Building engagement in organisations where employees have different working styles, wants and needs can be difficult. The crucial thing is having flexible initiatives and leadership buy-in, ensuring that any and all changes are fully supported by an organisation.
Jane Parry, Managing Partner of PM+M, sat down with Luke James, Co-host of The Interview, to discuss her attitudes to team member engagement, the value of listening, and her career so far.
I’m Jane Parry, the Managing Partner of PM+M. We are an accountancy, financial planning and corporate finance business based in the north-west of England, with about £10 million turnover and 140 people.
I left university with a geography degree with no idea of what I wanted to do. I fell into accountancy and trained as a chartered accountant. As I progressed, I became more interested in the people side of things. You learn from the people you work with about good and bad management styles. I came to PM+M in 2009 as Tax Partner and then took over as the Managing Partner in 2015.
Business is all about people. We are accountants, but our work is not actually about numbers — it’s about our relationships with clients, how we help them, and how we make them feel. This reflects in the workplace as well because if you have happy employees, you have happy clients, making a great feedback circle. Having employees feel engaged and developed has a knock-on effect on the business.
It’s about building the right culture. We started on that journey about ten years ago. Talking about it and making it visible, we agreed on our values, and as a leader, you have to live them every day so people can see that. It took a long time to make sure we had the right people on board. Then, cultural behaviours gain momentum, which can influence recruitment too to ensure that everyone being brought in fits into our culture.
The headline values are quality, achievement, fun, and doing the right thing. Doing the right thing underpins all of it. These are our core values. But our vision is that we want to be the best northwest firm of finance professionals. Effectively, the values are the behaviours which help us on this journey.
First of all, we call them team members, not staff. You have to create multiple channels for people to engage with. Not everyone has time for conversations, not everyone wants to read an email. So it involves multiple communication channels and consistency of message. Engaging people in helping to make decisions that shape how we take things forward works well. We use focus groups, surveys, discussions, and more.
I think leadership is about working out what your personal style is and being authentic to it. Make sure that you have a culture of respect, where everyone in an organisation is valued and listened to. And ensure that this all happens on a regular basis.
It’s making sure to look at everything. To be best means constant improvement. For inclusion, it’s about making sure that all processes achieve the same standard. With recruitment, you need to be consistent between candidates, have standardised scoring and benchmark across the firm, ensuring that unconscious bias doesn’t come to the fore.
Having just finished Ramadan, we had some interesting blogs from junior team members talking about the history of it and sharing information and personal stories. It was great because although some of us know a bit about it, this created great education, discussion, and celebration of it. You have to respect people’s willingness to share things like this in the workplace.
You have to make more effort and work harder at it. When lockdown happened, we made sure to focus and check in on everybody. I started a Friday email summarising the week and rounding up what was happening in the firm, be it individual, personal updates about team members or big stuff about the firm. This has continued since because people loved it. It’s important to make people feel part of the firm.
Being the best is about how we make people feel. Be it clients, our employees, or other professionals. It is a constant re-evaluation of what we’re doing and how, getting regular feedback. Challenges can be anything. In professional services, there’s a perpetual quality standard check about our technical abilities. We’re also upskilling on wider skills like people management, not just technical skills.
Being the best is about how we make people feel. Be it clients, our employees, or other professionals.
It’s about being authentic to yourself and your own style. You might be tempted to seek perfection when you’re on the progression ladder, but it’s important to know when perfection is needed and when to be kind to yourself. Going through that life journey, perhaps you’re trying to commit to a young family and your job, but every aspect of your life can’t always be perfect. Nobody is perfect in everything, and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Self-forgiveness is important.
Find role models and people you can learn from, such as a mentor. It can take time to find a personal style and confidence in leadership style. I learned through watching other people and learning from them. It is good to have curiosity; always be seeking to learn.
Make it really visible and create multiple opportunities as well as the permission to make mistakes. Trying things out is really important, and it won’t always work. We have safeguards so that clients are always given the best work, but it’s important for learning to be allowed to fail. And then celebrate the successes we achieve from this.
We have some new promotions happening. It’s all about the progression, growth, and evolution of the firm. Our firm was created in 1919, and our stated ambitions are to remain an independent firm. It’s about playing our part and creating that legacy for our future. So it’s great to see the fruits of our investment in talent.