Meet Naomi Braisby: our July People Leader of the Month. As Head of HR at the multi-award winning Fintech company Landbay, Naomi shares her valuable insight as part of Hibob’s People Leader of the Month series.
Naomi has ten years experience in HR leadership and L&D, and a Masters in HRM. On top of that, she has twenty years experience in financial services. This makes her the perfect fit for Landbay: a fast-growing Fintech platform for the buy-to-let mortgage space. As Head of HR, Naomi’s role is to build a robust people strategy and framework to develop her people.
Hibob: Hey Naomi, congrats for being our People Leader of the Month! I’d love to hear how you got into the world of People Management.
Naomi: When I was younger and making career plans in school, I never thought ‘I want to work in HR’. In fact, I don’t think I even knew it existed as an option. You always default to those more visual and striking jobs, like ‘I want to be an astronaut’!
I was always good at maths, so I went into finance where I could use those skills – but in 2008, the financial crisis hit the UK and like a lot of people, I was made redundant.
Fortunately, during my time in Finance I was working with a local college to build a syllabus of training to support staff in their development. Upon hearing the news of my redundancy, the college approached me and asked me to join them as a trainer. It completely changed my career! What I loved most was helping people and bringing their success forward.
My next role was in a start-up environment, where I built a Learning and Development department. As with most start-ups, it was all hands on deck. Naturally, I picked up a lot of HR experience through that, and quickly progressed through to European HR Leader.
It was the excitement of start-up culture that led me to Landbay, where I’ve been since December 2018. I was the 50th member of staff and now we’re on 75 in just 6 months. I’m the first HR person through the door, so I’m working hard to build the department from the ground up!
Hibob: Now that’s a big task, and a huge part of scaling a fast-growing company! How has it been coming in and building a brand new HR processes at Landbay?
It’s a really exciting challenge and an opportunity to own the process, to make it a success. When HR is formalised in a business, it can be daunting for the current staff. I know before I joined Landbay there were a few jokes that ‘we’re all going to be on disciplinaries’, as historically, HR is seen as enforcers of rules.
I’ve come in with an aim to break that mindset by actively listening to people’s needs and wants as well as being conscious of the effects I could have on people. For example, when implementing policies, I make sure I explain the reason behind them. Being transparent is important and I try not to overwhelm people with too many changes at once. Thanks to this approach, it’s been a really positive experience!
Hibob: That was a wise move! It’s also so true – the most powerful way to make your people feel valued and understood is to listen. How else have you created a culture of listening?
Naomi: We use an online feedback tool called OfficeVibe, which is where I review and interact with people to make real-time differences.
When listening to staff, it’s got to be real-time. You can’t wait a year and do an annual survey, as you run the risk of it being outdated before you can resolve any issues. By being proactive week on week, I’m able to make a real and immediate difference. And by doing so, I hope I’m also dispelling the myth that I’m just here to enforce policy.
I also do simple things to make sure I’m truly accessible. One lunch time a week, I work in a meeting room with an open door for people to drop in and talk to me without having to book an appointment. By having multiple methods to communicate with me, it means I’m always available to listen to others and hear what’s important.
Hibob: I’ve also seen on your website that you have unlimited holidays! I’d love to hear a little bit more about that?!
We believe that everyone we employ is an adult. We treat people with respect to make an adult decision over how much leave is appropriate. We acknowledge that everyone is human, and we don’t want people to be confined to what is in their contract if they need more time off than they’ve been allowed by previous employers. Especially if there is something really important happening in their personal life, like getting married or buying your first house!
We’re really transparent with all staff on the direction of the business and what we want to achieve, this means they can really see how they contribute to the success of Landbay. We empower people by giving them the information to know how their decisions affect the business and trusting them to manage their own time as adults.
Hibob: I can see you’ve won a lot of awards too…from the Fast Growing Fintech award, Top Ten Fintech Leader to being ranked 20th in the prestigious Deloitte UK Fast Growing 50 list. How has your culture contributed towards this success?
Naomi: I believe having the right culture is the key to success in our industry. If everyone is invested in the company and it’s truly a great place to work, it will naturally drive success. The right culture means people stay with us, work hard to contribute to the success and push Landbay to the next level.
To achieve this, a really important part of our culture is transparency. Giving everyone the information to know how they contribute to the success at Landbay and allowing people to be empowered to really make a difference.
We have an ‘open-door policy for exec’, meaning anyone is able to ask questions, challenge actions and also put forward ideas. We listen to everyone and take steps to actively break down the bureaucracy and barriers that might prevent this from happening. For example, our CEO, John Goodall, sits next to our underwriters, just this morning he was on the phone to brokers while our underwriters held a team meeting. There’s not many CEOs who would do that!
Hibob: You guys are really onto something here… I feel inspired! So Naomi, here’s a big question for you before we wrap up: in your opinion, what is the future of HR?
The nature of HR is evolving. It used to be a highly transactional environment where “personnel” would only hire, fire and pay you. But I believe it’s developed a lot, and technology like Hibob is enabling us to move away from the transactional tasks more and more each day – saving hours of admin time.
Modern People Management should be a fundamental part of a business strategy, by aiming to have the right people, with the right beliefs and values contributes to the success of a business. I believe we’re seeing positive steps towards this as HR is gaining more seats at exec tables, throughout all industries. HR is a valuable function to ensure the efforts of the people within are aligned to the strategy of a business. Achieving this can be difficult, but highlights the need to create a culture of transparency allowing people to know exactly how they fit into that strategy and why decisions are made. Ultimately, this is how you drive a business to move forward.