eXPD8 is a people-powered business. As the leading provider of retail support services to retailers, suppliers and manufacturers across the UK and Ireland, a key aspect of the business is ensuring the right staff are recruited, inducted and engaged at all levels throughout the organisation. So, eXPD8 Co-Founder Mark Thurgood approached Moon Executive Search with a question. Can you find someone to take on a new role at eXPD8, an invaluable link between field-based staff and Head Office; someone technically knowledgeable and culturally aligned with eXPD8’s values.
This critical hire needed to demonstrate real innovation and creative thinking when designing a new people strategy, someone at the top of their game who can keep eXPD8 one step ahead of their competition. The answer? Jess Marsh MCIPD. Highly personable. Strategic. Results driven. Her experience in a range of industries has evolved a progressive and integrated approach to HRM practices. We had to learn more, and she was kind enough to spend some time speaking to us about her career and her vision as eXPD8 becomes ‘Fit for the Future’.
So, welcome Jess!
To kick us off could you briefly give us an overview of your CV?
I completed my degree in International Management and German; technically, I should be bi-lingual. I then stepped into Sales and Retail with the LIDL Graduate Programme, learning everything from store management through to the role of an Area Manager. I realised my passion is for good people management, helping leaders to develop and helping people be the best they can be. Nonetheless, it was my retail experience at LIDL that spurred my interest in the HR sector at large. I’ve really built my career from the ground up, understanding what good service looks like, which fits with eXPD8’s ethos of delivering service excellence first time… every time.
I rapidly progressed to more strategic positions, working at Director level, helping them to develop people plans that are aligned to the strategic goals of the business. The majority of my career has been spent in Logistics, so a similar fast-paced environment to eXPD8, though I’ve also worked across Aviation, Telecoms and what you might describe as the ‘quasi-public sector’ at the Environment Agency. All of this has brought a range of skills, knowledge and experience to the role.
Great. Over the course of your career how has the HRM discipline changed?
HRM, like any profession, evolves year-on-year depending on the external landscape and trends. Right now, with COVID-19 and virtual working for example, the emphasis has shifted to wellbeing and mental health. Another example is equal rights, and women’s rights particularly, have changed over the last 30 years. Equality in the workplace is now a huge focus area as a result. This has meant the role of HR over the years has expanded and consequently HR professionals have had to adapt and change their skill set. So, it’s not just the internal business requirements that help shape the HRM function but the political and legal landscape also has a significant effect.
In your view what makes a great people strategy?
Having a good understanding of the business strategy and priorities and having a people plan that is aligned to these. So for eXPD8 our 3 big strategic focus areas are: being Fit for the Future, Growth and improving Compliance. Therefore the people plan has to support these three areas in priority order. In addition, whatever actions we undertake as a business must support our workforce demographic as they have different wants and needs. For example we know we have a large proportion of millennials in our Central Office, whereas our Field colleagues are a different demographic, so will have a different set of needs. This means we might need to tailor our approach in certain areas to ensure a great employee experience all around.
‘Fit for the Future’ is a term we’re hearing more about – what is it from your perspective?
‘Fit for the Future’ is all about being more lean, efficient and slick, so avoiding duplication and waste. We’re a process heavy business so as we grow rapidly, it will be even more important that all of our systems work cohesively, in order that we can scale up effectively and maintain service levels. There is both an internal and external view from a Resource and Welfare perspective. Internally it’s about how do we ensure the R&W policies, processes and procedures are fit for purpose and joined up across the business. This is essential to delivering service excellence first time… every time.
External to the department it’s about ensuring R&W is delivering the right people tools and interventions at the right time to help the business achieve its strategic goals. This means as a function we must engage and collaborate heavily with all the other departments when shaping the people strategy.
You mention collaboration with other departments, how do you think Marketing & Comms feature?
My personal approach is to always be collaborative and the relationship between Resource & Welfare and Marketing & Communications is key, so we can deliver the right messages, to the right people at the right time. We’re thinking carefully about the ‘employer brand’ piece as a key strategic focus area for next year; so why it’s so great to work at eXPD8 and what the incentives are. This is critical to our Resourcing Strategy. I see Comms playing a core role in helping to shape how this is communicated both internally and externally.
In terms of your own recruitment, can you tell us more about the Moon Executive Search process?
The Moon team were brilliant. They’re specialists, so they know how to recruit for more senior positions. They know their target market. They were honest, upfront, and gave a candid overview of the eXPD8 business. They were also excellent at keeping the relationship open between myself and Mark Thurgood, particularly challenging in the circumstances of COVID-19. The real ‘aha’ moment came during the structured interviews with Mark, which were really honest and direct conversations.
I come from a corporate background, so to move to a fast-paced business that feels more like a family, where people are encouraged to be themselves and bring their own personality into the mix, was appealing; somewhere to enact change quickly using the value that I can provide; being an HR generalist that has worked across a range of size and types of organisation, across all levels of my discipline. There was a real click between Mark and myself about what a Human Resource & Welfare department should look like, what the needs of the eXPD8 business are, and how my experience and skills can best contribute to eXPD8’S overall objectives in 2021 and beyond.
Fantastic. So, that’s the business side of things. Tell us more about your personal interests?
I was gutted when the pandemic happened, as I love to travel. Next on my list was and still is Japan. I love being able to really absorb a culture and Japan is so varied and so steeped in history. I also like being able to have no particular agenda in those contexts and just to see what comes my way. In the absence of being able to travel, it’s all about keeping up good relationships; friends, family, enjoying virtual drinks and socialising. I’m quite ‘homey’ too, having moved just outside of Bristol a couple of years ago, I’ve enjoyed the interior design of my new home. I’m spending more time working on the garden, making it as good as it can be. Who knows, maybe a hot tub is on the cards?
Luxury! And aside from hot tubs, what final recommendations do you have for lockdown?
Personally, I think it’s really important to take regular breaks away from screens and digital platforms and prioritise other aspects like inter-personal human relationships and access to nature. Of course, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach and certainly, there are a range of digital applications which, without emphasising individual brands too much, can help. Really, it’s about re-thinking your day-to-day; if you do have a meeting, is there a way you can schedule that in such a way as to incorporate other important activities like going out for a walk and getting some fresh air?
Question whether you need back-to-back meetings. Take comfort breaks to reduce fatigue. Do what’s good for you and ensure that you maintain your work life balance; taking some time and space to prioritise exercise can really aid your productivity at work.
It’s not just about looking at a screen all day.
Well, that’s great advice Jess. Great to meet you and thank you for the interview!