Shona HealyHead of People & Operations
12.07.20228 mins read
Changing the name of your brand is never easy. Some spectacular failures include BP’s attempt to switch to Beyond Petroleum or Pizza Hut, dropping the word pizza, and missing out on what they actually do. More recently, Facebook changed its name to Meta, the jury is still out on this one, but initial responses were not exactly favourable. It’s a huge decision to change your brand name and identity, and not without risk.
However, sometimes it just makes sense. Having been known as Strata3 for almost 20 years, it was a huge leap, but we wanted our name to reflect us and what we value. After tons of research and a few animated discussions, we chose All human because it best represents our philosophy of creating human-centric digital experiences. Yes, we are a digital agency, and the work we do lives online, but what is at our core and what motivates us each morning is that we are creating, designing, and developing digital experiences that people love.
Inside the All human office
What makes people stay at a job?
The answer varies, although responses typically include remuneration, benefits, flexibility around working hours, and learning & development opportunities. Since the global pandemic, we’ve seen a new trend emerge as people reconsidered their priorities and looked at other options now since remote working is widely available.
I believe that one of the main reasons people stay is the people, especially the leadership team. Yes, there’s always the financial incentive- and sometimes an offer is just too good to turn down. However, if a company prioritises its employees and makes a determined and structured effort to establish a positive, nurturing culture, people will typically stay. Without sounding too cultish, when people find their place and are engaged with the workplace, they are more likely to stay the course.
A surprise move upward and into a leadership role
If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would one day be Head of People and Operations and be with the same company for over 15 years, honestly, I’d have laughed at them. However, here I am. I joined All human, or Strata3 as we were known then, as a senior project manager after returning to Dublin from Scotland, where I worked in marketing. Project management was new to me - John Mitchell, CEO, and Fergal Lawler, Experience Design Director, took a chance, given I had a marketing background. I liked it, so I got my project management professional (PMP) and Prince 2 certifications.
Shona Healy, Head of People and Operations
Soon I was taking on more responsibilities, so the leadership team carved out a new role for me - Head of Studio. My days now revolved around scheduling resources, assigning project managers, and managing my projects. I’m a bit of a problem-solver- so I soon became the person everyone went to if they needed things to be sorted out.
When an opportunity opened up, I moved formerly into an Operations role. Then, as the agency grew and it became apparent we needed a HR person, I was given the opportunity to go to UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and earn a Masters in Human Resources Management. It was a true testament to the leadership’s support and belief in me that they not only paid my tuition but also were always on hand to mentor, guide, and encourage me on this journey.
I’ve now headed up the All human HR function for about the last 2.5 years, and some of the changes that I am most proud of include:
- Introducing a Wellness Program - We partner with a wellness coach, Aoife Ellis, who works with each employee, helping them to make small positive changes that support their overall health and wellbeing. She helps to set goals, develop a healthy mindset, and form healthy habits. She also shares weekly yoga sessions, recipes, and tips for improving work-life balance
- Adding benefits such as healthcare, additional holidays, flexible working, and social programmes
- Increasing salary scales to competitive market levels
- Planning a social calendar- including organising a Christmas party in Madrid for 35 people.
I’ve now grown into a role that I love and one that puts my problem-solving skills to good use. I think, too, that because I came to HR via a non-HR route, I have a really strong sense of what makes for a great onboarding experience and what’s needed to build an environment and workspace that inspires loyalty. Partially because of my story, we actively encourage professional development opportunities for all employees. We offer a generous education grant that, since its introduction, has an 80% take-up rate. Our employees have used the funding to acquire professional qualifications like project management certifications, others have used the money and pursued their masters, and some of our devs people have used the money to attend conferences across Europe or here in Dublin.
All human provides employees with opportunities for professional growth
How our All human culture enabled business as usual during Covid
Like everyone else, March 2020 completely upended our world. Within one day, we had to move from a face-to-face collaborative digital agency working day-to-day within client teams to being fully remote. On the practical side, we relied heavily on technology. We leveraged Slack, JIRA, InVision, Abstract, Figma, Miro, and other SaaS tools to continue collaborating and meeting deadlines.
However, while these tools enabled us to keep producing digital experiences, it takes more than just having the means to get people interested and working collaboratively. I was initially worried about keeping that mindset alive while everyone was dispersed across the country and beyond. Thankfully it wasn’t an issue. We transitioned and continued to deliver on deadlines and quickly adapted to solving the needs of one of our clients who, because of the lockdown, had to find an alternative way to conduct their largest fundraising event of the year. It was business as usual despite the unusual circumstances.
All human was able to continue operations during Covid
Reopening the All human office
Our office, like our name, has transformed. As Ireland was emerging slowly from the lockdown, we used the time to complete a total makeover of our offices. To launch the reopening, we brought employees back in small groups for a mini onboarding session, a tour of the new space, and, most importantly, how to use the new coffee machine. As part of our sustainability initiative, we are trying to push for a plastic-free office. During onboarding, every employee is issued a refillable bottle and a reusable glass mug, and we encourage everyone to bring these to the office. Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do. Even though we have committed to remote working, we were keen to keep a home in Westland Square. We designed our new space to facilitate hybrid working. Employees have access to private office space, each furnished with audio and visual setups so that people can continue to work collaboratively. The new space is great for bringing clients and hosting internal and external workshops and website launch parties. Already we’ve hosted our first celebration inviting clients and partners over and meeting face-to-face for the first time in years.
All human transformed its office space to facilitate hybrid working
What’s next for HR at All human?
As an agency, we want to continue expanding our clients and increasing our profile outside of Ireland. As Head of People and Operations, I want to focus on fine-tuning the HR function, updating processes, and putting some more structure around recruitment and onboarding. Everyone is under pressure to retain and attract new hires in today’s competitive labour market. Since we are so supportive of people’s careers, often it can mean that they need to move on to expand their careers. However, something about the All human brand keeps people with us. Our leadership team has been the same for the last 10 years, and we have 10-15 people outside of leadership who have worked here for 8+ years- which is quite a feat in the agency sector.
I also want to submit All human to Great Places to Work - for us to be recognised and get that external validation that confirms what we all know.