Our Head of Search and Content reflects on what it means to be a Yardie, the importance of our company culture and the steps we’re taking to achieve our vision for Yard.
What we're trying to build at Yard
You’d think a company that’s over thirteen years’ old would have its collective shit together. And, have everything in place to be a successful, inclusive, forward-thinking, culture-driven agency that has succession planning nailed with clear career progression roadmaps in place. We don’t. But we’re trying.
We’re trying hard and, with the help of our team, we’ll continue to improve. But we know that improvement should be continuous, and we can always do better.
We talk about being Yardies. We’re a part of something – but what is that something? What is our goal and what do we want to achieve?
Our vision statement at Yard is to be:
Globally trusted digital consultants, catalysing brand success
It’s our staff, along with an enormous amount of dedication and hard work, that will help us achieve this vision.
My ultimate vision for Yard is to build the most positive and inclusive working environment we can. To deliver results that are beyond what we’ve proposed and to be recognised globally as the trusted digital experts that we are.
We’re already visualising that success. We have a vision and we will achieve it.
Building a diverse workforce
Across both our Edinburgh and Cardiff offices, we’ve historically had a very male orientated workforce. A lot of beards and too many men. Over the last year, we’ve taken more steps to address this and we now have over 50% female staff in the Edinburgh office – and three-quarters of our department heads are female.
Our workforce is diverse, with staff from Sweden, America, Poland, India, France, and Falkirk to name a few – but we could still be better. Our doors are open, I just hope Brexit doesn’t change that.
Building a culture
Having an identity and a culture that we all believe in, and contribute to, is vital to our success at Yard.
Rich, our MD, has been instrumental in the creation of a Culture Committee.
The committee’s goal for 2019 was to develop Yard as a single workplace. As a company, we operate in various locations but professionally and mentally we needed to start acting as one Yard (rather than Yard Cardiff and Yard Edinburgh) whilst retaining the unique culture each office and city has to offer.
It’s also an opportunity to shape Yard into the type of workplace that they can be proud of and be the main contributors of the culture we’re trying to build. A workplace for the people by the people.
Why the Culture Committee is an important part of Yard
The Culture Committee enriches the experience of employees, helping to champion wellness and create a healthy work-life balance. The committee also drives forward Yard’s core values and encourages buy-in from all staff.
It’s more than just 5 pm beers!
We strive to evoke togetherness, a sense of belonging and give a voice to all staff members. When team members feel valued and part of something bigger, they are more motivated to see it succeed.
We look after our own!
If we have a happy team who know they are valued, we have a competitive edge. Good company culture attracts new talent, turns staff into genuine advocates and empowers people to stay and succeed. The committee is made up of a cross-section of employees, from both offices. We feel that representation is an important aspect of the committee. And, as we’re employee-led, we have more insight into the day-to-day than an external party would. Yardies may feel more confident in coming forward with ideas and suggestions for improvement.
Achieving big things
Our company culture is something that continually evolves, and this year we’ve taken some big steps. To make the first month easier for new staff members, we created a new starter checklist to help with the onboarding process. We’ve undertaken a company-wide survey to gain more insight on what’s working in terms of culture, and what can be improved. We’ve also got the engine running with bringing our offices together, with streamlined communication and more shared activities.
Our future goals
In 2020, we want to make Yard more sustainable – with more focus on recycling, reducing waste and being more environmentally conscious. We’ll be organising charity days for all staff members so we can give back to the community. We’re also going to improve communication across the company and we’re working on a simple staff intranet where we can post updates, internal news, staff shout-outs and an events calendar.
Choosing to work at Yard
We want to attract the best staff and make Yard a desirable place to work. But we also want to employ staff who will fit in with our current teams. We don’t do egos, even though we’re undoubtedly good at what we do. We want to employ staff who are caring, welcoming, encouraging, respectful, ambitious and looking to be a part of something because that what it means to be a Yardie.
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of the best people you could ever meet through Yard. I’ve also had to deal with some life-changing personal issues in my time here. The people around me – my colleagues, but more deeply my friends, supported me through those times with a compassion that I’ll forever be grateful for.
It’s an inspiring place to work.
We offer a digital diploma for all members of staff. We work with the amazingly smart folks at Andragogy to provide this career-enhancing benefit. It’s a tailored learning experience designed, delivered and fully managed by experts. It’s optional, if that doesn’t fit into a Yardie’s career progression plan, we can build a tailored training and development plan that does.
Career progression is key to helping us grow and become the agency we strive to be. It’s an area we’ve not been strong at in the past. We have success stories, with Doug in the tech SEO team and Shannon in the content team, both of whom joined us within a year of graduating uni, but we’d like many more. We’ve now got clear progression charts and we have structured our account management team for the biggest area of growth and our aim is to promote and grow from within. We want our staff to be Yardies for as long as possible, and we must be able to show them what opportunities are available to them.
Accepting tough feedback
We recently had a very negative review from an ex-member of staff on Glassdoor. It was a real tough one to take, but like I said from the start, it’s all about what we’re trying to achieve and recognising we’ve not been good enough in certain areas in the past.
We’ve taken this review extremely seriously and our HR team conducted a full internal investigation. We want to work towards not receiving feedback like this again.
We’ve made a lot of changes and investment in the last few years to make sure everyone has the training, skills and support they need to do their job, including managers. We also introduced a system of pay reviews which is fair to everyone, communicated effectively and based on performance and market rates. We’ll continue to work towards this for every Yardie.
Earlier this year we also received feedback about our processes when people leave the company, and we’ve acted on it. We carry out exit interviews and for some time now we’ve been improving our communication when staff leave the company.
We recently conducted a staff survey and we’re currently working hard to implement as much of the feedback as we can, including introducing even more flexible working arrangements and a new working from home policy. As for the coffee in the Edinburgh office? Yeah, we’re fixing that too! We’re going to mellow the coffee vibe.
The full results of the staff survey will be announced soon, so more on that later.
Confidence and communication
We were lucky enough to have Kirsty Hulse deliver her communication and confidence workshops at Yard and it was one of the best sessions I’ve ever been involved in. The team were buzzing for days after it.
When was the last time you sat down and wrote your qualities? When was the last time you congratulated yourself? If you’re like me, you probably don’t but you should. It’s hard at first but when you plan in time to do it regularly, you realise you have many more qualities and that you contribute a lot more than you give yourself credit for.
Just being in the same room as Kirsty was inspiring. I’ll be honest, she momentarily ruined my day when she told us it is practically impossible to deconstruct bad habits and old brain wiring, but she resolved the feeling of dread in my stomach when she confirmed that we can create new pathways instead.
In a way, that’s what we’re trying to do at Yard. Continuously looking for newer and better ways to not only think about things but to help us provide a better working environment.
It’s ok to make mistakes
Yes, it’s ok to make mistakes. We encourage them if you learn from them. We encourage a supportive environment where mistakes are accepted as part of development.
I remember an old lecturer saying he used to ask potential staff in interviews if they ever made mistakes. Many said no. They didn’t get the job. If they said yes, he simply wanted to know what they learnt from it.
Everyone makes mistakes. At work and in life. Mistakes cause us to get anxious and then we end up (sometimes) making more mistakes. Having the fear about making mistakes can lead to more and on it goes. Imagine being able to work without that fear.
If you make a mistake at work, learn from it and move on. Make a new mistake and learn something new from it and move on. Let it go. Maybe we could introduce a ‘what mistakes I made this week’ reflection session and discuss what we learnt from it.
Building the most positive and inclusive working environment we can
This is my ultimate vision for Yard.
What is a positive working environment and how do you create it? Once we’ve built it, how do we maintain it? How do we then promote this positive and inclusive working environment that we’ve built so that we can improve it even more?
These are the questions that are behind all the decisions we now make to improve Yard on an ongoing basis.
What have we introduced to help us be a more positive and inclusive place to work?
We’re a certified Living Wage Employer. All our staff and suppliers, including freelancers, cleaning, catering, etc. are paid above the current living wage.
Yard is accredited by Investors in People (Bronze) which demonstrates our commitment to realising the potential of our staff. We are working towards Silver accreditation this year and expect to achieve gold in 2020.
We also have an equality and diversity policy in place which is available to all staff. The goal of this policy is to:
- Provide equality, fairness and respect for all staff
- Not unlawfully discriminate due to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origin), religion or belief, sex (gender) and sexual orientation
- Oppose and avoid all forms of unlawful discrimination. This includes in pay and benefits, terms and conditions of employment, dealing with grievances and discipline, dismissal, redundancy, leave for parents, requests for flexible working, and selection for employment, promotion, training or other developmental opportunities.
We also have set goals for improvement in all areas of gender equality including reducing our pay gap to zero and greater female representation at board level.
What else do we plan to do?
Everything and anything we can. We’ll be continuing our staff feedback surveys and implementing as much as possible. We’re already working on our Yard guidebook, which will help all staff contribute to Yard’s success and have a happy and rewarding career as a Yardie. To support that, we’re also creating our What it means to be a Yardie book which will clearly outline the behaviours and standards expected of every Yardie.
More on that to come.
Visualising the brightest future
We must collectively work towards achieving the success that we’ve visualised. All the greatest athletes and sports stars will visualise their performance before they compete and before they train. They visualise it and achieve it.
We’re visualising being the best SEO and analytics agency, with the most positive and inclusive working environment and generally the best place you could imagine working.
We can achieve a winning mindset by developing a strong sense of purpose. Knowing what we’re working towards, and focusing on that vision, and not letting the challenges and setbacks we face in our daily working lives get in the way of us achieving our goals.
Why there’s always room for improvement
We’ll never be perfect. I’m not a huge fan of perfectionism as I think it’s a distraction. Working towards continuous improvement and development is where I see the most benefit. It’s important we build a continuous improvement culture, that we’re always learning, sharing that knowledge and developing.
We work in an amazing industry, our clients want us to challenge them and to propose ideas that excite them, so we need to make sure we’re rising to that, and always move forward, always improving. Work should be fun; it should make us proud. If we win awards because of that then even better, but if we’re continuing to smash results for clients, then that is enough recognition. I think our team deserves awards though.
If you’d like to be a part of what we’re creating here at Yard, please get in touch. We’re always looking for more Yardies!