Workplace Leaders
People Director

Rosie Cook

Establishing a sense of inclusion and belonging with colleagues across 38 offices in 20 countries presents its own unique set of challenges. Navigating different cultural contexts, particularly around such important topics, requires nuance and a consistent desire to learn.

Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, sat down with Rosie Cook, People Director for the UK & Ireland at Jellyfish, to discuss her views on how to build a globally inclusive organisation and the key elements needed to attain collective buy-in from everyone involved.

Rosie's Journey

Max: Could we start with a brief introduction to yourself & Jellyfish?

I’m Rosie Cook, People Director responsible for the roughly five hundred or so colleagues in the UK and Ireland at Jellyfish. Jellyfish is a global digital marketing business that partners with brands to optimise their marketing performance. We were recently acquired by the BrandTech Group, whose mission is to be the best company in the world at helping global brands drive growth by connecting content, data and media, fuelled by pioneering technology.

Max: What drew you to the people function and has kept you engaged and thriving in that role?

I vividly remember my mother telling me that I’d be great in HR when I was younger - take what you want from that!

I started in HR part-time when I was sixteen. I progressed from there, working in hospitality, real estate and now digital marketing. I really enjoy partnering with key stakeholders across a business, really connecting with an MD or capability head – asking them ‘what is your desired outcome’ and finding solutions to help them. As a support function, you’re there to give them options and help weigh up different risks. It’s much more of a partnership than a dictatorship. I think sometimes HR can get it wrong here and present a restrictive black-and-white view, instead of a spectrum of alternatives.

Max: How do you best create a sense of belonging and inclusion across the business?

It’s key to get broad involvement. It’s not just the responsibility of the people team – we’re here to aid and support but the driving force has to come from across the whole organisation. You need to start with finding out what your workforce actually wants. We have a few Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Jellyfish Parent, Jellyfish in Colour, Jellyfish Pride, SheUnit and Sustainability, which we use to proactively get people involved in all our policy design. If we want to provide support for a specific group, we’ll actually speak to them about it and gather their ideas first.

Max: How do you engage busy staff around these topics?

You need to show that you’re taking action. People won’t invest their time in sharing their ideas about something if they don’t think that action will follow. Recently, we partnered with our SheUnit ERG to design our enhanced paternal/maternal leave and support around our Gender Pay Gap. Everyone in that group knows that by getting actively involved in the design and decision-making with us, they can actually effect the change they want to see.

Sending out surveys is important, but you won’t get high engagement unless you can show that you’ve acted on previous feedback. You have a duty to do the story-telling and showcase the action you’ve taken. Companies will do a lot of work behind the scenes but won’t necessarily communicate what they’ve done to everyone in the business. That communication needs to come full circle. 

Max: What are the top traits that people leaders have?

It’s important to be innovative and work with the resources and budget you have available. We should always be asking: how can we be more resourceful? How can we implement new technology? What new approaches can we use to streamline different processes?

But it’s also key to have a sense of humour! As a people leader, you take on a significant emotional toll and there can be a lot of stress involved. You need to create a safe space where people can relax, talk through how they’re feeling, and make light of anything that’s weighing them down.

Strong communication skills are also key to getting alignment with a wider group of people. As well as innovation, you also need commercial acumen – people leaders need to keep up with what’s going on in the broader business and start being more proactive instead of reactive. 

Max: How do you draw the link between commercial success and work around culture & wellbeing?

We look at retention rates and absence rates, measuring how lost time is due to absenteeism. At Jellyfish, we’re really proud of our work around wellbeing, launching an ERG focused on this area a few years ago, and we’ve trained over 60 mental health first aiders globally. By embedding that understanding around this topic amongst colleagues, we create a culture where people feel like they have someone they can go and talk to about sensitive matters. We want to create a safe environment where people feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. Our flexible working approach has also been really successful at showcasing how much we prioritise wellbeing.

Max: How do you use L&D to engage staff around EDI?

We have an internal culture & engagement team within the people team, who have a nuanced understanding of the regional differences in perceptions of what inclusion and diversity mean. Our clients want a representative agency to work with, so we get asked questions about this area a fair bit. We educate our colleagues around different celebratory days and religious occasions. Each office in each country offers a unique perspective into their own culture – it’s been great to foster an environment where everyone feels they can share that.

Max: How do you best embed a culture of learning & growth across a whole organisation?

We’re a non-hierarchical organisation, so your career is in your own hands. It’s all about individuals driving their own learning and self-development. We’ve created pathways for people to learn and invest in e-learning tools. Obviously, a hot topic at the moment is AI. Our team that develops learning content for our own clients around this area has just pushed this out internally and we really encourage our own teams to get stuck into these kinds of topics.

Max: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received across your career?

Just be yourself. As an individual, every person has so much to offer. It comes back to the theme of this whole interview; which is really around creating a culture of belonging. Be who you are and bring yourself to work because so many people warm to you that way and you can build genuine relationships.

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Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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