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Interview

Putting People at the Heart of Company Decisions

“Employees want to feel like they belong, that they’re valued, that they’re cared for”.

Technologist

Unleash Your People Assad Ahmed, Founding Director of Phase 3, tells UNLEASH about the 17-year history that’s got the company to where it is today and why it’s all about their people with their integral empathetic approach.

  • Phase 3’s approach is to offer more than just remote working but to make employees feel valued, cared for, and listened to.
  • An empathetic approach is critical for understanding what the little nuances are within different benefits and perks.
  • By using employee engagement technologies, combined with the ingrained and empathetic approach that Phase 3 has, they’re on a trajectory that’s going places.

The Phase 3 team covers the full lifecycle of HR and Payroll systems projects. From scoping to go-live, from selection to project management, and everything in between. They offer specialist, independent HR technology consulting and business services, helping leaders to master HR systems and achieve smooth implementation of software.

UNLEASH knew a conversation with Phase 3 Founding Director, Assad Ahmed would be fascinating. Not only has the organization gone from strength to strength since being developed in Assad’s spare bedroom in 2004, to the 50-person successful enterprise they are today, but the team there exudes an incredible value-driven culture that is obvious in everything they do.

At Phase 3, they believe that the mastery of people systems is something they are in together with their clients and that the people behind the technology are the gold dust. Reading from one of their blog posts written by former MD Kate Wadia who sadly passed away in 2019, she noted “The technology is there to serve us. Surely, we people matter more.”

UNLEASH Editor Yessi Bello Perez spoke to Assad about the company’s journey and what it means to have a people-first approach.

Watch the exclusive interview now.

Fully working from home isn’t enough

Speaking to Management Today, Kevin Ellis, Chairman of PwC said presenteeism is “dead forever”. This is just one of the many, many examples that conveys COVID-19’s acceleration and vast spread impact on the approach to flexible working for the global workforce. UNLEASH has been reporting on examples like Spotify’s VP of HR on working from anywhere and Remote work and productivity: Why employee listening is key. We’ve seen examples of organizations touting they are going fully remote, to those advocating for a four-day week, and everything in between.

When UNLEASH spoke to Assad, he considered some home truths (excuse the pun), that “Not everyone wants to work from home.” He told us that situations and opinions are nuanced and speaking from his own experience, he told us “When I was in my 20s, a long time ago, I wouldn’t want to work from home, I’d want to go into the city center. I’d want to go for the after-work drinks and enjoy the mingling. There are the whole social elements of [going to an office]”.

The answer, he believes, is a balance.

It’s about putting people at the heart of company decisions

Phase 3’s approach is to offer more than just remote working, but to make employees feel valued, cared for and listened to.

Assad told us that they try and do this, not just being flexible about where colleagues work from, but also to “try to get actively involved in someone’s moving house, or if they’ve had a baby, or, you know, real-life events. We want to see the team growing in lots of different ways. But I think you have to live those values that you have, as a business. And I think, ultimately it’s about putting people at the heart of company decisions”.

Removing Sunday Night Dread Through Empathy

Kate Wadia, former MD at Phase 3, clearly impacted Assad and the running of the organization greatly, before her sad passing just over two years ago. He told UNLEASH, he learned so many things from her, including the value of her empathetic approach to everything. “It wasn’t false” he described, “It wasn’t put on and that was just who she was. And honestly, it was an eye-opener.” He went on to tell us that Kate, “often to the detriment of herself… would put the entire team first, where everybody would go to her to ask for work-related queries, life-related queries. And you know, if you can have that approach and genuinely put yourself in people’s shoes, then it’s amazing.”

Take care of your people and they’ll take care of your business, there’s no great science to it, there’s no great complications

The impact of this empathetic approach was made apparent when Assad described that what employees are looking for right now, more than ever, isn’t just about getting paid, it’s about them wanting to feel a sense of belonging and that they’re valued and cared for by their employers. And that’s what he is trying to deliver at Phase 3.

He told us that they really try to listen to the needs of the team. An example he gave is that one colleague approached them recently and explained they felt the benefits, and perks offered were perhaps more suited to colleagues that had young children. Obviously, the fact that an employee was happy enough to be this honest and open about their opinion is one thing, but the ensuing impact Assad shared, also speaks volumes. “It actually made us think about how we need to adapt our approach because it’s a 10,000 piece jigsaw that you’re never going to complete. There’s always moving parts, and I think it’s about finding that balance.”

Another example he provided was their shift to offering unlimited leave. Assad discussed that he understands that research shows the majority of companies that implement unlimited leave experience their workforce taking less leave than they did before. To make sure the policy actually had a positive impact on his employees, Assad told us they’ve implemented a minimum figure of 25 days that employees have to take, “then anything on top of that you take as well. So again, it’s about understanding what those small nuances are within the different perks”.

Inc. listed 7 habits of Highly Empathetic People:

  1. Be fully present with others
  2. Master the art of active listening
  3. Tune into nonverbal communication
  4. Pause
  5. Replace giving advice with asking questions
  6. Speak in terms of “we”, not “me”
  7. Imagine other’ point of view

Looking at these, and reflecting on the conversation with Assad, it’s clear that Kate’s influence is deeply-rooted and far-reaching within the Phase 3 culture.

Technology supporting a people-first, empathetic approach

COVID has certainly sped up digital transformation for many. We’ve seen an acceleration in technologies, and approaches to tech in the last 12 months that should have taken 5-10 years on the trajectory we were on. As thought leaders in HR technology, Phase 3 builds confidence and competencies in HR teams to use these technologies. And they practice what they preach.

Assad explained just some of the technologies they’ve implemented themselves to really support their employees. “We have full remote access and we have our HR system that manages employee engagement. We can offer surveys; we use an AI-based wellbeing tool called Welbot, which helps to pick up trends on how people are feeling throughout the days and weeks; we use Perkbox; we have an EAP; we’ve just implemented a learning management solution now for training courses etc. So there really isn’t any excuse.”

By using these technologies, combined with the ingrained and empathetic culture that Phase 3 has, we can see they are on a trajectory to be able to adapt and evolve to ongoing expansion and any challenges and opportunities the industry outlook throws their way. And, the confidence in this was clear from Assad, “we’re not stopping there in terms of what we have now” he told us, “but it’s a good starting point to then move forward from.” Watch this space!

Find out more about Phase 3 here.

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