No matter what the barriers are, invest in people

Mashpi Lodge

Photo credit: latour.com

In 2001, former mayor of the Ecuador capital city of Quito embarked on an ambitious journey to transform the Andean forests, which had suffered from deforestation for many years, into a global tourist attraction.

As a lover of nature, I recently watched a BBC TV programme with my jaw anchored to the floor. Roque Sevilla, former mayor turned businessman turned environmentalist, shared his personal multi-million dollar project with us; the incredible Mashpi Lodge and Reserve. It’s a striking structure which provides a holiday home for just 42 guests, placing them in the middle of the tropical forest just outside of Quito. It’s constructed almost entirely out of huge glass panes in an attempt to place its visitor’s, as-one, with nature in a way they’re unlikely to have ever experienced before. I was in awe.

As you’d expect, delivering such an ambitious project would never be plain sailing. Roque had several obstacles to overcome, including a machete-wielding local!

Jose was a farmer who lived in the nearby village and farmed in the Mashpi Reserve. He worked for a logging company that had moved into the area in the 1990’s for a lumber concession so spent his days hacking through the dense woodland.

So, how did Roque deal with this? How would you deal with this?!

Roque offered him a job.

Upon meeting Jose for the first time, Roque brought along an orchid expert. It was a brave move. As they talked and walked through the forest, the idea was to re-channel Jose’s thinking; to remove any negative thinking, to re-imagine his surroundings; to really open his eyes and look at the positive things which lay before him – to not only see what good the forest can do for him but what he can do for it.

Jose admitted to never noticing the colourful and fragrant blooms before. He was blinkered, channelling his anger and frustrations at the innocent trees. However, through this intervention, Jose quickly built a trusting relationship with Roque, and now, thanks to this new found knowledge, he quickly took up his offer of employment as Village Chief (that’s a resident tour guide to you and me).

Thriving in his new role, Jose not only welcomes and chaperones guests to the Lodge, he’s now a botanist; cultivating and blooming a personal collection of orchids in the newly developed tourist village.

Mashpi Lodge has firmly inked itself a place in my bucket list, but in reflection I was thinking how much Roque had achieved with Jose and Quito’s wider community.

Jose

Photo credit: mashpilodge.wordpress.com

In some ways, Bromford has its similarities. Our coaching approach allows us to get closer to our communities in ways we’ve never been able to do before. Much like in the case of Jose, if you truly want to make a difference to peoples’ lives you’ve got to get to know the person first; what are their hopes, their dreams, their hurdles and their barriers.

When we recruit we’re looking for the right person, with the right skills – not just for today, but for tomorrow too. We offer a job with a good salary that has an excellent benefits package. We offer excellent in-house training with opportunities to grow and develop. It’s a two way thing; we’ll show what we can offer them – but equally we want to know what they can do for us.

Mashpi Village didn’t just happen overnight. The money helped, of course, but it took time to develop – and by that I don’t just mean physically. The natural habitat and the local community had to be considered and respected. By simply ousting Jose, for example, could’ve had catastrophic consequences. Instead, time was invested into him as a person and because of this both parties reaped the rewards.

So, whether you’re recruiting for a vacancy, coaching someone through life, or building a luxury holiday lodge in the middle of a mountain forest – make sure you take the time to invest in people.

A message to my younger self

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Dear Andy (aged 24years, 5months),

 

I know you’re only a few weeks into your new job, and the archaic computer system you’re using with the black screen, green text and ‘tab’ navigation is a little cruddy; but trust me, this will get better.

 

The repairs call centre that you’re working in; you see it as just a ‘stepping stone’ to bigger and better things. But listen, today the customer service centre (as it’s now called) handles a multitude of queries – everything from rents to repairs, home moves to house shares, they’re even handling social media queries and talking to customers whilst they’re watching Bake Off on a Wednesday evening. My apologies, Bake Off doesn’t even exist yet does it, let alone Twitter and Facebook!

 

I hear your cries about the training events you keep being sent on; classroom event after classroom event. You’ll love what we have now. That earlier point about computers; those have been replaced by colour screens, they’re super-fast and can even go wireless…and all that classroom training you’ve got coming up; all that can fit into these tiny little devices no bigger than your notepad! You’ll be able to access all that resource material, all that expert knowledge and all you’re learning records in just a few clicks of a button.

 

I know you don’t have the time to spend all day talking to them, you have queues from others trying to get through. I appreciate you don’t have the website we have where customers can watch ‘how to videos’ and report repairs online, nor do you have engineers going out to do regular service checks on our homes like we do now – all of which can help reduce those large volumes of calls; but every one of our customers have their own story, they just need to be heard.

 

That’s why we’re changing the way we’re working. We believe that establishing the right kind of relationship with every customer can help them get the best from their home, our services and their communities – so we’re introducing neighbourhood coaches. They have smaller patches to work with, around 175 customers each, a far cry from the 500+ they had back then ‘eh?! This means they can get closer to those customers who most need it, dedicate more time to them and help them to do more for themselves; manage their money, their relationships, get into work or college.

 

So, think twice about looking elsewhere. That call centre (as you know it) has some exciting changes ahead. Bromford is going to evolve and create some fantastic opportunities for its customers and colleagues.

 

Be brave and stick with it. Make a difference and add a bit of you. But remember; there is no spoon. Don’t worry, that’ll all make sense when you join me here in 2016!

 

All the best, Andy.

 

from,

Andy (aged 37years, 4months)

Engagement Specialist at Bromford

 

P.S. Being a Dad is awesome!

You can’t beat a bit of cake!

Cake

Tuesday, 22nd January 2013 – what an amazing night this was. Hundreds of senior Human Resources experts attended the 11th Annual HR Directors Business Summit at the ICC, Birmingham which included guest speakers, presentations and workshops and concluded with a prestigious award ceremony. I took my position on a cosy 3-seater sofa, had the League Cup semi-final between Bradford and Aston Villa on in the background and watched the event unfold from the comfort of my living room courtesy of Twitter!

Bromford were represented at the event by some of my colleagues (so no need for me to FaceTime in my t-shirt and jogging bottoms, thankfully!), as we were shortlisted in the Recruitment and Employee Branding category. Our campaign; #gottalovecake was up against industry giants like McDonalds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Impetus Automotive, tough competition to pitch against but as my colleague Alex Abbotts said:

Alex tweet

Why not?

I know I represent Bromford myself, so some may consider my opinion biased, but our campaign was brilliant! I’m not going to explain all about it here, I’ll leave that to Alex (who heads up our Communications Team) who does it wonderfully in this great post.

Why did it work?

It engaged. It got hold of the end-user in a way like no other campaign before. It didn’t just tell the audience what the job is and how they can apply; it told them why they will want this position with Bromford. It wasn’t all about us, it was about the individual – we just made the right noises to get the campaign out to them – and boy did we make a racket! I watched a really interesting video yesterday from a guy by the name of Simon Sinek (thanks to John & Vicky for sharing this). He talks about ‘The Golden Circle’, something that turns an idea into a social movement – which is what we did thanks to Twitter using a very quirky hashtag, some great advertising and the brains of a very creative team of people.

 Golden Circle

So, for those of you who don’t work at Bromford, who didn’t attend last night’s event or didn’t see the army of tweets that invaded social media late into the evening; I’m pleased to say that Bromford did give me that ‘punch in the air moment’ – the award was ours!

What a magnificent achievement. What a great team. What a great place to work.

Now excuse me whilst I tuck into my slice of award winning cake!