started to think of how to celebrate, but now find ourselves sheltering in place, working via Zoom and wondering like many other companies what the next week will bring. Thinking back, we’ve dealt with a number of challenges over the years. We launched the company just before the dot-com crash in 2000 and a year later, working late on the latest issue of Eat magazine, the news started to trickle in of the September 11th attacks in New York. 2008/9 brought the Lehman crash and then a few years later 3/11 and the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Fukushima.
Things haven’t been all doom and gloom of course and we’re still here to tell our tale. However one thing all this has taught us is that when it comes to the biggest challenges, the most important part of any company is its people – look after your team and they will do great work and look after you.
The role of HR has taken a much higher profile recently with companies of all sizes considering diversity and inclusion and what being sustainable really means – it's not about just being ‘green’, but being really adaptable to change and able to deal with whatever the future throws at you. Create an environment where the best people can thrive and do great work and they will come to you and stay.
Everyone is different. At Eat we are Japanese and we are foreign, we are different ages, come from different backgrounds. Some have families and many are remote from those families. We live in a world of fake news and conflicting truths and at times, like 3/11 and Covid-19, balancing these demands and processing all this information can take a severe mental toll. Everyone has different needs, different ways of dealing with these challenges and is able to contribute in different ways. Companies have to respond to that and become much more flexible – a one-size fits all policy is going to fail.
We are a small company and we found ourselves agreeing different arrangements with different people depending on their needs and our requirements – not really something that was going to scale. So we decided to look more closely at what we were doing and see if we could get something down on paper. The result was more of an approach than a set of rules.
We call it an ‘adult relationship’ with our team (I know – it sounds bad…). Basically it’s about trust. We pay them for delivering great work, on time. We expect them to communicate with each other and deliver what each project needs, when it's needed. In return, we encourage flexible working, be it location or start and finish times and we have a ‘take the holiday you need’ policy – There’s a few restrictions around that of course – you can’t take the summer off – but we cautiously tried it out around 10 years ago and… nothing changed. It allows people to deliver in a way that best suits their unique life situation.
So trust, good internal comms and a flexible HR policy that works on an individual human level has never been more important – and it’s becoming a bigger part of the work we do for many of our clients. If there is any upside to be found in the present pandemic, it is that companies will hopefully come out the other side more flexible and human focused then when they went in.