Jonathan is the Chief of Staff at Lightful, a technology company for social good, who support charities through consultancy, social media products and a unique online learning programme.
He’s spent 15 years working in tech for good, first for over a decade at JustGiving where he managed their Crowdfunding product from an idea to raising £100m in five years, and more recently as an independent consultant supporting a range of small and large tech-for-good startups and charities with strategy, growth, product management and business model validation.
Jonathan spoke to Futureheads as part of our FFS series, a regular interview series where business and industry leaders share their insights and personal experience. Other articles in the series can be found here.
1. Tell us about the impact that Covid-19 and the lockdown measures have had on your business?
The most obvious impact, as with many others, is that we’re now a fully remote company. We decided to move to working from home a week before the lockdown started, so we’re now in week 7 and the team has adjusted really well – we have always encouraged flexible working, and so most people were used to working remote work some of the time already.
We’re also fortunate that our main clients have also managed the transition to remote work and we’ve been able to continue delivering excellent work for them.
The charity sector has been hit very hard – with huge declines in income and huge increases in demand for services – so we’ve adapted to support it in multiple different ways. We’ve had to cancel some in-person events, but we have always run regular webinars for charities and so we have increased the frequency of them, and covered more topics like top tips for getting better at online meetings and free digital tools for charities.
2. How have you adapted your operational and hiring practices?
We have two ‘all-hands’ meetings a week now. One was a regular operational meetup to share important information which has moved online. But we also added a new ‘WFH update’ at the end of every week for a chance to share any more news, and where different team members share two things they’re grateful for and one thing they’d wish to see.
It’s a great way to foster a sense of connection when we’re all apart, as is showcasing each team’s work from the sprint. We are also sharing tips on a very active and engaged #work-from-home slack channel.
As for hiring, we’re having more video interviews with different team members to make sure everybody gets honest and good insights. We’re also making COVID-19 topic we cover – both in terms of its impact on us and our partners, but also as a way to ask how people deal with stressful situations, how they are coping and how they respond to constraints by being creative or solving problems.
3. What are your top tips for successfully managing a remote recruitment
For recruitment, we’ve tried to increase communication and transparency. Both internally and externally. In terms of onboarding, we’ve made use of various online tools (zoom, slack, HR software) to make the process smoother, but are also erring on the side of over-communicating to help people start well.
We’re trying to set really clear expectations for the first few weeks, months and probation in general. As well as that, we’re getting more of the team involved in onboarding and connecting with new joiners.
4. Has this crisis made you look at your business differently or consider changes moving forwards?
Yes, in terms of how important it is for us to fulfil our vision: we believe those doing the greatest good deserve the best technology. For example, we run a 12-month programme to support charities in building resilience in digital engagement, and we’re adapting that to include topics related to COVID-19 and the lockdown. We’re committed more than ever to delivering support to our charity partners at a time when the need is even greater.
5. What advice would you give to anyone in a similar position to you at
To start, here are eight tips for managing remote teams from our wonderful HR team. We’re also working hard on checking in on the team’s wellbeing and mental health – everyone has a ‘WFH buddy’ outside of their immediate team who they’re encouraged to talk to, and we’ve done regular surveys to see if anyone needs anything – be that equipment or a chat.
In addition, we’re making a lot of effort to build and maintain a virtual company culture through virtual coffees, WFH tips and regular Friday showcases of the work different teams across the company are doing. We’ve had really good feedback about the variety of things we’re doing, so it’s also really important to listen and adapt – what was appropriate in weeks 1-2 of lockdown may not be relevant from weeks 6 or 7.
All in all, it’s a delicate balancing act between trying to deliver excellent value to customers as best you can in difficult circumstances, whilst listening and responding to the needs of your team. This needs regular attention and commitment to get right.
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