Workplace Leaders
Gi Group
Group HR Director

Marcelle Stewart

When it comes to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), many companies are still striving to update business practices that have been in place for years, if not decades. Leadership, in particular, can be slow to change. Further, companies are composed of several levels of employees, all of whom are at different stages of their careers and lives. EDI efforts need to draw from and speak to not only all of these different levels but to each on a personal level.

Luke James, Co-Host of The Interview, spoke to Marcelle Stewart, People Director for the UK and Ireland at GiGroup Holding, a global recruitment and HR services organisation, about how reshaping a company’s culture begins with truly listening and responding to employees’ needs.

Marcelle’s Journey

Luke: What led you to your current role?

I graduated from UCL with a degree in Hispanic Studies, and really had no idea what to do with it. I ultimately became a recruitment consultant for quite a few years and from there moved into internal recruitment, eventually heading up a team looking after Northern Europe. That gave me my first insight into Human Resources (HR) and made me want to do a more generalist role. I took on an HR business partner position whilst simultaneously doing my postgraduate level seven CIPD which was a bit of a slog. After a number of years in that role, I got a promotion at Randstad to senior HR business partner, where I led a team of up to six people across three business lines across the UK. Then I got headhunted into my current role to set up the people function at Gi. I’m currently responsible for all areas of HR, which are HR business partnering, learning development, talent acquisition, compensation and benefits, data analytics, diversity and inclusion, and employee relations. When I arrived, they didn’t really have the structure set up and that was the main thing I came here to do.

Luke: Recently, GiGroup won the Grand Prix at the Employee Benefits Awards 2023. Can you tell us about the behind-the-scenes work that led to winning that award?

I suppose it began when I started here in terms of building the structure, and really investing in the EDI element. We already had an EDI manager and committee but no traction at all, so an event would happen and ten people would attend and a lot of those people would be HR. EDI was always something I was very passionate about and wanted to put in the heart of the business. Both of my twins are deaf so, over the last thirteen years, I’ve been personally involved in that. I want my kids to know I’m in a business that values them and wants them to be included. When you’ve just done a tickbox exercise of “We’ve done some training” and pretend you’re on board with EDI, people see straight through that because it’s not authentic. You need to walk the walk. So the first thing I did was explain the case for EDI to my fellow board members. It’s moved past the “If you do EDI you’re going to earn more money” commercial argument towards the argument of “It’s just the right thing to do.” It’s about what sort of company do you want to be? What do you want your children to thi2nk? Once you convince a board, they will push it down through the business for you. So things like our EDI webinar attendance increased from ten people attending to over 50 because the leaders were telling their teams it was important.

So then we introduced something called Let’s Talk, where we invited everyone to talk about challenging topics such as menopause and neurodiversity. What we found was a lot of people were passing on advice and support to each other so we didn’t have to provide anything beyond the forum.

In order to bring it together at the culture level, I did a survey at the beginning of 2022 asking a few questions: Who are we? What’s our DNA? What do we want to be known for? We got feedback, built it out, and came up with five key points across our business lines: high-performance culture, developmental focus, friendly and supportive, trust and autonomy, and diversity and inclusion. Then we asked all the candidates who applied to us what keeps them where they are and what would make them move. This is what’s going to attract the best talent. This is what we want to be known for. And we built the employee promise from those surveys.

The benefits were built with EDI at the heart and based on the culture our people were experiencing and wanted to us to be known for.  I went around to all the team meetings and asked people what benefits they’d like to see. And they came up with some stuff I never would’ve thought of. It gave me inspiration but also made them feel like they were building it themselves as well. 

Luke: How do you best develop a culture of learning and growth across an organisation?

It’s having that openness, listening to people, being authentic and genuine. If you start like that with EDI, people feel they can talk to you and be part of what you’re trying to build. For example, in terms of benefits, one of the directors suggested flexible bank holidays, which were incorporated. Talking to people at a Pride event led to us recognising and adding compassionate leave for Chosen Family. From our Let’s Talk ADHD sessions came a neurodiversity assessment loan. Just listening to people’s concerns and ideas and committing to figuring out solutions together.

Luke: What would be your top tip for someone trying to evolve the culture of their organisation?

Look at what your competitors are doing, but also know that true innovation isn’t copying other people. You need to allow space for creative thought and brainstorming rather than just getting stuck on the hands-to-wheel of doing the day-to-day. Talk to people. Listen. Think about how your people want the world to be, not just the working world, and how the next generation will want the world to be. Then when you’re building and promoting your culture, have that in mind, and then innovate. It’s much bigger than simply doing something for work. It’s about changing people’s lives and the world for the better.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Luke James
Luke works hand-in-hand with leaders and changemakers in our professional services markets. If you want to join the next series of The Interview, or just learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

The future of training is here, are you ready for it?

Tired of chasing your learners to complete dull training? Let's speak today👇
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.