Rajeeb Dey MBE is the founder and CEO of Learnerbly, a professional development platform supporting employees to achieve their goals by connecting them to the best development experiences and enabling businesses to engage, develop and retain talent.
Rajeeb is a graduate of the University of Oxford and was appointed as the world’s youngest Young Global Leader (at 26) by the World Economic Forum in 2012. Following university, he went on to found Enternships, a portal connecting students and graduates to roles in over 7,000 start-ups and fast-growing businesses for which he was named the “02 X Young Entrepreneur of the Year” and became the youngest recipient of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2013.
Rajeeb is also the Co-Founder of StartUp Britain, a national entrepreneurship campaign launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011 and served as Trustee of UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs for over 10 years.
He was appointed Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List in June 2016 for services to Entrepreneurship and recognised as one of the 1,000 Most Influential People in London by The Evening Standard.
Rajeeb 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?
Internally, we had to do what many others have had to do, and that was transitioning to full-remote. We’re a tech company and already have team members who are remote 100% of the time. The structures were in place already; we just had to expand them to the whole team. Where COVID-19 has really had an impact is externally.
L&D is the only work-related activity that furloughed employees are allowed to engage in, so we created a free version of the Learnerbly platform featuring our curated content. We want to help organisations support their furloughed employees, and this just felt like the right way and the best way we could do that.
2. How have you adapted your operational and hiring practices?
We’re spending more time actively communicating with each other, and we try to be as transparent as possible in that communication. To deliver clarity through video calls and messaging, our new primary mediums of communication, we need to make conscientious efforts and have structures in place. One way we do that is by having conversations on public slack channels rather than private messages.
With hiring, our process has become virtual. Our in-house hiring practices were already clear and structured, making the switch relatively easy and streamlined for what questions we ask, why we ask them, and what makes a good answer.
3. What are your top tips for successfully managing a remote onboarding and/or recruitment process?
Offer clarity, provide structure, implement social time and make them feel welcome.
Before you do anything, say what you’re going to do, whether it’s in the form of a ‘first-day agenda’ email or a stand-up call you should openly communicate as a first step. We also value our Employee Handbook which is visible to anyone and clearly communicates to prospective applicants and hires our culture and values whether we’re onboarding them virtually or traditionally.
Provide structure. Written guides, agendas, and action points drive productivity and keep everyone in the know for what they’re supposed to be doing and when they should be doing it.
Implement social time to compensate for what is missing in a virtual work environment. Organise virtual coffees for people and encourage non-work related conversations over video and messaging channels.
In general, with virtual onboardings, it means making an extra effort to ensure new joiners feel welcome. I schedule check-ups with them to get feedback, and we try to continue our onboarding rituals which include taking people out to lunch on their first day. Now we ask people to get food delivered and expense it, as well as the team signing and sending virtual welcome cards rather than giving a physical one.
We’ve long had Empathy Guides that each new joiner fills out to help people get a better insight into their colleagues, how they work and what their interests are, but these guides have become even more important given that we haven’t met many of the people who have joined the business over the last two months.
4. Has this crisis made you look at your business differently or consider changes moving forwards?
We’re working surprisingly well given the circumstances. We know this is not a regular WFH situation because there are threats to physical and mental-health impacting all of us but that doesn’t mean we aren’t seeing sustained productivity and employee engagement. Our Officevibe employee engagement score is at an 8.9/10 — putting us in the top 10% of Officevibe companies. These results in a time of crisis do prompt us to think about our office of the future and reflect on how we will work going forward. We’re listening to our team and surveying their attitudes towards returning to physical office space and whether a permanent office for all will even be the best way forward or not. We’ll go ahead with what we think is best for everyone.
5. What advice would you give to anyone in a similar position to you at the moment?
This too, shall pass. If you’re making decisions that are good for your people, then the stability of your business should follow. Make sure you over-communicate during these times as people can feel uncertain and anxious.
The more transparent and compassionate you can be during these difficult times, the more your colleagues will respect and appreciate you fostering a happy and engaging environment. If you can be anything, be kind to yourself and to others as the way you respond as a leader during this challenging period will be a defining moment for how your colleagues perceive you and your employer brand in future.
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