Live Q&A with Andrew Humphries, Co-Founder at The Bakery

17 May 2018

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We’ve just hosted a live Q&A session on LinkedIn with Andrew Humphries, entrepreneur and co-founder at innovation accelerator The Bakery. During this session, Andrew explained how he supports his people and benefits his business. Read the full Q&A to find out some tips to help your small business.

Q1 - Hi Andrew, just to kick off the Q&A session, could you tell us a bit about The Bakery?

So the Bakery is now a 30 person company that we started in 2013. We’ve grown dramatically from small beginnings and we help large corporates innovate faster by working and collaborating with exciting startups all over the world!

Q2 - Andrew, do you find that your business has made use of an explicit strategy about wellbeing or whether you have lots of good ideas, activities, means of engaging people - or a combination of both strategy and offering activities?

Having had businesses before, as founders we always wanted to create a business full of the kind of people we wanted to go to work with every day. This led us to a clear thought process and strategy of building a gang, a tribe that had the same goals, vision and work ethic, and that in turn led us to build a strategy to support them. Then we had to have a lot of ideas! Some of the ideas didn’t work - kayaking was a damp failure! However, those that worked we expanded in a Darwinian way.

Q3 - Hi Andrew, I’m interested in how you best measure the effectiveness of wellbeing programmes, in particular around mental health?

Thanks for your question! We measure on a regular basis our employee satisfaction, and in particular ask them how they are feeling on their quarterly appraisal and reviews. We also are measuring staff retention and turnover, ensuring that it improves over time. Mostly it’s about making sure our employees are happy and progressing, it needn’t be rocket science...

Q4 - Do you feel under pressure to practise what you preach when it comes to helping support your staff's health and wellness?

Luckily I don’t feel pressure because it’s become a way of life for me, being the right kind of person who tries hard to manage my own state and admit when I get it wrong or fall off the wagon. This helps it become just natural; frankly, like a lot of things, this stuff can only really work if it’s authentic.

Q5 - How important is it for the companies in 2018 to be flexible with staff over medical appointments?

I think this is indicative of your entire perspective of the issue. By ensuring people feel comfortable to let you know about their physical and mental wellbeing, that they don’t have to feel bad about time off for medical appointments, shows that you are an employer that values the people as individuals not just as profit contributors. Same goes for working late, lunch hours etc. There has to be a balance, however, if people are clearly taking advantage then you have to manage that too. Tricky balance to strike but it pays dividends in the long term with regard to cost of recruitment and retention - and ultimately the value you get from your team.

Q6 - The majority of my staff are lone workers (care workers going from house to house), what advice do you have for how I can best support their wellbeing?

Really interesting challenge! Putting in place methods of communication and opportunities for them to share in a confidential way on a regular basis may be a good idea. We have a number of people overseas, and making sure they know you’re there for them and care, even if you don’t see them every day, is super-important. Regular updates are definitely important, make sure you set times to catch up and communicate and don’t move them unless you absolutely have to.

Q7 - What’s been your most successful strategy and/or benefit to help your employees?

I think two things that work really well have been finding a way to help those who want to, to work with an external coach that helps them with anything they choose. This has been a small investment from the business but has resonated really well with our team. Secondly, we encourage and help people to find external mentors; we work with entrepreneurs so are surrounded by inspirational people who want to give back, and some of them love being mentors to great people. Not everyone in our team takes advantage but those who do love it, and we see them improving on an on-going basis so we benefit too.

Q8 - How do you lead by example with physical fitness?

Badly is the real answer! :) None of the founders smoke, we tend to ride bikes into work, I personally sail and try to eat healthily, and the team knows that we’d love them to be healthier if we can help. With regard to wellbeing, nobody’s perfect there either, but trying to be open, honest, respectful and listening always helps. It’s difficult when you’re busy, but just being present with people is a great way to lead by example.

Q9 - What do you do at The Bakery to support employee well being?

Working with Sanctus, an amazing startup focused on emotional well-being, every Bakery team member gets access to monthly coaching sessions from a professional coach. We run quarterly away-days to promote sharing and bonding, plus regular team lunches and evening get-togethers. We encourage personal and professional development including, for example, helping employees on their entrepreneurial journey. We ensure that every person is encouraged to think about their personal life journey by having quarterly one-on-one appraisals.

Q10 - Have you always been 'proactive' when it comes to health & wellbeing in the workplace, or did you have a 'wake' up call' at some point?

Personally I received executive and emotional intelligence coaching when I got to a senior position in a large corporate at around the age of 35, which opened my eyes to the value and benefits, making me wonder why more people weren’t exposed to the principles earlier in their lives. Later I went on to study and became a coach myself, coaching many senior executives at a number large corporates. More recently, battling with cancer has made me aware that on-going good physical health is not something we should simply take for granted, no matter how well we look after ourselves, and balancing career and personal aspirations during our lives is incredibly important.