Returning to the Consulting World (with a difference!)
Have they accidentally hired me?
Have they accidentally hired me? Can I still consult? Will I have time to go to my evening spin class?
These were a few of the many thoughts I had in the days leading up to starting to work at Clarasys. After working in industry for three years, I had the itch to return to consulting as I missed the fast-paced nature and variety of work, as well as the satisfaction of delivering against tight timelines and working alongside similarly driven individuals. I didn’t, however, miss the weekly travel, being penalised for working on bids and 3am finishes. After deciding a boutique consultancy would fit what I was looking for, I did extensive research and found Clarasys, with the main attraction being their 3rd place ranking in the Times 100 Best Small Companies to work for in 2019. A consultancy which looks like they care about their people? I decided to approach them with caution...
No utilisation targets? No hierarchy? Not having to live out of a suitcase?
Despite loving the company culture, type of work and everybody I met throughout the recruitment process, I was still sceptical when I walked through the door on my first day: how could everything I had been told actually be true? Could I have really found a consultancy that focused on employee experience? And how could a consultancy generate revenue and grow as a business, satisfy customer needs and keep their employees happy? Was all of this really possible?
It’s been a while, and it’s still real!?
Since joining and meeting most people in the company over my induction, it took a few weeks for me to fully realise a few things.
Firstly, it took me a while to actually believe that everybody was genuinely nice and interested in me as a person, instead of having hidden personal agendas to engage in conversation.
Secondly, I had to accept that I had gone from being the youngest employee (by 30 years!) working with colleagues who were openly waiting for their pensions, to being one of the many mature employees with experience and knowledge to help grow the business and coach and develop the highly driven and enthusiastic junior consultants.
And thirdly, I started to believe that companies can genuinely care about it’s employees, personal interests and ambitions, as it was evident Clarasys know their people are the greatest asset and have created an environment in which they can thrive.
Whilst more traditional consultancies can be driven by business and client needs, leaving employees feeling like a number; Clarasys always challenges and finds the balance between what's right for the business, our clients and our people. A simple way of operating (simple, yet took me time to adjust to after seven years working in the complex corporate world), yet one which delivers enormous benefits for colleagues and clients alike, and explains why Clarasys is a company loved by its people and have ranked in the Sunday Times top 20 Best Small Companies to Work For for the past three years. There are a few fundamental principles that underpin this:
#fuckupchampships is a commonly used hashtag in which employees share their mistakes and colleagues vote on the month’s winner of the biggest or most embarrassing mistake. This openly encourages everybody to share their failures and learnings with the company, without the fear or stress of having to admit to a mistake.
The company is open with how it operates including it’s finances, investments, marketing campaigns and business decisions - with employees being the majority shareholders and having their say.
All calendars are open and weekly updates are made from the CEO and leadership team to share what they’ve been working on, any key activities or meetings for the week and any lessons learnt.
Tapping into the ‘‘The Clarasys Brain’. Collaboration is a fundamental part of the Clarasys culture and is hugely valuable. By using open platforms including Google Hangouts and Chatter, instead of email, anyone can pitch in to answer a question or share an experience which may benefit others.
The autonomous way of working means that there is flat structure with trust and accountability shared amongst all employees; examples of this include:
Setting no individual sales target in the belief all employees should be helping to develop business.
Having a ‘red faced expense policy’ instead of strict rules and limits, means employees are trusted to make the right decision with the question in mind, ‘Would I be embarrassed by my expense claim?’
Leaving at 5pm is acceptable. Consultants manage their own time, with the focus being on delivery excellence, instead of showing face on client site. Clarasys have to be credited for building this way of working with clients and are very protective of this way of working. They actively discourage working late nights and long hours, instead questioning the reasons behind why this is happening and how the company can support - is it client demands? Did we resource correctly? Did we contract correctly?
Feedback is one of the main ways for people to grow at Clarasys. This includes informal, in-the-moment feedback and formalised feedback. Each employee also has £100 worth of Kudos points to give to colleagues, in which they have complete control of how it is distributed. Company-wide feedback is also listened to and acted upon; including the way socials are organised, to what type of non-dairy milk should be stocked in the fridge.
Development and growth is the key measure of success, in which consultants propose their own pay rise with justification centred on their development, instead of being told what the company thinks they deserve, based on utilisation targets and revenue generated.
Each employee is given a coach, who is responsible for coaching, guiding and supporting consultants to help them achieve their personal goals. Such support is achieved through creating an open and safe environment, where no conversation is off limit. There is also the reassurance that coaches at Clarasys acknowledge and appreciate employees’ long-term aspirations may be outside of the company or consulting - making it simple to have any conversations which most people usually find difficult with their employers.
I recently attended our 9th birthday and rebrand party, in which I met a number of clients who all repeated independently, that the people at Clarasys make it a great company. Combined with our recent Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For 2020 success; being immersed in the high energy, supportive and challenging company culture, whilst still being able to attend that spin class(!), has validated that it was the best decision in my career and I wish I had made it sooner!