Debra and I first met in London, August 2015. I was CEO at Reward Gateway, the HR Tech Company, Debra had just completed a stint as Global Reward Director at Page Group and was about to publish her first book : “Effective HR Communication”.
We were at the Engagement Excellence conference in London. Debra was third up on the agenda with a presentation titled “How to Communicate with Impact” and I was in the audience. I had no idea who she was and the presentation title sounded pretty routine. But the RG sales team had recommended her to speak and were giddy with excitement to see her on stage. I wondered what they knew that I didn’t.
Within minutes of her walking on stage I knew two things. Firstly the sales team had unearthed an absolute treasure. Secondly, I absolutely had to hire her.
Bursting with energy, Debra owned the stage and electrified the room. She educated, inspired and joked with the audience of several hundred HR leaders.
I’ve met a lot of conference speakers in my time and there are few that have Debra’s ability to connect so quickly and so deeply from that stage. We met for lunch the following Wednesday and two months later she joined my executive team.
Having a Group Reward Director of Debra’s experience and capability was complete overkill for my 400-person company – in previous roles she had looked after up to 200,000 people. But I wanted her to revolutionize our reward and benefit structures in just one day a week and spend the other four days working with clients and partnering with me in writing a book on employee engagement together.
I wanted her to help me spread the message that good work environments can lead to great business results and develop our increasing knowledge and understanding of what makes great company cultures work.
For the next 3 years we worked tirelessly together, side by side. Between us we’ve visited hundreds of companies in dozens of countries. We listened, analysed, mapped discussed and debated hundreds of company cultures. We’ve seen companies from every sector you can imagine and at every stage of growth. The smallest client we’ve worked with had 25 staff, the largest over 100,000.
Debra is one of the most engaging, warm and generous people you will ever meet. And this means people really open up to her.
So from those hundreds of client meetings, she got to learn all the gossip – all the ups and downs of what went on, all the things that never get written in the news release or on the intranet.
Her work with clients over these last four years as allowed her to develop from an HR Director specialising in Reward to one of the most experienced and knowledgeable practitioners in company culture and employee engagement that we have,.
Debra is also a wonderful writer. I read her first book,”Effective HR Communications” as a pre-publication draft on a flight from Australia to Hong Kong.
Even though I was tired when I boarded the plane I never got to sleep. The book had me smiling from the first page and I couldn’t put it down. Quite something for a book about HR communications!
So yes, Debra is a consultant, yes she’s a world-leading expert, yes she’s a C-suite level corporate practitioner. But she’s not dry or staid, instead she is warm, funny, humble and incredibly practically minded.
The data on employee engagement is stark – depending on where you live, around 60-70% of people are disengaged at work. Avoiding complex definitions, let’s say it like this :
About 3 in 4 employees arrive at work thinking primarily about what time they can go home
Having strong and wisely chosen internal values that are deeply embedded in processes, procedures – the very fabric of an organisation is a key part of building a culture of high engagement. Debra and I learned that whilst writing our last book, Build it, together.
When researching Build it we saw first hand how companies with the best culture had a really strong sense of who they were and how their people should behave – they had effective values.
That’s why this book is needed and as you can see from the disengagement statistics, it is needed urgently.
Importantly, this is not a book that will teach you complex models that you’ll never get to implement. It’s not a book that will bamboozle you with long words or strange concepts. And it’s not a book that will gather dust on the shelf.
Instead, it’s a book packed with practical tips and actionable examples. There are other books on company values that might tell you how to design them, but this book will tell you how to design, implement, polish and perfect them, doing so in Debra’s rebellious, but still practical way.
It will educate you on what is possible, equip you with tools to make the process possible and it will inspire you as to what is possible.
It’s been an honour working with Debra these last 4 years and I’ve been privileged to have seen this book in some of its early forms. I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I have. And I hope most of all, you get to use it to make real, positive change in your own organization.
Author, Founder and Former CEO at Reward Gateway
Berlin, October 2019