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“Don’t be a dick!” – An Interview with Elle Chappell

‘Culture’ is a word thrown around a lot by companies at the moment to try and attract new talent. However, culture is more than a early finish and free coffee as Elle Chappell from Best Energy explains.

Elle is one of the most passionate people I have met when it comes to ED&I. She leads from the front, always learning about best practices, has a heart of gold and here shares some valuable insights on what companies should be doing when attracting underrepresented talent to their teams…

Hey Elle, we’re really excited to speak to you about all things People and Culture and your passion for ED&I.
Can you tell me a bit about your job and what your day usually looks like?

I’m in a stand alone People & Culture role and have a responsibility for talent acquisition, day to day people operations, L&D, supporting line managers and the senior team, benefits…the list is quite endless actually! There often isn’t a typical day but I could go from interviewing to training to preparing to onboard new joiners, for example. When I joined the business, there was no People function so I’ve pretty much built everything from scratch including implementing 2 x pieces of people ops and hiring software, introducing Annual Talent Reviews, creating hiring processes, rolled out engagement surveys etc.

People and Culture is a relatively new role within companies. What does a great culture look like to you?

Personally, I think a great culture is somewhere people can show up as themselves and not feel they have to hide their true selves away. Somewhere people feel trusted and empowered to do the right thing (otherwise why have you hired them?), and somewhere that values and supports people as individuals, as people that have lives and families. Trust, autonomy and respect.

Who do you think should own culture within an organisation?

100% every single person within a business from the person who vacuums the offices to the CEO. It’s not up to one person, or a group of directors, it’s got to be people owned and driven. I use the phrase ‘moments that matter’ a lot. The moments that you have with your colleagues, suppliers, partners, customers, the behaviours you exhibit on a daily basis. The interactions, the behaviours – these all working together and occurring each day result in your culture.

You share the same passion as us for ED&I – What advice would you give to companies when attracting underrepresented talent to their teams?

Assess your job descriptions: when we write job specs, language has a huge impact on the end reader. For example, women are much less likely to apply for a role if they don’t hit all the listed criteria than men are. Instead, take a look internally at people who are performing and consider things that matter the most. Do you really need someone to have a Masters, for example? It’s also really important to ensure candidates can see into your business. A job description is a bunch of words, it’s not your culture. People need to be able to see into your business (your careers page/LinkedIn/social media and see that they would be supported to thrive in your community. For example, if your company is predominately white, how do you ensure any new joiners who are black or Asian for example, are supported, or people with a disability? If they can’t see you supporting them, they’re less likely to apply. Have a great hiring process in place and ensure your teams are trained properly when it comes to interviewing too are really key.

What challenges have you faced in your career both being self-employed and an employee?

Wow, good question. Being employed was tough, I just wanted to deliver, I didn’t want to be a finance manager and a sales manager and a marketing manager too. I think in hindsight, I might have liked it better if I started something with friends or someone else in my field, who knows.

What has been your proudest moment to date, both personally and professionally?

Proudest moment professionally on reflection, is making the decision to close my business. It turned out having a business isn’t what I wanted and taking that decision changed my life but it wasn’t an easy one to make. At the time, I was worried about the word ‘fail’ and what people would think, which I still haven’t figured out why that was even an issue for me. I remember being sat on a boat near the Isle of Arran and just said to my husband ‘I’m closing the business when we get home and I’ve decided on the role I want.’ His face was a picture! I didn’t even know if the role was out there, and it had to be in sustainability or something similar. A month later, I had an offer so it all worked out in the end. Personally, my 250km ultra marathon in the Wadi Rum desert, Jordan. I completed the race, flew home and the day after I landed started my new job! 2021 was an interesting year…

It’s International Women’s Day this month and something we should celebrate everyday. Who are the most inspirational women you follow and inspired by?

Blimey, my friend Andreea Wilmott is up there for so many reasons, she’s a power house of a woman. Jane Goodall, Dr Jess French (someone I know personally again), Leena Nair, Malala Yousafzai, Jacinda Ardern…the list goes on!

Working mums and supporting them is also something you are passionate about, what can companies do for expecting parents and then mums or dads returning to work?

First of all, enhanced maternity/paternity pay and/or shared parental leave. If having a baby isn’t stressful enough with the physical, mental and emotional changes a woman goes through, the financial pressure of being on statutory MAT leave must be unbearable. Don’t get me started on this! Flexible hours, childcare vouchers, understand that new parents are going to be sleep deprived, offer mental health support (many men don’t disclose to their employers that they’re suffering with perinatal mental health issues as they think it will harm their career), create new parents meet ups/groups within the business to share stories and experiences, celebrate family. So many women have to sacrifice their career when they have a baby after years of hard work. The best businesses will embrace multiple ways to truly support parents and they will reap the rewards for doing so.

If you we’re a song what song would you be?

Probably Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen.

What is the saying or mantra you live by?

Don’t be a dick! Am I allowed to say that?!

Course you are – sterling advice!

Thanks so much for speaking to us Elle.

You rock! #womenrock

An interview by Alicia Teagle

A voice for diversity in Tech and Engineering

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