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Xaar: Putting people at the heart of our business

Chief People Officer Sue LaVerne explains Xaar’s ambition to become an ‘Employer of Choice’

When Sue LaVerne joined Xaar in May 2022 as Chief People Officer, she was delighted to discover that our Sustainability Roadmap to 2030 included a commitment to becoming an ‘Employer of Choice.’ Today, it’s this ambition that drives much of the group’s activity and strategy, putting people firmly at the centre of what we do.

“We’ve positioned our aspiration to become an ‘Employer of Choice’ right at the heart of our roadmap,” says Sue. “This is a great opportunity, because it’s encouraged us to drill down into what wellbeing means to us as a business. It’s made us really scratch our heads, and think about what people want and need. Today, if companies want to attract and retain talent, they need to operate differently. We need to create flexible working environments and care for people’s wellbeing more than ever before.

“The pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have brought about a paradigm shift in attitude, and this has rightly sharpened everyone’s focus on wellbeing. As a result, the balance of power between companies and the workforce has changed. Post-pandemic, people are no longer afraid to sit in interviews and say how and where they want to work. For example, we know that hybrid working can be done - the impossible is now possible.”

A great place to work

So, what does being an ‘Employer of Choice’ involve? In a nutshell, it means offering a company culture, leadership values and employee engagement initiatives that are highly sought-after by potential candidates and colleagues.

“We already have a wellbeing strategy, but we want to be the first-choice employer for people in the  areas where we operate – a workplace where people can fulfil their ambitions,” says Sue. “And to support this, we are signing up to the Great Place to Work accreditation. This will give us a framework to articulate what being an Employer of Choice really means to us at Xaar.”

The first step towards accreditation is a Trust Index™ employee survey, which looks at work-life balance, wellbeing and how employees feel. Xaar also submits a Culture Brief™, with detailed information about the organisation.

“The survey results will give us a firm foundation, upon which we can build our people strategy,” says Sue. “It enables us to delve into what people really want and put in place the wellbeing measures they’ll connect with, whether that’s menopause support or on-site workouts. We want to choose the things that really matter, and do them well.”

Harnessing talent

When it comes to investing in people, learning and development is a major priority. “People are the biggest part of any business,” explains Sue. “We are rolling out a number of exciting initiatives, including a management development programme, which equips people with the skills to become great leaders. We are also launching a talent development programme for our early talents and future leaders, which includes skills-based and technical training. In any business, it’s the people who deliver the strategy, and we need to ensure our workforce has the skills, knowledge and experience to do that. But we need to do this in a way that works for them.”

To this end, Xaar is also offering colleagues the opportunity to create their own learning plans, via development frameworks. These include a range of training opportunities, from in-person workshops to 360degree feedback.

“We want to help people learn the way they want to learn,” says Sue. “I’m a big believer in self-directed learning – it’s a great indicator of talent and a great way to foster that talent. It offers a sought-after element of autonomy and accountability.”

Real-world learning opportunities

Another exciting area of development is community-based learning. Sue and her team plan to roll out partnerships with Ethical Angel, a platform specialising in learning with purpose. It provides colleagues with opportunities to hone new skills while supporting charities and social enterprises.

“When an employee identifies the skill they want to develop, we match them to a project,” explains Sue. “It really connects people with their learning, because they are doing something tangible, in an area they feel passionate about. This does good both here at Xaar and on a community level.

“Investing in wellbeing and development is a business imperative, and it’s all part of our journey towards becoming an ‘Employer of Choice.’ We need to meet people’s needs and give them the opportunities to fulfil their potential. This is about giving our workforce the tools to progress their journey and supporting people to live their lives to the full.”

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