Workplace Leaders
Frontier Economics
HR Director

Lucy Tobin

In the intricate tapestry of modern organisations, the role of Human Resources has become pivotal in shaping workplace culture.  In this interview, Luke James, Co-host of The Interview, sits down with Lucy Tobin, HR Director at Frontier Economics, to discuss her career so far and unravel the complexities of fostering a profound sense of belonging and inclusion within an organisation.

Lucy's Journey

Luke: Could we start with an introduction to yourself and your organisation?

Certainly, Luke. I am the People Director for Frontier Economics. We are an economics consultancy boasting approximately 500 employees spread across Europe, with seven strategically located offices. What sets Frontier apart is its unique employee-owned structure, where each member holds a stake in the company, contributing to its evolution, culture, decision making and growth.

Luke: What led you to your current position?

What initially captivated me about Frontier was its unparalleled structure — being employee-owned, with a pronounced emphasis on its people. Reflecting on my journey, I started with a law degree, ventured to Australia, transitioned into recruitment, and found my calling in HR. This evolution aligned seamlessly with my passion for the people-focused side of the business, ultimately culminating in my role at Frontier Economics after traversing various professional service firms.

Luke: How do you approach embedding a sense of belonging across the entire organisation?

Post-2020, particularly in the aftermath of the events surrounding George Floyd, many companies found themselves reevaluating their commitment to inclusion. At Frontier, we have dedicated this year to resetting our EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) strategy. This year we hit our 40% female management target a year early, so we are actively looking for new ways to move forward. Collaborating with Career Masterclass has allowed us to delve deeper into our organisation, providing a platform for our employees to voice their experiences. The goal is not merely to initiate change but to ensure accountability permeates all levels of leadership, transcending the boundaries of HR or Networks/ERGs (Employee Resource Groups). We want the change to work across the leadership of the organisation and happen at every level. At the end of the day we don't want EDI to be an activity on the side; we want it to guide everything that we do here.

Luke: Achieving engagement, especially in a busy environment, presents a unique set of challenges. How do you ensure everyone across the organisation is fully engaged in these initiatives?

Engagement, amidst bustling schedules, necessitates clear communication and a focus on the broader picture. It’s difficult, and there is more to it than just being busy, I think. The transformative impact of COVID on how we communicate and engage makes it even more critical to have a North Star that guides how we do things. By effectively communicating our goals, managing expectations, and outlining the intended impact, we strive to understand individual perspectives across diverse teams and geographies, bringing everyone along on this transformative journey. In a polarised world, EDI is about hearing one another and ensuring everyone is included every step of the way.

Luke: Transitioning to a broader perspective, how do you link well-being and inclusion initiatives to high-level strategic goals in the organisation, particularly from an EDI standpoint?

The commercial benefits of EDI are well-documented. Diversity of thought, background, and opinion enhances collaboration, thereby elevating the quality of our output for clients. Beyond the commercial aspect, taking care of employees is fundamental. In a challenging landscape that is always changing, being more human in our interactions, recognising efforts, and creating a supportive environment contribute to a high-performance workplace.

Luke: Shifting focus to leadership traits, what, in your opinion, are the key traits that top people leaders exhibit to bring their teams together?

Effective people leaders possess diverse skill sets, but communication, understanding individuals, appreciation, collaboration, and ownership stand out. Clear communication sets the team's direction, while understanding individuals fosters connection. Appreciating efforts, collaborating for the best outcomes, and taking ownership, including acknowledging mistakes, are traits I've admired in great leaders.

Luke: What are the key elements to embed a culture that supports continuous development and growth?

Cultivating an environment that encourages conversations and learning opportunities is key. Transparency, inclusivity, and psychological safety play crucial roles. In an era of remote work and rapid changes, finding common ground, embracing diversity, and allowing space for respectful disagreements are essential for a culture that fosters growth.

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