• Debbie Laird

Diversity & Inclusion at Bedford: The story of our culture from our Head of People Operations

Updated: Jul 7

To mark the end of Pride month, Debbie Laird, Head of People Operations at Bedford shares a bit about herself, the culture at Bedford and some initiatives that are underway to support diversity and inclusion within our organisation.

1. Tell us about yourself and when you joined Bedford?

I originally hail from Northern Ireland, but I have been living in England for 30 years, only losing a little bit of my accent along the way. I live with my partner Darron, and like many others, my one bed flat has become my gym (I love yoga and Body Pump), my workspace and my place to chill. I relax by reading, walking, listening to podcasts, watching box sets, and COVID has also allowed me to re-find my love of jigsaw puzzles. (I know, old school!) I have mainly worked for tech consultancies throughout my career. I started in Operations, before branching out into HR and have picked up a little finance knowledge too along the way, having recently obtained a distinction in my AAT level 2 bookkeeping and accountancy course. I would describe my skillset as being that of a Swiss army knife, I can turn my hand to most things and love to learn new skills.

I joined Bedford at the end of March 2021 as Head of People Operations, allowing me to really focus and make an impact on the people side of the business, which is the aspect I truly love.

2. What changes have you already made?

Bedford has seen an accelerated spurt of growth over the last two years, growing by 50% year on year (shout out to Gary Murphy, now our Head of Enablement) and we are looking to continue this growth going into the next year. This has meant that a lot of processes are starting to feel stretched, as what works for a company of 20 people does not necessarily scale well for a company of 60 people. My job, as well as recruiting people, is to help scale those processes to support both the business and our people.

When I came on board, Bedford’s Leadership Team had already started to think about these issues, so have been really supportive in helping me to improve and change these processes. My first three months I have been focusing on:

  • Recruitment and onboarding processes, mapping the current processes, understanding the scaling risks, and improving those processes, including introducing a buddy scheme for new starters to help them find their feet in our company whilst still working remotely.

  • Helping our Chief Customer Officer roll out our new line management structure; training our new POD leaders, creating and implementing our new Quarterly Performance Review process and guidelines.

  • Planning the implementation of our new HRIS tool Bob, which will not only allow our people data to be stored in the same place, with a single source of truth, but also allows us to automate many of our people processes and improve engagement and feedback with our employees.

  • Reviewing our employee benefit offering to ensure it is competitive with market trends across our EMEA region, this included the launch of our Employee Assistance Programme across UKI and EMEA

  • Introduced our mental health slack channel ‘#braingym’ to allow employees to share advice and tips for how to keep sane and happy during these unprecedented COVID times, some excellent advice and links have been posted already.

  • Updating our people policies, employee handbook and induction agendas

  • Started a fortnightly update letter for employees, providing highlights of the previous fortnight and an idea of what is coming up, this runs concurrently with our fortnightly All Hands call.

  • Producing an annual corporate communication calendar to help us engage internally with our people, and externally with our potential customers.

  • Recruitment, recruitment, recruitment! We are growing quickly with 16 people joining us in Q1 and we are still growing – if you know any good Anaplanners/Solution Architects/Project Managers, then get in touch!

3. What initiatives are you considering as part of your overall plan?

Inclusion and Diversity is very important to us at Bedford, and we already have good diversity within our workforce. 16% of our employees are female, (which in a tech environment is a great start and this number will increase as we continue to grow), 20% of our employees are BAME, and we have over 10 different nationalities.

We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, but the one thing we have in common is that we truly live and breathe the Bedford values; Humility, Teamwork, Quality, Partnership, Customer-Focus and Innovation.

We set people up for success and everyone you work with really has your back and wants to see you develop and succeed. We encourage people to ask questions and put their hand up for support, which is just a slack message or Teams call away.

Our new POD structure, Buddy scheme, and Coffee Roulette (a coffee chat with anyone in the company), alongside our comprehensive onboarding process, ensure that people feel immediately welcomed into the Bedford team, have support and most importantly have a voice from day one, and throughout their career at Bedford.

Feedback and recognition are also super important to us, along with our Quarterly Performance Reviews. We have a ‘Thank you Thursday’ slack channel, encouraging everyone to give a shout out to their peers when they see them living out one of our Bedford values. We ask for anonymous employee feedback fortnightly, and act upon the feedback we are given by implementing new initiatives and improving processes, and we are continuing this inclusive feedback culture through the implementation of our new people tool. It is very important to us to continue to attract a diverse range of people to our business, and maintain the right environment to create psychological safety, for them to feel included, listened to and supported.

4. How have you celebrated Pride Month at Bedford?

Internally we have celebrated Pride Month by discussing our support structures and the importance of Diversity and Inclusion on our All Hand’s call and Fortnightly updates. Our marketing team has done a great job in changing our logo to the rainbow colours to show our support externally, and to continue to help us to attract a diverse range of candidates for our open roles.

It’s a busy but exciting time at Bedford, there is plenty more to do over the next year, I’m definitely going to be kept on my toes!

A word from our CEO, Cathal Doyle “As we continue to grow, one of my personal goals for Bedford is to ensure it remains a safe and open environment for people to work, an environment where our people can feel supported, challenged and enabled to develop in their careers. Bedford has given me more friendships than it has colleagues and for that I will be forever grateful, but it certainly commands our attention & focus in fostering this environment as we continue our growth.”

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