A Chat with Jill Freestone
Q. How long have you been with Ventient?
A. I Joined in September 2020. It’s been an exciting and busy time to join this company that’s changed significantly during this period through acquisitions, new structures, new hires and a new people agenda.
In this timeframe, the business strategy hasn’t changed but where things have evolved is the expertise of the new people coming in, from myself, CFO, COO, Brand & Stakeholder Manager to new ESG and communication long term plans.
The strategy was there but as a blank canvas operationally, and we have spent the last 11 months bringing in the structure. It is an amazing opportunity for my team and for me to have a company that embraces so many possibilities. It’s great.
Q. What do you love about Ventient?
Hands down the fact that it’s a caring company, which comes from the top down. And I do mean really caring. Not just wellbeing. I do believe we care for and look after our people. We consider them and the employment of modern practices. It’s what attracted me to Ventient in the first place. I love to see wellbeing and inclusivity being at the centre of our company, our policies. It’s what’s in our DNA. I also love the fact that we’re a possibilities company. It’s not yes and no. It’s shades of grey, and we encourage all to bring the possibilities to the table and see what can work.
Q. From an HR perspective, how do you ensure the Ventient Way flows through the HR practices at the company?
Everything we do from HR is based on the People Plan pulled together by looking at our strategy, culture, DEI and ESG to create long term drivers that can develop talent, performance, people platform & leadership and governance.
The Ventient Way come alive in the People Plan based on four pillars
- Talent – energising the team, talent acquisition, succession, development
- Performance – leadership, learning, reward and recognition
- People Platform –improvement of policies, procedures, process and benefits
- Leadership & Governance
The Ventient way is also conveyed through other measures within the business. One of these measures is the People Forum: a committee that people can be part of which looks at, examines and advises HR, staff and ESG initiatives and offers feedback to the business.
Inclusivity is the biggest part of all our pillars. If we’re not inclusive throughout, then everything fails. So, for example, we’re looking at our policies and procedures at the moment and if we don’t have the right approach to family care and maternity, then we will not move forward. For me when it comes to culture, DEI and ESG are just in our DNA. They should form the thread that flows through our company and what I look to build with the HR team across the company.
Q. Diversity, Equality and Inclusion are fundamental at Ventient. What HR programmes/measures exist to encourage, represent and promote DEI?
A. We ask our people how we do it and what can be done better. Through an annual DEI survey, our people tell us we have the right behaviours and employ the right people.
This survey offers us a checkpoint on what we’re doing and provides the transparency that is vital for creating that inclusivity that we talk about. Support, growth, and strategy are all important to retain staff and create an environment where employees can own their career path. We provide tools and frameworks to help them drive their professional journeys so they can feel empowered and find guidance when needed.
We have to be seen as walking the walk. We have to be more inclusive from top-down; we want to carry an open door policy and provide significant benefits for all employees, agile working, streamlined access to internal career opportunities.
Ventient also uses a software performance system that provides a great tool for all employees to reward and recognise good work and positive behaviours. Anyone can comment on it from colleagues to management and the CEO. It allows us to have an open feedback system across the whole company.
Besides our own HR Metric system we use to measure ourselves and set our targets, we also ensure diversity measures are in place for recruitment, focusing on gender balance and background diversity.
Q. Wellbeing and work life balance is at the heart of Ventient’s policies and procedures. Can you tell us how this plays out across the company?
A. Ventient wellbeing is build upon 5 pillars:
- Connect – you are not alone, have a hotline and supportive working network
- Be active – look after yourself mentally and physically
- Environment – create a desired workspace – safe, healthy with a positive work life balance. This includes practices such as no meetings after 3 on a Friday, birthday leave, career breaks etc
- Give – Kindness will help us through, give your time to mentoring, volunteer programmes
- Keep learning – embrace new opportunities and experiences
HR communicate these regularly through newsletters/company bulletins, in introductory packs, on our employee information system. We write up regular articles for our internal communication to remind staff about the benefits and behaviours at Ventient. And we encourage managers to reinforce all these messages across their teams.
Q. What role does HR play in nurturing the talent at Ventient?
A. It’s about ensuring the managers have the right tools to support their team. It’s about empowering staff to feel they have a voice, can drive their own careers and have those conversations with peers and management. The open-door policy versus rules and rigid approach. We must be transparent about our approach, lead by example and live those values.
Q. How does it ensure that all personnel replicate the high-performance mentality?
A. It goes back to the People Plan, its four pillars and recognition.
We do see the software performance system as a main driver in creating and fostering the high performance and recognition mentality. It also links company objectives with personal and team goals becoming a tool that can motivate and encourage high performance. At the same time, it helps us understand when there is a need to improve more, so that we can manage and support effectively.
Q. How did you succeed in the Iberwind integration process?
A. Communication, the organisational structure and listening to and acting on the cultural differences were key from the start. The latter was critical. Sharing information and values, highlighting and leveraging the point of connections between the two.
It wasn’t just a financial deal, it was about the people and what they could bring to us. We ensured to build a constant thread to make it human.
Iberwind has been an interesting acquisition for me because it presented itself as a new opportunity not long after I joined, and the whole process was really fast. Within three months we had acquired it. So because of the speed we, as an HR team, had to be quick out the blocks in terms of communicating with the Iberwind team, what they were getting from Ventient, our ethos, our values etc, and most importantly, we wanted to ensure they felt part of the team from day one.
People are at the core of our company values, we needed to send this message loud while making the integration process as human as possible. At Iberwind the hierarchy had been quite traditional, so we had to communicate Ventient’s approach to DEI, wellbeing, open door policy, and worklife. We wanted to make it clear to all at Iberwind that despite this being an asset acquisition on paper, it was just as much about the people. We invested in transparency and dialogue, using translators to communicate, creating a travel guide to introduce each other, celebrate diversity and help to familiarise with all assets of our newly expanded portfolio. We have been transparent at all levels. Now, when I speak to a Portuguese colleague who joined from Iberwind, we often say that it feels as though we have been working together for years rather than just mere months. We have shared a good journey together that has been mutually beneficial.
We continue to converse across all sites via our company bulletins, which is where all different aspects of the business are showcased regularly. Staff achievements. Business news etc.
Q. What is your best achievement during your time at Ventient and why?
A. For me, it’s our focus on our wellbeing because that threads through the pillars we talked about. And it influences everything we do. I’m most proud of the fact that we focus on wellbeing. I come from an investment banking background and it’s really nice to be able to say that you work at a company where wellbeing and inclusiveness really do form part of our DNA.
When you talk about performance, careers, or anything, if you accept mediocracy, then that’s what’s you’re going to get. But if we want people to drive their careers and own their journeys, then we have to give them opportunities to succeed. Create open thinking for possibilities. We don’t look at failure or where things won’t work out. We want to create open thinking to give people the opportunity at the table and it’s critical in the pursuit of high performance.