Interview with SOPHIE THEEN: ”The freedom to work anywhere and whenever could really be a game changer”

Sophie Theen is Chief People Officer, Oakam  (Marea Britanie),  Talent and Culture in Startups; Hypergrowth; Speaker; Mentor; Woman in Fintech Powerlist; Tech & Rising Star finalist ’19 (Marea Britanie).

As the VP of People in Pollen, Sophie’s aim was to shift cultural paradigms within organisations and to champion diversity and equality using structured, disruptive thinking. Pre Pollen, she’s led recruitment projects with Ford, General Motors and IBM, before shifting her passion and focus to setting up the future of HR in Fintech Startups like Revolut & 11:FS. She is a regular mentor and career coach in the startup community. A prolific writer on Diversity, Sophie also runs an HR community in Slack, Work Experience Programs for young women and as a People Advisor to new Founders of FinTech startups in London.

 Tell us a bit about yourself. How did your relationship with HR begin? 

Sophie: I started out my career in Australia, where I was a short-lived engineer. Although I loved the industry, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life…

While I was there, I went to a graduate networking event where I met the founder of a company in their early stages. He suggested that I try recruitment, and it made sense to stay in an industry I loved whilst trying something different.

As I was still ‘a fresh grad’, it made sense to work with my fellow recent grads, and joining the company as a graduate recruitment manager was very fulfilling. I was comfortable with the industry and it quickly taught me the importance of doing something I love. Since then I have worked with corporates in their Recruitment team before I eventually moved to join the start up world leading Talent and HR teams globally.

What are the HR trends that you think will define the new decade?

Sophie: AI and automation will be common in most HR practices and processes. This means that HR will finally be as efficient as any other functions in a company which is something we have been looking forward to. Personally as well, I’ve been implementing a different approach to traditional performance management in startups and I think the trend that will take over this decade will be the focus on reinventing performance management.

How the leaders of tomorrow should look? What is your advice for them?

Sophie: The leaders I look up to are those who created a following of their ways of working and ways of behaving. To me, that’s very important because while my ambition isn’t to be “them” but to be a closer version of them in the world and work that I do. I think that’s the best kind of leaders because you end up learning from their mistakes, and success, not who they are directly.

What do you consider to be the employee benefits that could drive the highest employee motivation/satisfaction/retention/engagement?

Sophie: Flexibility in your work, which means it’s either remote working or flexibility on work hours. Studies have shown that intrinsic motivators drives high performance cultures and that’s where we need to focus on providing to our employees. The freedom to work anywhere and whenever could really be a game changer in ensuring the focus is outcome and results focused, rather than physical presence which in most times mean nothing to a company.


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