Companies House is an executive agency of the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). We incorporate and dissolve limited companies, register company information, and make that information available to the public in the official government register of UK companies.
Thursday Dec 02, 2021
Thursday Dec 02, 2021
Thursday Dec 02, 2021
To mark the ‘UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021’ we’re proud to be supporting Purple Space with their #PurpleLightUp event on Friday 3 December and joining the global conversation, leader to leader, between CEOs and employees with disabilities.
In this podcast, our CEO Louise Smyth and members of our Ability Network, Stuart Brain and Martyn Flynn, discuss the importance of celebrating the economic contribution of employees with disabilities, why disability networks are such a powerful vehicle for cultural change and what purposeful leadership means to them.’
Stuart Brain: Hello! My name is Stuart Brain. I am the chair of the Ability Network here in Companies House, which supports our colleagues and allies living with health conditions and disabilities. I'm joined today by the vice chair, Martin Flynn and our CEO, Louise Smyth. The 3rd of December is purple light up which is the international day of persons with disabilities and highlights the value that 386 million disabled employees around the world, bring to the workplace. Hi Louise. So why is Companies House chosen to support this year's purple light up?
Louise Smyth: Hi, Stu. I'm absolutely delighted to be doing this video and taking part in purple light up provides a perfect opportunity for Companies House to visibly celebrate the economic contribution of employees with disability and shine a light on the work of those driving disability inclusion in our organisation, which is really important to us. Every single one of our employees plays an important part in helping us to achieve our vision, deliver the excellent services to our customers and ultimately, to drive confidence in the UK economy.
SB: Fantastic. Thanks Louise. And I'm totally with you. I'm really excited to be supporting purple light up again this year and our Cardiff office looks amazing lit up purple again. And as you mentioned, all of our employees can help play a part and help us deliver our vision and deliver successful products services to our customers. So why is it do you think that learning directly from our employees with disabilities can be such a powerful vehicle for culture change here at Companies House?
LS: You’re right, it really can be powerful. It's important that we learn from everyone and that includes our disabled colleagues. So, each of them will have their own experience to bring to the table, and it will be different in every case. Both from the perspective of working within Companies House and how we need to shape our culture so everyone can bring their whole selves to work. But also, to provide insight, we need to be representative of our customers and the people that we serve. And so, disabled, colleagues can bring that insight of how things that we put out, services that we put out there, can impact disabled people and how they're going to experience that. So I think that's really important for us.
SB: That's great. And I'm super proud of the brilliant work that colleagues from our Ability Network do to support our culture change. And also, really proud that we have great leadership from the top down here in Companies House. With all of our executive team engaged as senior sponsors of our many people networks. So, regards to leadership, what do you think are the characteristics of purposeful leadership?
LS: Well, thanks Stu. I'm glad you think there’s great leadership at Companies House. For me, purposeful leadership is achieved by empowering, motivating and energizing everyone to reach their full potential. And to do that, we need to have open conversations, we need to have trust, that's really important. And we need that trust to build people's confidence and remove barriers for Them particularly for people with disabilities. Some good examples of that could include making sure our recruitment processes are fully inclusive and that we’re able to make the adjustments to support everyone. Could be having an interview buddy, extra time at assessments or receiving the interview questions in advance, they’re just some examples. I'm really proud that Companies House is a disability confident leader. We're proud to promote that and to encourage all my senior leaders and other employees to think differently about disability and most important, to take action to improve the way that we recruit, retain and develop disabled people.
SB: I totally agree with you Louise. And that environment has really given me the confidence to speak about my own health condition and along with other colleagues, which allows us to be a lot more comfortable in really just being ourselves that work. So, I suppose what does what does diversity and inclusion really mean for Companies House, do you think?
LS: It’s so important. It's the golden thread that runs through everything that we do and our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality supports our brilliant people to deliver brilliant services to our customers. And it's vital that we’re representative of the diversity of our customers and of society so that we can do that really well. We've made some great progress, we've got networks, thriving across Companies House to enable people to discuss issues that are really important to them, and that they share and to resolve. We've got a public target to increase the number of appointments we make to jobs from underrepresented groups by 10% and we're going great guns towards achieving that and I’m really proud of that.
SB: That's great. I have to agree that our commitment to realizing our vision is fantastic. And seeing first hand that we do recognize and realize the contributions that our disabled colleagues, make to our whole organization is brilliant. I am so glad that we were able to have some time together today to discuss this and celebrate by supporting purple light up. Thanks for your time.
Wednesday Dec 01, 2021
Wednesday Dec 01, 2021
Wednesday Dec 01, 2021
In this episode, Meg talks with Ruth Frost and Rebecca Strange who work in the recruitment team within the People Transformation directorate. Also, to Si Robins who is Head of Agile Delivery, working in the directorate of Digital Data and Technology (DDaT). This directorate is currently expanding massively and we discuss this during this episode, so tune in to find out if there's an opportunity to suit you.
We’re also recruiting for a number of other new roles at Companies House. See our latest vacancies on Civil Service Jobs and apply now.
Megan Hayward: Hello and welcome to a new podcast episode from Companies House. Today we are talking to three exciting colleagues. So, a big hello to Rebecca Strange and Ruth Frost who work in the recruitment team within the People Transformation directorate. And, also, hi to Si Robins who is Head of Agile Delivery, working in the directorate of Digital Data and Technology (DDaT). This directorate is currently expanding massively and that's something that we're here to chat about in more detail today. So, if you're feeling that it's time for a change and flexibility is something that appeals to you, then I’d definitely suggest that you listen on. So, hi everyone. How we doing today?
Ruth Frost: Hiya Meg, good thanks.
Rebecca Strange: Hi Meg. Thanks for having us.
MH: So, my first question is for Ruth. Please can you give me a bit of an insight into your role? And what you do and how that helps to shape Companies House.
RF: Yeah, Meg. Yes, of course I can. So, my name is Ruth and I've been at Companies House for almost three years now, and I work in the recruitment team. So, I am one of our recruitment managers and I have the real privilege of being able to advertise some of our great roles. We have a lot to offer at Companies House. As you said earlier, Meg, we've got lots on offer at the moment and hopefully, there's something for everybody, whatever area of work you're interested in. I think we probably can guarantee we've got something for you. If it's not out currently, keep an eye on things that will come out in the next few weeks and months. I have the real pleasure of being able to just see people through that recruitment journey from initial applications, through to interview and through to bringing our new starters into our business and really helping them feel part of our great culture and all that we've got to offer at Companies House. I also have another role within the organisation and I am one of the chairs of one of our great employee networks. That's something that we do in Companies House to really make sure that everybody’s voice is heard, we've got real representation across our inclusive and diverse group of staff. And I am chair of our Working Families Network. So I help to represent the voice of Working Families around the organisation. So yeah, that's me.
MH: Thank you Ruth. That's really great. That's really good insight. I didn't know some of that. So that's really, really good. Si, I'd like to come to you next if I can.
Si Robins: Yeah, sure can. Thanks. I'm Si, I'm the head of the Agile Delivery Profession. Indeed. As you said so, a big part of my role is working with and supporting our agile delivery managers in leading their teams in delivering Digital Services. They’re services that are used by businesses and our colleagues, when doing all the filings that they need to do to comply with legislation. I’m also head of our community of practice at our agile community and that is aimed at delivering best practice in how we do agile delivery. We use the scrum framework if you're in the know, but also helping colleagues across Companies House, benefit from agile ways of working. And then, third thing is, I work closely with all the other heads of profession to a strategic level on things like capacity planning, so we make sure that we have confidence in delivering our commitments, in our portfolio. But also we're doing it in a sustainable and healthy way. That enables our people to learn and grow during the process and that's me.
MH: Well, that's great. Thanks, Si. I'm going to bounce back to Ruth for my second question. So, if I was somebody looking for a new job at Companies House, how would I go about it?
RF: Thanks, Meg. So, there are various places that we advertise our jobs, but first and foremost, I'd recommend that anybody looking for a job for us goes and has a look at a website called Civil Service Jobs, you can find it very easily type ‘Civil Service Jobs’ into Google and it will be the first one at that it brings up for you. Civil Service Jobs is where you'll be able to find all jobs in Companies House advertised. And it's great because you can set up automatic searches on there. So, if you're interested in a job located in Cardiff, which is where our main office is, you can put that as a search parameter in and it will show all jobs within that area and really recommend that you do search on there because it can really just help they come into your inbox every day because you haven't got to go back and check the website. We also advertise our jobs on sites such as Indeed or LinkedIn. Again, if you're somebody who uses LinkedIn, I would really recommend that you start following Companies House. We post a lots of great content on there, not only our jobs, but also other things about the great stuff we're doing as a business. It's just a great place to find out a bit more about what we are about as part of Companies House. Equally, if you are somebody who does enjoy social media, follow us on Twitter or on Facebook, as from time to time, we do post some of our jobs on there as well. So that's where I’d start off and as I said, we've got so many jobs and offer at the moment. The really is something for everybody. And so maybe if you're looking for a role in DDaT, which is where Si works, you'll find loads of opportunities on offer with us there. But if you're somebody who's looking for, maybe a bit of a change in career, something a little bit different. You'll be able to find so many different opportunities on there. Click on our job advert, have a read though. They have got a wealth of information in there. There is so much that job advert will tell you about the role about the responsibilities. What the first six months in the role might look like kind of things we're looking for you to be able to demonstrate in your application, in terms of your skills, your experience, all that sort of thing and really useful and it could if you've ever got any questions and we'd really encourage you to reach out to us, our contact details are in our adverts, drop us a quick email, any questions you've got? We're always happy to help. Hope that answers your question for you, Meg.
MH: That's amazing. So much, detail in there on how to go forward Ruth. That's great. My next question is for Rebecca and where the key areas. We are looking to recruit.
RS: Hiya, Meg. Yep, great question. And the answer is sort of all of them really. So, we're recruiting across, pretty much all of our directorates right now and plan to be, definitely going into the new year as well. It's key to know as well. We are recruiting across all of our locations. So that could be Cardiff, Edinburgh Belfast. We are offering some fully remote contracts as well. They tend to be more focused within the digital teams and most of our roles that the minute will be potentially aligned to an office but with a hybrid way of working. So, basically like the rest of us are at the minute, you will be spending time at home working and you will spend some time in the office doing collaborative teamwork and that kind of thing. We've got a number of roles that were recruiting for at the minute in our Customer Delivery Directorate (CDD). So that's essentially our operations team. If you like, they are the people who manage what we kind of refer to as the birth, life and death of a company. So, everything from setting up a company and registering that company with us, right the way through to closing down a company and everything that comes in between those two points. Those are our teams who work really directly with our customers, making sure that our registers are up to date and everything that needs to be recorded is. We've got a lot of recruitment happening there. It's one of our largest directorates so it does tend to be consistently quite busy actually. Ruth who's with us at the minute managers that area in terms of sort of partnering with them, so she will definitely second that we are focusing at the minute a lot on the Intelligence and Enforcement (I&E) area of Customer Delivery. That's a new area of responsibility for us. So, they really interesting roles, really exciting. They would be really key to a lot of people to have a look at. So, I'm sure Ruth might come in at the end of this and give us a little bit more insight into what that looks like. Other than, though we have roles in our Finance and Commercial areas at all levels as well. So even just at the moment, we've got roles at Finance Officer level, Team Leader level roles where we’re looking for people who are a little bit further on in their careers, qualified accountant positions. We're hiring across our Estates and People Transformation teams. That's what we sit as Recruitment and HR. Within that area, we've got teams like change, continuous improvement, organisational development, it covers a huge breadth of skills that we would be looking for then. And then we've also got roles in Strategy, Policy and Communications. A lot of those are super exciting. So, I've just had a meeting with one of our senior team members in the comms side and we're looking for a Head of External Affairs soon, that's going to be going out to market and always, always always DDaT, that kind of digital area such a key focus for us, so much growth there. So that's one that comes up every single time, we’re always looking for great digital professionals to come and join us. So yeah.
MH: Thank you Rebecca. That's really interesting. So much content there. That's really exciting about what's upcoming. My next question, I'm going to go back to Rebecca. Can we talk a little bit about the flexibility at Companies House and what that means to us and how it's part of our identity.
RS: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. I'm really, really happy to speak on this because for me, personally, it makes such a difference to my life, to my well-being and to how I'm able to kind of juggle, life at home and life in work. From that personal perspective, I'm a single parent. It's just me at home, my kids are six and nine. So, I've got loads of responsibilities outside of work as well as in. That flexibility that we're given within Companies House, and I think crucially, the fact that we're trusted as individuals and as grown-ups to set some of those parameters means that I can do the school run, I'm able to drop the kids off every morning, I pick them up on a Monday and a Friday. I can use my flexi time, which means if I start, if I pick up an extra 20 minutes somewhere, it means that if I need to finish up a little bit early or start a little bit later another day of that week, then I'm able to do it and it really feeds into that piece. You'll hear us talk about it a lot at Companies House about bringing your whole self to work. For me that means I'm bringing myself to work, I'm great at my job. I've got a fantastic team around me, but I'm also a single parent and there's no requirement to leave that at the door, that forms part of who I am. It forms how I work and how I do my job. That's absolutely not just accepted by my managers, but it's really embraced, so that flexibility in how we work means that whatever you have going on outside of work, whether it's caring for relatives, it could be that you volunteer somewhere, it could just be that you love the gym and a particular class that you really want to go to starts at four o'clock, instead of five. It just means that you can. All of that great stuff outside of work that makes you calm and happy and centered and focused that can still very much kind of carry on alongside your job.
MH: Thank you so much. Rebecca. That's the best answer I think you can give. I've just got to say that I second all of that. And my last question, I'd like to hear from everyone, so if I start with Si, can we talk about what working at Companies House means for you?
SR: Yeah, so for me, it's about respect and it's just the fundamental respect for being a human being that just seems threaded throughout everything that we do. That leads to great things like our networks that we have, that care and support for people with all kinds of challenges in balancing their work and life. Personally, I'm a part of the Mental Health Advocacy Network. And, you know, coming to Companies House May, 18 months ago, was part of me feeling, like I was fixing my mental well-being. I've been able to do that so successfully Companies House for many of the reasons that Rebecca mentioned. And I think it's just every day that I come in, whoever I work with, I have this really strong sense that they care about me and I care about them in return. Then to top it all off, I think it's about how we all then care for the users of our services. So, for businesses, how important it is for businesses to be able to interact with Companies House Services, in an efficient, and effective way, because we want them spending time growing their own business and being successful. That's what we want. So, I think, for me, respect and that care is threaded through every single bit of Companies House.
MH: Thank you, Si. That's amazing and Ruth.
RF: Absolutely. So I think, for me, it's couple of things that have already been mentioned, really. So, for me, flexibility is incredibly important. It’s that ability to be able to do a great job when I'm at work, but not feel that that is pulling me away from other responsibilities I have elsewhere in my life. It's that flexibility to be able to work in the way that absolute works for my team, but the way that also absolutely works for me.
It's about the great people around me at Companies House who make it just such a positive experience to come to work each day. But, it's also about being able to work in an environment where it's safe to challenge, it’s safe to ask questions, it's safe to say “Well, why do we do this like this? Could we do this differently?” and you know that your voice will be heard. To work in an environment where your voice is heard and your opinions are taken on board and your thoughts are listen to, that just makes such an incredible difference and you feel really valued for that and that for me is really, really important. Thanks, Meg.
MH: Thanks, Ruth. And Rebecca, lastly I’d like to come to you.
RS: Yeah, definitely. And exactly like Ruth said, everything that I've just heard from both Ruth and Si, I couldn't agree with more. And, I think one of the key things for me because it was such a change when I joined Companies House, which is around about two years ago now. I joined from the private sector and what I discovered was just this renewed passion for my role. I felt like I'd where I'd been previously, I'd hit a brick wall. I wasn't challenged anymore. I wasn't given opportunities anymore, and, just I'd lost my passion. And then I joined Companies House. I'm given opportunities. I'm supported within those opportunities.
I'm encouraged to, you know, come with ideas and try new things. And I just love that. It's absolutely kind of reinvigorated my professional life to be completely honest.
And yeah, just the endless support and empathy that you get from everybody around you. And that goes from Louise our CEO. And, you know, I don't just say that because it's what people say, you genuinely you see it in her, you hear it from her. It's so authentic. That translates down the kind of throughout the organisation. I show it to my team. My team show it to me. Yeah. So yeah. Yeah, that's it for me.
MH: Thanks again Rebecca. And thank you to all three of you. that concludes my questions for today. Honestly, the contribution there was fantastic. I hope our listeners have gained a good Insight today into what a career might look like at Companies House. You can see all of our latest vacancies on civil service jobs, like Ruth said earlier. It's a great time to start designing your own time with a career at Companies House. Please don't miss on new opportunities and remember to search and apply through civil service jobs, and hopefully we'll be seeing some applications from our lovely listeners very soon. Thank you. Bye, everyone.
Friday Jun 11, 2021
Friday Jun 11, 2021
Friday Jun 11, 2021
At Companies House, we are dedicated to being an inclusive, innovative and welcoming employer, one that supports people and encourages them to ‘find their passion’ by developing their skills and careers. But don’t just take our word for it. In this podcast you can hear from Martyn Flynn, Head of Resourcing at Companies House, in which he talks about the unique culture at Companies House and the importance of diversity and inclusion. Over the next few weeks, in our new series of features, we will also be showcasing some of our fantastic employees, who will reflect on their career at Companies House and how they have been able to find their passion.
Megan Hayward: Hello and welcome to “Meet the team” by Companies House. Today, I am joined by Martin Flynn, Head of Resourcing, at Companies House. We are going to be discussing diversity and inclusion today, which I'm really excited about. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate our achievements in this space and share what we're doing as an organisation. I think having a sense of belonging, being able to be your authentic self, and feeling you have a voice are vital for all inclusion. So, on that note, hello Martin and welcome. How are you?
Martin Flynn: Yeah, great. Thank you, Meg. How are you?
MH: Yes, good. Thank you. Not too bad. So obviously just a note for the listeners we are recording this remotely. So, fingers crossed, it all goes well. Bear with us.
MF: Technology, fingers crossed.
MH: Yeah, so my first question is, what is diversity and inclusion and what does it mean to us as an organisation? And could you speak a bit about our D&I ambition?
MF: Yeah. Sure. That's a good question. I think for Companies House diversity is really about understanding that each individual is really kind of unique and that we do recognize those individual differences. So, these can both be visible and invisible and along the dimensions of things such as gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, age, physical abilities, for example. So, these differences mean everyone brings something different to our organisation. Different life experiences, skill sets, thoughts, ideas, innovation. So, it's really important that we recognize, respect, and value these in a safe and positive environment. Ultimately, it's about understanding each other. I suppose celebrating and welcoming these differences that each individual has. Inclusion then is all about having a sense of belonging. You know where the different groups or individuals with these differences are then accepted, welcomed, and treated fairly, and equally. So, if you have an inclusive culture, it makes the individual or the group of people feel valued, feel kind of respected for who they are. This for Companies House is for all people to just feel comfortable, and confident to bring their whole and brilliant selves to work. So, we want everyone to feel that they are respected, and that they are treated fairly and this means that then everyone has the opportunity to perform to their full extent of their potential, they are rewarded fairly, and they're recognised for the contribution that they make to Companies House. But it is also important that our diversity reflects the communities and the citizens that we serve so that we can better understand them and serve them as well.
MH: Yeah, absolutely. That was a very good answer, I must say. So, we've launched a campaign this week which will showcase our brilliant D&I networks. And I know that you've got a personal passion for these and supporting our diverse colleagues. So, would you mind sharing a bit of your own D&I story?
MF: No, not at all. Yeah, you're right. I am really passionate and proud of the great networks that we have here Companies House. When I talked about inclusion, I suppose a sense of belonging. You know, obviously inclusion networks have really helped to bring our people together and create those safe environments. So for example, you've got a Chic Network for our LGBTQ colleagues. There's a Carers Network, a Working Families Network, a Women's Network. We've just launched our new FACE Network. So that’s celebrating, let me get that right now, Faith, Allyship, Culture, and Ethnicity. And a Mental Health Network as well. That's just to name a few.
I suppose these of all really helped especially through the current situation in really providing that support and resource for our colleagues that allows a safe space to talk which really helps with well-being, promoting improved mental health, which is all really important. Our networks are really thriving. I think some of our most powerful stories in many ways is how we use our allies for the networks. So, we've got male colleagues who are really active in the Menopause Women's Network, for example. We've got colleagues who maybe just have an interest in other networks through their own personal experiences or maybe for just having an interest or passion for. And it's these allies that can really be I suppose our change agent for a really diverse, I can really say in inclusion, remove barriers and stereotypes that may then kind of exist. Personally, I'm involved in several networks. But I also act as kind of an ally. But I also helped to form our Ability Network. So, this was set up to support colleagues with visible and non-visible disabilities. To really help create a supportive environment where those colleagues can feel confident talking and declaring to their managers that they've got a disability. They can also also talk freely and network in open. Open to talk with us as well.
So, I've got Crohn's disease and that's a chronic kind of lifelong condition that affects my digestive system. So, in the past this has resulted in quite a lot of surgery. I've had to make some personal changes in my life to make to manage the condition. However, it is an invisible disability. So, if you were to look at me, you’d think there's absolutely nothing wrong with me. I look fine from the outside. However inside I might be in pain, I could be having a flare-up can, can be just really fatigued. So it's important for me that my colleagues as well as my team understand my condition and the side effects that the medication can bring so that maybe if one day I'm not quite on the ball, or I'm really tired, you know, they would kind of understand why. No, go on, sorry.
MH: No, I was just gonna say, I love that it's the Ability Network, not the disability network. And I think why we are so different to other employers. Like you said about having Crohn’s. It's something with other employers, you'd write it on a form as soon as you start with the business or the company and then that's it. And then it's never spoken about again. It’s not made visible. There's no way to make it visible to your colleagues and that can be really difficult for that person.
MF: Yeah, exactly. I think that's why we set up the network. We want our colleagues to understand everyone's ability not a disability. You know what it is that they can bring to that organisation regardless if they have a visible or invisible disability. So, if we can create that kind of environment, where people are you know fully understanding it would allow them to perform at their best, you know, really flourish and hopefully in an environment that is free from discrimination or harassment.
MH: Absolutely. I remember, it was like within my first few weeks and I had a meeting with Amy Harcombe and she was like, you should join the Women's Network. I was like, what is this? That sounds amazing. Absolutely. I go along to as many meetings as I can, and I come out of them just feeling so proud and they're so uplifting. You could almost never think that would be within a workplace. It's amazing. So, my next question, is. Or, not so much a question, it is a question or not a question the way I see it, which could be quite a naive view. I personally don't know anybody who purposely discriminates or doesn't try to be inclusive but I'm also really aware of unconscious bias. And I know that this is an area that you're quite passionate and interested in. So, can you chat a little bit about that? Because I think that's really important to be made aware of.
MF: Yeah, definitely and you're right. It is some of this that is important to be aware of and you know, I think personally I would challenge anyone or somebody who maybe says that they don't have any unconscious biases. You know, everyone does hold some unconscious biases or beliefs about maybe various social identity groups, you know, and these can cause us to make decisions, you know in favour of one person or another group over another. You know, it's really important for organisations to work hard to educate their people on unconscious bias and to help adjust, I suppose, you know, automatic patterns of thinking. Maybe trying to eliminate that discriminatory behaviours. Unconscious bias can be a huge setback in creating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace and these biases can impact on recruitment, promotion, I suppose equal opportunities for everyone. So, yeah. Now this one example is that there is one called the halo effect. So, this is where people who think maybe highly of an individual in a certain way and likely to think highly of them in other ways. So, for example, if we think that someone is good-looking, we may well think that they are intelligence and charismatic, for example. So, you know as managers and leaders we've got to be wary of as we're generalizing a colleague’s performance based on one specific characteristic of their personality or appearance. But then you have the opposite effect, which is called the horn effective then. So maybe just because somebody made a mistake once doesn't mean that they're then incapable of improving again. Other examples are gender bias or similarity bias. On an individual level, I suppose it's important to firstly understand what unconscious biases are and then assess which biases are likely to affect you. I suppose try and figure out which of these individual perceptions are the most likely to be kind of governed by your unconscious biases and then when you know that information you can then take some really personal proactive steps to address them on a personal basis then.
MH: Yeah, that last thing you said then, that's the thing that struck me is that it's unconscious. You've got to challenge yourself. It's got to come from within and that's another thing that I think that we do so well in Companies House is that we're encouraged to look at ourselves because that is the only way that we're going to improve. And it's not it's not a destination, it’s continuing, you always get better. If you think, oh no, I'm there that then you're already wrong really because it's something that you've got continue to improve on forever.
MF: Yeah, it is. It's about challenging yourself and then, you know, maybe challenging other people as well then. I think that's one of our behaviours. We have got three behaviours which are, Adaptable, Bold and Curious. But one of those ones are you know about being Curious. It’s about challenging yourself and learning about yourself as well. But also, that bold side of, you know, not being afraid to challenge in a safe way and a professional way, but to challenge others as well. If you were maybe to see another potential unconscious biases happen, if you spot something that you thought could potentially be that or unacceptable behaviour. You know, and as an organisation, we are challenging ourselves. So, we've got a public target to increase applications from underrepresented groups, for example. You know, we know that it's important to us to make sure that we are getting new applications from different groups into the organisation to make sure that we can try and recruit those people into the organisation as well then. So, we challenged and made a public target of that to really set ourselves, you know, I suppose set ourselves apart a little bit. You know what we're not that diverse. If you were to look at it from the from the inside. However, we're aware of that. So, we're going to challenge ourselves to make sure we have great networks, we have an inclusive culture, we have an environment that is free from discrimination. People are aware of unconscious biases and people are aware of the benefits of having a diverse workforce. To make sure that we can bring you know, a whole diverse range of people into the organisation because that's only going to be good for us as a business.
MH: Definitely, hundred percent. So, for my last question. Please can you speak a little bit about how we've supported colleagues during the coronavirus pandemic. I know accessibility for colleagues and customers has been a key priority for us all.
MF: So, I suppose the situation has brought out the community spirit between our colleagues. And I did have the support from the very top down and the organisation has been really amazing. You know, we've moved from having everybody working across our four offices with a smattering of flexible working for the majority of colleagues working at home and I suppose the collaboration that went on between colleagues to make this happen and to ensure that our people were first and foremost safe and well was fantastic to see. I know nobody could have really planned for this at all. You know, it's that the whole world went into lockdown overnight and the knock-on effects this is had is really unprecedented.
MF: It's really important that we you know; we kept our services opening for our customers as well. So, you know, we kept small teams of volunteer staff in our offices. Obviously ensuring that this was safe to do and we’re following the right protocols and guidelines so that we could still deal with keeping the registry up to date and some of our services, that we may be couldn't do digitally. It has been really important for us to ensure that we still stay connected. You know, our colleagues can still have that sense of belonging I talked about. And that's both in a professional work capacity and also in a personal capacity. We are real human at the end of the day. We need those connections. We need to talk. We need to collaborate and that then helps us I suppose enjoy our jobs and get that job satisfaction and enjoy the work that we do. And from someone that was shielding for five months, you know, that support was invaluable for me. I suppose in terms of, you asked about accessibility. I mean, accessibility has been a priority for us as an organisation. As with or without the pandemic. For our colleagues, it is about making sure that everyone has access to the same opportunities, the same benefits, regardless of their differences. And for our customers, it is about really understanding them. Ensuring that access to our service isn't a one shoe fits all approach and that we are able to maintain as was our services and still give great customer service.
MH: Wow. Thank you so much, Martin. That concludes my questions for today. So, thank you again so much for agreeing to come on and chatting. I've learnt so much and I'm pleased with the insight you've provided to our listeners. You've been a star. Martyn and Meg discuss D&I at Companies House. Inclusion is a golden thread that runs through all Companies House activity, and we will find ways to embed diversity in everything we do. Our ambition is to build an inclusive, positive culture where everyone can bring their whole selves to work, facilitating retention of motivated, high performing colleagues. It is also critical for us as a business that we work to reflect the diversity of our customers through our own diversity. Goodbye. Bye Martin.
MF: Bye, thanks Meg.
Monday May 17, 2021
Monday May 17, 2021
Monday May 17, 2021
Megan Hayward: Hello and welcome to another episode from Companies House. We have recently launched our new 5-year strategy, and one of our strategic goals is about how we deliver value through efficient use of resources. So, I'm here today with Michelle Wall, Director of Finance at Companies House. And today Michelle is going to give us a bit of an insight into her work and how that work runs through, who we are and what we do. So, hi Michelle, how are you?
Michelle Wall: I'm very good. Megan, how are you?
MH: Yes, I'm well, thank you. I'm just going to jump in straight away with the first question. I know how busy you are! So could you please tell me a little bit about your role and how it contributes to us as an organisation?
MW: Okay, so I'm the Director of Finance and Commercial and I cover 4 areas in terms of activity. So financial transactions, that’s the money coming in and the money going out, so what people generally think of as the finance team. All that purchasing, order processing and payroll activity.
I've got a strategic finance and business partnering team. They’re a new team, and they’re delivering, what I call the looking up and looking out. So they're looking forward, they’re supporting the business, understanding our strategic finance needs – have we got the money that we need, when we need it? And if we haven't, putting those plans in action to make sure we get that sorted.
I've got a commercial team. They cover sort of procurement and buying third-party contract, supporting the business through the contract management and the life of those contracts. I also have some responsibility for risk management and assurance. So alongside all of that, making sure that we're understanding our risks and making sure that all our governance processes are delivering the activity that they need to. I'm also Exec Champion for equality, diversity and inclusion. And that's something I'm very passionate about.
MH: Well, that's quite a breadth of things there. The one I found most interesting was sort of the horizon scanning team.
MH: You sort of mentioned it at the beginning. Like, for me, I wouldn't even know that that's something that we would be doing at Companies House. So that's really interesting.
MW: So that is a new piece of activity and became even more of a focus for us. We used to be what's called a trading fund and even though we were a government organisation and civil servants, we were financially independent. Due to a decision at the centre, we lost our trading fund status in April last year. And as a consequence, we now need to do, we’re part of the vote funding system, we’re part of the spending reviews, and that's activity that we didn't do before. So we need to be able to demonstrate that we've got really good plans in that place to make sure that our spending requests are acknowledged and people give us money for it. So that's a new team with a much more structured focus in ensuring what we're doing.
It's also supporting the activity for the new strategy, one of the reasons that we're here today. In terms of ensuring that all that new activity that we're doing and the way that we're changing is financially sustainable.
MH: Thank you. So how do we make sure that we have the right resources when we need them? And that they are operated efficiently?
MW: I could do a very short answer and just say plan, plan, plan! We recognize that we've published a very ambitious strategy and vision for the future for Companies House. And that's given us a really good understanding of exactly what we're going to need in terms of resources. But I think resources, when people talk about resources, they forget that resources are not just people – it’s money, it’s third party contracts, it’s time. Everything that we have at our disposal to deliver those goals. And we need to make sure that you know, all those good ideas that we have get turned into tangible actions and we need those plans in place to ensure that we kind of know what we want and what we need and are able to deliver that.
So in terms of, we've got a good road map now in terms of where we're going, but we also need to understand whether those plans that we have are complete with new services. And to the point that I made earlier about, you know, is that financially sustainable? Do we have a funding stream for that? Is it a tweak to something that we're already doing, more of a minor change? And we do have a funding stream for that. So all those plans need to be pulled together into the centre with my strategic finance team. My commercial team are heavily involved, and also strategic workforce planning is a key element to this as well. And we feed all those smaller plans up, compare them to the roadmap and make sure that all those plans align. It's, it's yeah, one of the things where we've been encouraging our people to be adaptable, bold and curious. I know some of the other podcasts have mentioned this in ways that we think about the challenges that we're facing. Some of those conversations that my teams are having around how we allocate our resources and invest those resources and make sure that they're efficiently used are probably where we see some of the great innovations in solutions, people being adaptable, bold and curious.
We do have funds, which is great, but they're not limitless. So there's always trade-offs to be made. There are always different ways that we can think about doing things. My team has a great diverse background certainly in terms of their work experiences. I've got people from industry. I've got people from NHS backgrounds. I've got people from Civil Service backgrounds, central government. And all of those people come together to bring really good solutions. And I love to see those plans coming together and really demonstrating how, as an organisation, all our different thoughts can produce really great end results.
MH: Yeah that's all really, really interesting and thought-provoking stuff. Can you tell me some of the ways that we ensure that we deliver value for money?
MW: Of course, I mean, value for money is important for our customers, it's important for our stakeholders and as a government organisation, you know, it runs through us like a stick of rock. But I think understanding what delivering value for money looks like is, is key. I think, sometimes when people think about value for money, they focus just on one element of that, in terms of doing things cheaply, or cost effectively as much as possible. But there are other elements. You know, if I could spend 10 pounds and deliver 100 pounds worth of value that may be seen as a good, a good investment. But if I could invest 15 pounds and deliver 1,000 pounds worth of value, then clearly, that is a much better investment.
And I think we need to understand how we value what the outcome looks like. And that is some work that we're doing now. We've recently strengthened our economists team, to give us much more of that understanding. Some of the work that was done in the last couple of years - we did some research on the value of our register, to understand how much that is worth to the economy. It's worth between one and 3 billion pounds, which is huge. Relatively speaking, we can spend, as an organisation, Companies House, relatively small amounts of money and make quite a big impact on that value.
So, we're really focusing on the whole breadth of what value for money looks like and, and hopefully certainly internally, but hopefully externally as well, people will start to see the benefits of that over the life of the strategy, because we'll be doing a lot more work in that in that space. So it's a really exciting time. We'll be looking at the Public Value Framework and doing an assessment of that at some point in the not too distant future. So it's really exciting. And we're really looking forward to being able to demonstrate what great value we are delivering.
MH: Yeah, that is really exciting. My next question, it's sort of a hot topic that I think is a priority for most. Well hopefully a priority for most at the moment. But can you speak from a Companies House point of view about our environmental goals and what we're doing to meet them?
MW: Absolutely. I think, you know, the green agenda, certainly is a key focus. Net Zero, for BEIS, who’s our parent department, is a key element of what they're working on, and we need to play our part in that. I think Companies House has quite a strong story and narrative in this space. We've done a lot of work in the past around the building, and how we run that effectively. We’ve had a biomass boiler for example, for a long time. And so, it's been a key focus for us. I think we're continuing to do that work. In terms of reducing our energy, water usage on site, you know, and looking at alternative ways of working, to reduce our impact on the environment.
But I think we will need to consider the results. You know, what's going to change as a consequence of the pandemic and how we're now working? Many of us are working from home. We're going to be using our offices potentially in very different ways. When we go back to post-pandemic, if there is such a thing, we need to take those opportunities as much as we can. So we're doing lots of the small stuff around our technologies. We're putting things into the cloud, because cloud-hosted services generally have much better environmentally friendly ways of cooling mechanisms and that kind of thing. So we are looking across the piece in all things that we're doing. Our environmental champion, Martin Swain, his favourite at the moment is, we need to start reducing the amount of emails that we send and keep because every email creates a transaction on the web. And we're storing all this stuff that we don't need which is just a thank-you from someone. So he’s on a mission.
MH: That’s taking it next level, isn't it?
MW: That's right. So I think there's another impact that we can have though. And another really important one, which is a key role to influence our millions of customers. We have 4.23 million customers on the register, something like 20 million directors, and one of the biggest ways that we can influence them is asking them, and encouraging them, and making it easy for them to file digitally, as opposed to sending it as paper. Even though we have well into the 90% usage of our digital services, we still had, in December, which is a big accounts filing month, 4 tonnes of paper come into the office. Now, that's not just the paper impact. That's the cost of delivering that paper. It’s the cost of us managing that paper and disposing of that paper at the point when it becomes digital in the office. And I think, yeah, really pushing hard for our customers to interact digitally, and think about their impact and their interaction with us. And how that impacts on the environment is another key area and we’ll be doing a lot of work in that space of the next 3 to 4 years.
Indeed this year, we have stopped our paper reminders for people and transitioned everybody onto digital reminders. And we've seen a huge decrease in our paper usage and our postage as a consequence. So really focusing on the 2 aspects of our ambition. The internal, what we control with our people, and what we can do with our customers and the wider population.
MH: That's fab, thank you. And my last question, I ask everyone this but it’s my favourite question to ask. What have you learned about yourself in this past year? In a personal, or professional capacity, or both?
MW: So this one is a tricky one. I think it’s always difficult when you self-reflect, isn't it? Oh, goodness me. And I think, probably the thing that has struck me most is the focus of well-being. Companies House has always been an organisation that has been very focused on the well-being of its staff and its customers and stakeholders. But I think I’ve never been more focused on my own personal well-being, and the impact that the changes in environment that we've had to cope with over the last year, both on a personal level, you know, with my family, my kids being in school one day, out of school another day, in lockdown, in isolation and coping with all those, all those huge emotional swings. But also on a professional capacity, you're doing all your work in quite an isolated way, in my back bedroom! And I think really being focused on well-being for yourself, your family, and you know, your team around you has been the thing that I've learnt that I need to be focused on even more. I knew it anyway, but I think it's really come in to my consciousness on a daily basis, which I don't think it was before.
And so I think understanding how it impacts on my resilience has probably been the thing that I've learned most about myself this year.
MH: Yeah, I think lots of things have moved from the backs of our minds to the fronts of our minds.
MW: Absolutely, yeah.
MH: Well, thank you so much and thank you everybody for listening. If you haven't already, then please have a look back on our podcast channel where I discuss some more of our goals with different team members and also, this is the last podcast of the series. Michelle you've been an absolutely amazing guest. Take care. Goodbye.
MW: Thank you. Bye.
Wednesday Mar 10, 2021
Wednesday Mar 10, 2021
Wednesday Mar 10, 2021
MH: Hello and welcome to another podcast episode from Companies House. We have recently launched our new five-year strategy and one of our strategic goals is all about how we ‘combat economic crime through active use of analysis and intelligence’. So, I'm here today with Martin Swain, who is the Director of Strategy, Policy, and Communications, at Companies House. And today Martin's going to give us a bit of an insight into his work and how that work runs through who we are and what we do.
Hi Martin, how are you?
MS: I am alright, how you doing?
MH: Yeah, not bad. Thank you. So, I'm just going to start off my first question which is, can you tell me a little bit about your role and how it contributes to us as an organisation.
MS: Yeah, no problem. So, I mean you just stabbed my job title, which is kind of set it on the tin. So, I'm a Director for Strategy, Policy and Communications. That's my main roles and obviously, you know involved in developing the new five-year strategy that we launched recently and involved with lots of policy development work and communications work. But, I guess around economic crime, I have a role to lead for the board around some of the economic crime policy and our enforcement and intelligence policy, working with our service owner Stuart Morgan in that area to kind of frame how we are taking forward our approach now with the current powers that we have but also starting to shape what our future strategy for intelligence and enforcement will be when we get the new powers that we hope will get parliamentary time for, will get very soon.
MH: Cool. So, how does Companies House at the moment work with law enforcement?
MS: Yeah. That's where so we've got a great relationship with a lot of law enforcement agencies. And you know, we already do a great amount of work but I suppose it's really important upfront to say that, you know, the vast majority of companies are law-abiding and they follow the rules of the Companies Act and they comply with their requirements. So, I think it's really important to say that it is a minority of companies that are used for economic crime or illicit activities or illegal activities. So, that's really important to say upfront. But you know, we already do an awful lot to support law enforcement. We provide data where we are able to support investigations. We look at trends on the register and try to establish where we can see whether there's potentially suspicious activity. We will always follow up where there are reports of fraudulent activity and take whatever action we can. And as I say, you know, really developing more and more all the time those relationships with those key law enforcement agencies like the National Crime Agency, local police, regional police, but also working with things like the National Economic Crime Centre.
MH: Right. Well that's quite a breadth of different places and well I think it’s like quite interesting about this goal. There are obviously a few different ones but this one is sort of the newest.
MS: Yeah, and I'd say Meg this is probably for me and I shouldn't say that but it's probably the most exciting goal because this is really taking Companies House into new territory. We are moving away from being just a register to being much more of an assertive partner in law enforcement, you know and colleagues have done some really great work over the last few years within Companies House to really start us on that journey. But, I think putting this as a goal of our strategy front-and-centre that we really want to play the biggest part we can in tapping economic crime and fraudulent activity and protecting individuals from fraud, protecting businesses from fraud, you know helping the government to prevent where companies are being used to defraud the government, you know, and that's been an issue very recently around some of the government support for companies where again that small minority of companies are and individuals are using corporate entities to defraud government financial schemes and to defraud other businesses. So, it's a hugely exciting part of our strategy. I feel personally really, really excited about the opportunity. We've got within Companies House and I think you know, the strategy gives us a great framework to develop over the next few years to really play a part in this.
MH: Hmm, right. That's a great answer. Thank you. And my next question is, what are the future plans for Companies House to combat economic crime.
MS: Okay. So you know when I was talking to the team about you know, what I was going to say on the podcast, you know, what they said to me is obviously don't give too much away because then obviously people will know how we're going to try to tackle economic crime in the future. So, I won’t give all our tactics away but one thing is clear, you know, we want to really kind of up our game around this and that's in terms of the way we use our data, you know, we're an organisation that has huge amounts of data that can be used to analyse where we see potential activity, which is criminal. We really want to develop our people and that's a really really crucial part of this that you know, we are going to be moving people away from maybe transactional work into much more intuitive investigative work. So, that's a really really key part of it, you know, helping out people to grow, developing new skills and capabilities. But also, I guess it's for me, placing Companies House right at the heart of that economic crime ecosystem. You know the role that we can play, not only in supporting operational activity, but supporting the more strategic end of it. You know working with other government departments around serious organised crime, economic crime, fraud, money laundering. Really being a part of that and for me, you know, having joined Companies House just under two and a half years ago, when I arrived I could see the journey that we were on but I can see that we've really progressed over the last couple of years and the next few years are just going to be really fascinating where we end up as an organisation within that. Obviously, you know, we are restricted by the powers of the Companies Act that we have at the moment. So, we're hugely excited about the government's proposals for reform and the kind of powers that we will get through reform and the opportunities that will really give us to change the way that we can respond to some of this fraudulent activity and economic crime. So, hugely excited from a from a policy perspective, from a strategy perspective, from being part of that approach to enforcement and investigation. You know, it's just a huge huge opportunity over the next few years.
MH: Yeah, those very exciting times ahead. And I think even like personally for me like I've learned so much just from listening to that then and yeah, just really exciting to see how we're going to grow in the next few years. And regarding my next question, it's sort of separate from the strategy. What have you learned about yourself in the past year. So, you know since February 2020 to February 2021, in a personal or professional capacity or even both.
MS: All right. But on a personal level, I've probably learned that one of the most important things for me is to travel and not being able to travel is just being really really tough. And you know, I say that in the context of for so many people the last year has been absolutely horrendous, but there are amazing things which you take for granted and I guess on a personal level I've learned that there are things I won't take for granted in the future and I'll certainly treasure things which may be in the past. I just took that these things happen. Professionally, I've probably learned that you know, Companies House is a great organisation to work for, its so adaptable. It's been so able to pivot, so well to continue supporting customers, delivering against the government's agenda. You know, over eighty percent of our people are working from home, yet we still are delivering, you know on all fronts. So professionally I've probably learned that just under two and a half years ago, I made a really really good decision, which was to join Companies House.
MH: Thank you so much. I really been fascinated listening to you today. And thank you to all our listeners for listening. If you haven't already then please have a look back on our podcast channel where I just discussed some of our other goals with other team members and also keep an eye out for next month's podcast discussing our next goal. Diolch, Martin. Thank you. You've been a great guest.
MS: Diolch, Meg.
MH: Take care.
Monday Feb 15, 2021
Monday Feb 15, 2021
Monday Feb 15, 2021
In this podcast Meg speaks with Robbie McNeil, Service Owner of Get Company Information. They discuss how we maximise the value of the register to the UK economy. This is the fourth podcast in a six part series, each one discussing our strategic goals.
MH: Hello and welcome to another episode from Companies House. We have recently launched our new five-year strategy and one of our strategic goals is about how we maximise the value of the register to the UK economy. So, I'm here today with Robbie McNeil who is the service owner for ‘Get Company Information’ at Companies House, and today Robbie is going to give us a bit of an insight into his work and how that runs through who we are and what we do. Hi Robbie. How are you?
RM: I am fine, thanks.
MH: Good. Excited to record this podcast today?
RM: Obviously, we all look forward to being on camera so much.
MH: Of course, of course. So, my first question to you is, can you tell me a little bit about your role and what it means to us as an organisation?
RM: Yeah, of course. So, as the service owner for ‘Get Company Information’, probably the easiest way to explain it is if you think about the core duties of Companies House, so creating and dissolving companies by adding or removing them from the company register, collecting and maintaining information about those companies, and then that third strand of what we do is making that information available to the public and it's that third duty that the ‘Get Company Information’ service exists to satisfy.
MH: Yeah. A pretty important job, then.
RM: It is, you know, especially in terms of our move to a service-based model. You know that's key to our transformation as an organisation. Moving from that sort of a functional silo based approach where people focused on just their part of the service to a wider service team that encompasses everybody from policy advisors who shape what it is we're here to do through the digital teams that design and build our services and to the operational teams that make those services work for our customers, all with a shared sense of purpose. Brilliant people building brilliant systems to deliver a brilliant service to our customers. So, it's really great to be a service owner and being brought back to the heart of that.
MH: Thank you. That's really good. And my next question is can you tell me a bit about the value of the data on our register?
RM: Yeah. One of the reasons why this particular service is so close to my heart, I think, when I first joined Companies House, which was a long time ago, and I'm not going to tell you the year; the then CEO used to meet every new recruit and his explanation of the deal that underpins Companies House has always stuck with me throughout my career and that that deal being that in exchange for the protection of limited liability, information about a company is made public so that people can make informed decisions about dealing with it. So, I've always remembered that. That making that information public has always been a key part of my understanding about what we're here to do. But that data itself is worth nothing, if it's not out there being used and so back in the day, when I first joined it was a relatively specialist thing to deal with company information. You had your search agents and they had actually set up offices in Crown Way or near our other offices just so they could come in and get the microfiche and read the microfiche and print bits out and so on. So, you know things have moved on hugely since then. As we've made our data available online and more recently available for free on our CHS service, we've really opened it up for people to use and seen a huge increase, you know orders of magnitude increase in terms of the people accessing the data. So, I think is over 9 billion searches last year, which is when you think the size of Companies House as an organisation to be satisfying that many searches for data in a year is just phenomenal. Punch well above our weight in terms of being a relatively small part of government. In terms of that value to the UK economy and the business activity that information informs as part of that transparency deal, an independent report recently valued it at between one to three billion pounds annually, which again is just when you think of the size of the organisation that we're making that big an impact, now I find that really exciting and you can be really proud of that as well.
MH: Yeah, definitely is. I can’t believe we've actually how far we've come on when you said about the companies on Crown Way and come in and I'm interested to know what year you started in Companies House now.
RM: So, it was late 1980s. So, 88.
MH: Before I was born.
RM: Oh well you had to add that one in. Thank you. Before I was born people were working at Companies House now, I think.
MH: Yeah, so going forward, how will we be maximising the value of our registers?
RM: So, we've got a number of really exciting initiatives planned. I probably haven't got time to go through them all, but I'll try and give you a flavour of some of them. Some of them are happening right now really. So, we've recently developed enhancements to our award-winning streaming API service. So, streaming API service, which is first of its kind in government and that service allows our customers to some busy tapping to the stream of data and they can consume updates to the register in real time. So, as soon as we get it, it’s streamed up there and they're getting those updates as well. So, we already had streams for changes to information on filing history of a company, company profile. So, basic company details. Insolvency information, and charges information. But we've developed two additional streams that they're in demand from our customers. So, officer and PSC (person of significant control) information. They’re there. Ready to go. We're just finishing off some of the documentation around it to tell our customers how to interface with those streams and we hope to release those in the next few weeks. And that's not the end as far as that service goes either. So, over the next year, we're going to be developing data that takes snapshots for that streaming API service. So, at the moment if you tap into a stream, you can consume any changes from that point on. You can actually go back upstream a little way for about seven days and get the changes from the last seven days. But obviously what a lot of customers want is well, I want the whole data set and then be able to keep it updated. So, we will be adding data snapshots on to those streams. So, you can join the stream, go back upstream for the last snapshot, get that snapshot, so full dataset and then consume the changes from that point on and keep your own records of the data. So, that that's one exciting thing we're doing on that.
We're also looking at unlocking the value of the data stored in the images of filings on CHS. So, at the moment these are static pictures when you go into CHS and you see a PDF next to the transaction and say, oh I'll have a look at the actual filing. That's fine when we see it comes up because we're used to looking at pictures. We don't need necessarily think of it because it looks like text but is actually a static picture so included in just dots. Dots on a white background. So, people who rely on screen readers, blind people who rely on screen readers to read information, it's useless to them. So, their screen reader will say, “oh yeah you have got this transaction on file history or this there's an associated PDF. Would you like to read it? Yes, please. Yeah then says that contains a picture called image.” That’s all they get.
MH: So trying to make it more accessible.
RM: Make them fully accessible. It's also even for people who want to do analysis of the data on there as well. So, at the moment say it's a picture. It's dots, if you like, what we call a raster image. But by making it fully accessible data within a PDF, you can search for particular bits of text in the field, you can process the data automatically, you can analyse the data and so on. So, it really unlocks the potential of that information. So, we have a project currently ongoing, ‘the accessible filing data’ project. Appropriately named. That's already, we've got a fully accessible versions of appointments and we're just finishing off incorporations. When we're happy with those, will release both those. We will probably have a pause then and then we look at future project phases to tackle all the other types of files we have and make those accessible as well. So, that's really exciting.
MH: Yeah, that’s so exciting.
RM: We are adding more data all the time. So, we've recently added 1.9 million dissolved company records onto CHS. So now you got complete record all the way back to January 2010 and we're currently working on a dissolved company search tell by users identify older dissolve can be so pre-January 2010. And then we're we be taking in some of the plans we've got for that search functionality. We can then take some of that functionality and use that to improve our alphabet exert service. And we also have plans, and this is the bit that the really excites me because this is something I've been wanting to do on CHS as we first put it in years, like part of my original “wouldn't be great if we can do this” and that's to build and enhanced search and reporting service. So that will allow much more flexible search criteria. At the moment, our search isn’t designed to allow people to identify a particular company. And you're limited in what you can search on, you can obviously search on the name and there's a few other things you can sort of tweak to try and get it, it’s basically name search and number search. What will be having with enhanced search and reporting service is that you can, yes you can search on name, you can include and exclude parts of the name, so it's more flexible name searching. You can search on date ranges. Incorporated between these dates or dissolved between these dates. Location information, like you know, I'm interested in all the companies incorporated in 2015 in the Birmingham area or with this SIC code. So that they deal with education or industrial machinery or whatever. And you get sets of results that can then be exported. So, that to me this really opens up being able to get not just a particular company you may be searching for if you don't know for definite what its proper name is but also gain a set of companies that match criteria that you've put in. So, I'm really excited for that. We have got a working prototype and I love showing it off to people because I think that's what search should be. Yeah. Being able to put in your own criteria and say what I wanted to match these criteria and it gives you the answers.
MH: Yeah, definitely. It's more of an in-depth. It’s just not what we've got at the moment and what would be great to have and it is, you know, maximising the value of our data, like we say.
RM: Things might be worth mentioning. So, certain copies. So, looking. That's a manual product at the moment. You know, we physically print out certificates and certified copies and we sign them, and we send them off in the post. So, we want to digitize that service and we're liaising with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office because they currently they “upper steel”. Which was a new term to me when I started looking at this. They basically ratify. Yes. This is definitely, this one is definitely a genuine copy or genuine certificate. They upper steel our certs and copies. They're currently working on digitizing their upper steeling service. So, it's a really good time for us to be looking at digitising the certs and copy service at the same time and work with them on that. And we're always looking at ways to more effectively share our data and work more closely with other government departments. So, that's great. Let's say, that's the flavour. There are other things we're looking at as well. But it you know, it's all really excited. You know we punch so above our weight and there's even more we can do with the service, which is great.
MH: Yeah. It's so exciting and it's actually obviously it's interesting for all the people who are going to be listening but it's interesting for me because it's almost like I don't know all the stuff that's going on and all the cogs that are turn in that people don't see. So, it's really interesting to hear all that. Thank you. So, my next question and my last question is what have you learned about yourself this year or I should probably say last year. Well, let’s say in the past year in a personal or professional capacity or both.
RM: I think probably the painful lessons being, you know, I can't do it all. There has been been so much to do and so many things I want to do. It's been hard not to get overwhelmed and frustrated when you can't take things forward as quickly as you'd like. But I've got a great team around me and yeah, I'm learning to try and let them run with things and not be such a control freak. So, in get stuff done, you know trying to empower the team. You know, they know what our vision is, to empower them to run with it as well. So, things aren't held up waiting for me to look at it or read when I'm busy doing other things as well. So that's one: letting go. And then that's like, I love my team and trust my team; I'm just so interested in the stuff that I find it really hard to let it go. So that's been, I can’t say that I’ve learned that, I've learned the necessity of that and I'm trying to learn to do it.
MH: I think what a lovely position to be in though. Like, you love your job, you want to be involved and you've also got a team that you trust and are doing a great job as well.
RM: Yeah. Oh, no, it is it's great. And I'm really enjoying the work so and loving being a service owner. Really enjoying it. With that frustration of there is so much we want to do, and you sort of want to do a straight away, you can’t do it all.
MH: Can I ask how long have you been in the role that you are in now?
RM: So just over a year.
MH: Okay, cool.
RM: So, and I guess so, you asked about personal capacity as well. So, what I have learned since working from home actually over the last almost year is, I don't have the willpower to train when I haven’t got a fully equipped gym on site. Yeah, it's tough to walk past the gym on the way home. So, it was like kind of hard not to go in and walking past it. I really should go in and do something. I haven't had the mental will power to exercise since lockdown until recently. So, I have finally found an exercise. I hated training as well. So, that didn't help/
MH: Yeah, I hate exercising.
RM: But I found skipping or jump rope as our American colleagues call us. Mainly attracts me because you can do it indoors, which is great, especially with the weather we have been having. And B, 10 minutes is equivalent to a 5K run which is what I used to do in the gym. So, now I can get my training done in 10 minutes which is and get all my stuff. I actually enjoy and find more interesting. So, if you're looking for something to do between meetings, you know, I got my skipping ropes just for there. So, you know grab a skipping rope.
MH: You know what, I think I'm going to come off here, go on Amazon and order one. Because I have actually been thinking about it, but now I've heard you say that. I think I'll be sold.
RM: I’m a rubbish skipper mind because it started not being able to skip at all. So uncoordinated and I still get myself into a tangle, but you can get yourself puffed out very quickly. And you know, that's my thing is that they raise the heartbeat. So, yeah. No, I do recommend it but I don't recommend watching me do it.
MH: Sorry. If you can hear my dog barking there. She's being naughty at the postman. Thank you so much, Robbie. You've given great answers. I've learned a lot. So good to have an insight into you know areas and things that I just wouldn’t know about without having conversations like this. So, thank you so much and thank you to everybody who's listened. If you haven't already then please have a look back on our podcast channel where I discuss some of our other goals with other team members and also keep an eye out for next month's podcast discussing our next goal and thank you, Robbie. You've been such a great guest. Take care.
RM: Any time. Take care, Megan. Cheers.
Friday Jan 08, 2021
Friday Jan 08, 2021
Friday Jan 08, 2021
In this podcast Meg speaks with Ross Maude, Director of Digital at Companies House. They discuss how our registers and data inspire trust and confidence. This is the third podcast in a six part series, each one discussing our strategic goals.
Megan Hayward: Hello and welcome to another podcast episode from Companies House. We have recently launched our new five-year strategy and one of our strategic goals is all about how “our registers inspire trust and confidence” and the use of our data. Data is one of the backbones of Companies House. And today I'm here with Ross Maude, Director of Digital, at Companies House. And today Ross is going to give us a bit of an insight into his work and how that work runs through who we are and what we do. So, hi Ross. How are you?
Ross Maude: Good. Thanks, Megan. Yes, very well.
MH: Starting to feel a little bit festive?
RM: I am. Christmas tree is up. The lights are up. Yes, I'm starting to get there. Almost there, almost at the Christmas period. So, looking forward to a chance of a good break.
MH: Excellent. Not long to go now.
RM: How about you? Are you ready?
MH: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's a quiet one this year. So not too much to get ready luckily.
RM: Relying on delivery for most of the presents, but yes.
MH: Yes, definitely. So, I'm going to kick off with my first question. So, being the Director of Digital, what does that mean, first of all to you and to us as an organisation?
RM: So, the strategic question about data and having trusted and valued data that inspires trust and confidence. I think it's really important. Perhaps because I'm a slightly sort of digital person. I think data is super important, how we treat it, how we manage it, how we look after it. But that's a starting internal view. But I think what's more important actually is what the register is, why it exists, and it's always been sort of a, you know, if people are dealing with a legal entity, they can look up the individuals and the history of the entity and they can make investment choices based on you know, who forms the leadership of that organisation and what their history of their account filings look like for example. So, it allows people to understand, you know, what's inside the legal entity they're working with. What it's made up of and that's really really important. And actually, you know, right now this second, we had some figures last year from some of the credit reference agencies. There is something like 1.7 trillion pounds is invested in UK business every year and the credit reference agencies use our data as one of the foundational elements to make those decisions. And so, I suppose that data, if our data is being used to inform that level of investment then you know, it's so important that we have it right and we have it available and we have it in the right format that people can access as easily as possible to make those decisions.
MH: Yeah. So, you touched on the credit reference agencies. Obviously, our register and the data is trusted by a variety of users. Can you give me a bit more of an insight into some of the other groups that might use our register?
RM: So, I think it’s an interesting one. So, the data is used by a huge range of different stakeholders, if I can use that phrase. So, obviously other companies look at each other in the first instance. Individuals, who look, I mean interesting one of their kind of highest hit rates is when a football club has a change of directorship, you know. That drives huge traffic towards our register. People have a look at who it is, what's going on. But, you know, there's more than that. So obviously investors, you know, investing groups would look at the data to make investment decisions. I have kind of touched on that before. It's used by researchers from all different areas to understand what's happening in the economy. It might be used by people like Transparency International Group who would be looking at particular transfer data for activities. It's also used by law enforcement agencies and actually a really big users of our data are other government agencies. So, really broad spreads of individuals, organisations, and different stakeholders. And I probably missed off loads of other people who fall in different camps. It's just such a widely accessed data set. I think it's last 12 months; it was something like 9.7 billion searches across our register. The data register which is vast. So, really really powerful, of great value with those that we hold.
MH: Yeah. Definitely. It's funny other than you know, people just having a nose. That's you know, a lot of what our searches are. But there are you know, really important reasons that people use our data and need to go and look. So there are like business decisions. But is there anything else that brings to your mind that people could be using our data for.
RM: That's a really good question. So, of course, you know, there's understanding what's you know, what's happening with inside companies to make investment choices, but there's also
understanding what activities organisations do. So, you can do you can see things by industry, by geography. You can see how many individuals are responsible for different organisations. So, there's a whole range of activities that go on including as I mentioned things like Transparency International and or law enforcement and or government and obviously we can see lots of information about the activities of organisations. Appointments, removals, filings of account data and all this information can be, you know, can be pulled together and used to support understanding activity by these organisations. And that can be really useful for folks like law enforcement agencies, people with a remit like Transparency International journalists who are trying to get, you know, a more data rich picture of particular activities that, you know, that meet their needs.
MH: Yeah. It's almost impossible to know the actual length of what our data is used for. But that definitely gives a really good insight.
RM: Yeah, there’s something in there. I think it’s interesting if you think about that data on its own. As a big dataset that you can look at and search. I think, obviously, what credit reference agencies do is take that data and then they add other datasets, and they link them up. And I think, when you start doing that, then the possibilities become countless in terms of what sort of questions you might be asking or looking for corroboration of activity.
MH: Yeah, like, it's almost like we're part of a really big jigsaw for some people. A really important jigsaw. So, my next question is over the next five years, and I know that we're going to be making changes to the data on our registers. And can you tell me a little bit about what those changes will be out and why we're making them.
RM: Yes. In kind of broad brushstrokes, I think the main thing is the quality of our data. So, you know, how do we check the data that's coming in against other data sets. So, you know, simple answers could be things like an address. So, you know, there are lists of UK addresses, for example. So, can we make sure that all of the address data that we hold links to like a national data set which means that all our addresses that we hold are correct or a percentage aren't. How do we make sure it's more reliable. So again, a lot of this is about cross checking with other information sources. Making sure that we have the right checks, the right automation. All the things that we can do to make sure that the information we've got is timely. It's, you know, it's been checked. It has good quality to it overall. That's going to be quite a big change, I think. Obviously though, the higher quality data that we're taking in and we are then presenting out having done the things you need to do with it. That means that the answers people get to their questions come from more reliable data, and I think that's really important. So, that there is this constant level of quality reliability of the big data that we're offering to others to make decisions. I think that's going to be really really important. And as the quality gets better and better it means those activities if you want to stop quite frankly, you know, fraudulent activities or other economic crimes that can misuse legal entities. I think as our data gets clearer and clearer, then it will be much easier to spot those sorts of activities for those who you know whose job it is to do that.
MH: Yeah, definitely. That's really good and it really gives an insight to you know, when you've got such data out on such a public register, it does need streamlining in a way.
RM: It needs to be. You know, we need to be able to make sure it's of the highest quality as possible. That's one end of it. So, we need to be able to check and do some more confirmation and check it against other information sets to make sure that what we are holding is a well reference set of data. I’m being a bit boring and techy now. But that's really important. Because then you know, it's good quality. You can compare it to something else and that's really important and that then allows much better decisions to be made on the back of it. That's where the question is. How do we make it available? You know, I don't have concrete answers. But how do we make sure it's available at scale in ways that people can intuitively understand the information. That's going to be really important too. So, it's all there, you can get access to it now and you can download a really vast set of numbers and letters. But perhaps, you know, one thing you might consider, and I don't know if we will end up doing it is how do we kind of present
more intuitive versions of the data so that people can do, you know, their own kind of investigations about needing to be kind of having a whole set of data science skills behind them.
MH: Thank you. And my last question, and it's kind of away from data or data may be in your answer, but what have you learned about yourself this year in a personal or professional capacity or maybe both?
RM: So, it’s a really good question. Well, I'll probably try and do both. So, I think there's a real difference working in a distributed way. I don't use that phrase specifically. I've stolen it from Matt Mullenweg from Automatic. You know, remote working makes that other people who aren't of your stand think that they're less important and it’s not as good. So, we've had to really work hard to make our organisation continue to be so high performing, you know, without all being around each other. And I always thought about everything quite content to kind of go on and do stuff. Actually, I suppose the honest answer is I desperately miss my colleagues. I desperately miss being able to hang out and have a chitchat. And no matter how much you kind of make space for that informal contact, you've got to still plan it into your day now. Oh, are you available for an informal catch up, you know, it's hard and I do really miss the spontaneity of meeting with colleagues and sparking ideas and the wonderful energy that comes from those sort of interactions. And I know, whilst I'm content to stay safe and work home and ask everyone to stay safe, I would be lying if I said I wouldn't, you know, I'm not looking forward to the chance to kind of meet with my fabulous colleagues and have those energetic conversations. I think that's what I really miss.
I suppose in a personal capacity, I suppose it's how to break up the day. I think we probably all been through a journey like that. So, these two kinds, of slide out of bed into work and slide out of work, which really late and so what I've learned is that you know,
walking is really beneficial to us. I mean I've been doing walking about 6-7 miles a day. So, I found of I walk before work to kind of mark the end up. I kind of commute to work by doing like a two-mile walk. I try and get away from my desk at lunchtime. And I then I commute from work back to my home by do another set of walking. So, to try and make sure that I can get out and get some fresh air. That's probably my personal thing.
MH: And you have got a new dog to do that with.
RM: That certainly helps because perhaps on days like today, specifically when it's pouring with rain or sunshine today and it's a bit windy too, I probably wouldn't want to go for a walk. But I don't really have much choice. So that's been really helpful.
MH: And as you say that I get a Met Office yellow weather warning for rain.
RM: Yeah, it was certainly wet this morning and dark. So, it's not the most perfect. But, having done it, it just feels brilliant. Getting outside and then kind of getting to you know, clear the mind for the day.
MH: Thank you so much. And thank you everybody for listening. If you haven't already then please have a look back on our podcast channel where I discuss some of our other goals with team members, and also keep an eye out for next month's podcast discussing our next goal. And thank you Ross, you've been a brilliant guest. Take care.
RM: Thank you so much. Thank you for asking all the great questions.
Wednesday Dec 09, 2020
Wednesday Dec 09, 2020
Wednesday Dec 09, 2020
In this podcast Meg speaks with Emma Hares, an Operational Manager at Companies House. They discuss our brilliant services and how they give great user experience. This is the second podcast in a six part series, each one discussing our strategic goals.
Megan Hayward: Hello and welcome to another podcast episode of “Meet the team” by Companies House. We have recently launched our new five-year strategy and one our strategic goals is ‘Our brilliant services that give a great user experience’. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and today I am here with Emma Hares, who is an Operational Leader at Companies House. Emma is going to give us an insight into how that great user experience is provided and the inner workings of the team that speak to our customers every day. Thanks for joining me Emma, how are you?
Emma Hares: Thank you for having me. I am really good, thank you.
MH: Oh, good. So, I am just going to jump straight in with my first question. I remember us having a meeting back in January in the office before all of this working from home started. So, how have you adapted to working from home in 2020. I remember saying that I did it, you know, on and off and I knew that other teams, the directorate, would work from home from time to time but you were like “Oh, that’s not really an option for us. We don’t do that. We are only in the office”. So, how have you found it? How has it been?
EH: Yeah, well, it feels like such a long time ago that we had that conversation now. So, not only a long time ago in time but a long time ago in our technical abilities to work remotely as well. So, some of the operational area could already work from home but it depended on their job role. But they really were the minority of the area really. At the time we spoke in January, we were definitely planning to enable a lot more people to work at home, but we wanted to make sure that we were fully supporting them to do that. Especially, our customer facing colleagues. I’d say we were looking at taking about 18 months for us to get there all together but got a big push from COVID and it ended up taking us a few weeks to roll it out. It was a massive co-ordination of which work streams are priority and who needs what type of equipment and stuff. So, but, throughout all of that time, the safety of our colleagues has been the absolute priority and enabling as many people as possible to stay at home was always top of the list. And, it hasn’t just been keeping people safe in a physical sense but also their mental wellbeing. So, we’ve done a lot of communication to make sure people are talking regularly and checking in on how people are and really trying to keep the amazing sense of community going, that is really loved by so many people in Companies House.
EH: So, but I would say that even though we have got the vast majority of people working at home, some of the work we do in the operational area can’t be done at home. So, we do still have a small number of people in the building. But, a lot of work is being done to provide a safe environment for us to be working in when we are in the building. So, it’s a complete change of direction from what we were in in January working towards smarter ways of working, sharing desks and taking up less space in the office and now we are in a situation where we’ve got our own desks spread really far apart with lots of hygiene and social distancing measures in place. And I would just like to add one thing to that as well that it’s really important that we’ve got someone in the building because we do provide a service to our NHS tenants. And without us being in the building, we wouldn’t have been able to do that during the lockdown. So, that’s been something that has been just as important for internal customers as our external customers.
MH: Yeah, definitely. So, how have you found that balance between delivering our excellent services and protecting our colleagues. It really is a fine line, isn’t it?
EH: Yeah. So, as I said, the safety of our colleagues has been the most important thing, but we are here for our customers. So, continuing to provide a service to them was still important to us. During the first few months of working from home, we weren’t able to provide a telephone service, just simply because we didn’t have the equipment to do that remotely. But our contact centre have been brilliant with supporting us with that and they’ve maintained that service to our customers throughout. So, if there were any occasions where they needed to pass on some more specific queries to the wider teams, they did that via email. And we saw an increase in over 200% in volumes in some areas which was really challenging. Some of our services were slower. But we are really proud to say that we maintained services to our customers. So, at the time, our customers were using our information to make some extremely important decisions in relation to things like share capital and lending money and putting people on furlough. So it was, you know, really important we were still maintaining that service for those people. Umm, a lot of work has been done to provide alternative filing routes for our customers as well. So, we’ve got lots of paper processes. I mean we’ve still got some of them leftover, but we’ve provided alternative routes like upload facilities for forms that didn’t already have an electronic filing option.
MH: Hmm, okay.
EH: We’ve provided a service for directors to access their authentication codes where they were unable to go to their registered offices during lockdown which meant that they were able to file online. And not only did this keep our services going for our customers, but it allowed us to reduce the number of people we needed in the building as well which helped to keep them safe while they were at work. So, we’ve made a lot of internal changes as well to the way we pass work around between teams which has been successful in enabling us to have so many people working from home. And we introduced legislative easement for our customers struggling to meet statutory deadlines by allowing them more time to file with us and we’ve taken an empathetic view that COVID has caused delays in filing as well.
MH: Yeah, wow, it’s like a lot of adaptability in a very short space of time. Umm, can we talk a bit about our service to vulnerable customers. I know this is something that is vitally important to us.
EH: Yes, of course. This is something that has always been important to us. Not just through the pandemic but in recent times we have seen an increase in customers facing mental health challenges and that’s why we launched our vulnerable customer pledge back in February. So, around the same time we also launched the customer charter which sets out the way in which we will deliver a professional service to our customers and also, we’ve recently launched the unacceptable customer behaviour. But, going back to the vulnerable customer pledge, as you know, being a government organisation, our customers have statutory obligations that they’ve got to meet. So, like filing their accounts on time. But we do recognise that it can be really difficult to do if you’re in a vulnerable situation and by that I don’t mean just mental health. It can be a physical health problem or a financial situation or a life changing circumstance that somebody is going through. So, we want to help our customers experiencing these difficulties to meet their obligations and avoid any extra burdens on them. So, it’s really important to us that we provide a professional service to all of our customers and in our pledge we committed to working with our vulnerable customers to make sure they can access our information in a way that meets their needs and we train our colleagues so that they are able to identify customers who might be vulnerable and sign post them to any additional support that they might need. And we are committed to reviewing our policies as well to regularly make sure that they are constantly improving our business practices.
MH: Yeah, that is really impressive. Like, I can’t believe that I didn’t know about that already. It is quite admirable, and I don’t even know if any organisations who have got such a direct route to tackling that kind of thing. So, going back to talking about the goals. What are you doing to work towards the goal of brilliant services that give a great user experience and what’s planned for the future?
EH: Well, we have so much planned for the future. It is really quite exciting. We’re preparing for register reform and with lots of changes to our systems, we plan to make them more user friendly. So, moving away from WebCheck and CHD for example where customers are able to order documents from our Companies House Service, which is far more accessible, and it meets the needs of a wide range of our customers. We’re making changes to some of our customer contact route. So, we will have something called natural voice where if the customer is ringing from a mobile and says they want to incorporate a company, we will be able to send them a link to our incorporation service. You know that is a huge improvement from where we are now, where we have just got telephone and email routes and social media. We’ll have chat bots and web chat services. We’re working on improving the way customers can order records of companies that have been dissolved for up to 20 years. So, we are putting that on Companies House Service as well. And, we want to increase the number of digital transactions that we are receiving from our customers and we are getting closer now to validating incorporations in a more automatic way. And, just as importantly, we will be investing in our colleagues development by rolling out the operational delivery profession which is a fantastic way to recognise the profession that we are all a part of and we will be increasing the framework we have implemented this year to ensure that the quality of work being produced is at the highest it can be.
MH: Fab. That all sounds really really good. My last question to you is, what do you think you have learnt in a personal and professional capacity this year?
EH: Hmm. Okay, so, personally I think that I have learnt how resilient I am. Dealing with some really big changes and challenges and I’d also say that I’ve personally learnt how important having a healthy work-life balance is. Professionally, I have learnt how adaptable Companies House and the people I work with are. Umm, it feels like it would take quite a long time to get changes done in the past and we have really worked so quickly over the past few months. It’s just absolutely been amazing. And I suppose, personally within the organisation, I’d say that I’ve always felt valued working at Companies House, but this year has really highlighted how much wellbeing is important to the organisation. So, you know, it’s fantastic.
MH: Yeah. Same, I feel so grateful for that and I definitely don’t think that we’re alone in feeling that way. And, that brings me to the end of my questions. Thank you so much for joining me today Emma. It has been great to get an insight into your role and the teams around you. And, Thank you everybody for listening and if you haven’t already, then please have a look back on our last months podcast between myself and Angie Lewis talking about the goal of our culture enabling our brilliant people to flourish and drive high performance. And, again, please keep an eye out for next month’s podcast discussing our next goal. Thank you so much, Emma.
EH: Thank you.
Thursday Nov 05, 2020
Thursday Nov 05, 2020
Thursday Nov 05, 2020
In this podcast Meg speaks with Angela Lewis, Head of People Transformation at Companies House. They discuss how our culture enables our brilliant people to flourish and drives high performance. This is the first podcast in a six part series, each one discussing our strategic goals.
MH: Hello and welcome to another episode of “Meet the team” by Companies House. Today, I am joined by Angela Lewis, our Head of People Transformation. She's someone who has an extensive career in HR and has been at Companies House alone for nearly nine years. She is a ray of sunshine and I am so looking forward to speaking to her today. So, without another second to wait, welcome Angie.
AL: Aww, I love the fact that Meg you called me a ray of sunshine. That might be my nicest thing all day.
MH: Oh well, it's true. You okay?
AL: Yes. I'm very good. Thank you. You are the perfect end to a long day.
MH: Yes. Well, it is hard to find a tiny little gap in your calendar. So, it was the only gap in weeks, I think.
AL: Well, I was definitely pleased to give it to you. That's for sure.
MH: Thank you. So, I'm going to just kick off with my first question and it is to address our recent amazing achievement, which has been awarded to us from Investors in People, which is the Platinum Status. Can you tell me a little bit about the journey to getting there and what's next?
AL: Okay, happy to do that and can I say I'm still you know a month on from finding out that we were awarded the Platinum. Still smiling about it because so few organisations are awarded this sort of level of assessment. So, it does really matter. And you know three years ago Meg, we were awarded the gold level which is amazing as well. But, we set ourselves a goal back then and I remember talking to Louise, our Chief Exec and saying, you know, wouldn't it be amazing for us to show in three years that we're a platinum organisation and she said, “Oh, I love the fact you aim high Angie.” and I said, “Well, actually this is about ambition, but it's also about, if we really do aim high, the only thing that we can have is a much better experience. But also, imagine what that would be like for our colleagues”. So, we've worked really hard over these three years to sort of focus on the things that we were given in terms of feedback from the gold assessment. Particularly around leadership and making sure that our colleagues could understand the sort of role and purpose of Companies House and to really focus on how can they bring their whole self to work and how can we allow people to truly flourish which has been brilliant because it links directly with our Companies House strategy. And this isn't sort of a surprise that our focus on the strategic goal of creating a culture where colleagues can come to work and flourish and drive high-performance. So, there's been this link for the last three years and to get that validated by an external organisation to say “you're on the right track. You've made huge progress”, and for us it's a continuum because it's not about sitting back now and saying, oh, well, we've cracked it. It's about maintaining those levels, learning from the sort of advice and recommendations they put in, celebrating where we've done really well and holding on to it. And you know, it's really exciting because it genuinely is an organisational wide achievement. And that was one of the main sort of comments from IIP, was that everyone they spoke to was with us in terms of understanding what we wanted to achieve but also felt part of this sort of very exciting transformation journey we are on, but also part of our culture change journey.
MH: Yeah, I think what you said then about, it runs through everyone. It's not like a top-level thing. Those values are really throughout and I've definitely experienced that and I think it goes to show that everyone still feels it. We've been working at home now since March as have a lot of people and to still feel that you know feeling of being part of something at home, it goes to show how special it really is.
AL: Yeah, I definitely agree, and I think you know, we've been in this unique situation. We've obviously had you know; our offices have been open, and we have been providing services in our you know offices as well with smaller teams and the large percentage of our workforce has been at home. But managing, you know, remote workers and those in the office has been challenging at times but actually all the work we've done before COVID hit us around networks and community and being able to be your true self have just reaped so many benefits and dividends over the last six or seven months that people I would say, ironically genuinely feel more connected now than they did before the pandemic, which quite frankly just goes to show that if you'll invest that effort in giving your employees a voice, building these networks under the umbrella of sort of culture change and diversity and inclusion. Actually, when it truly matters, you will see the rewards. And like you, you know, there's not a week goes by when I don't think, wow look at what people are doing here to drive change, to improve the experience for the customer, to support their colleagues, and to keep talking to us to make sure that we are making good decisions. You know, it is pretty, and I think I wrote about it somewhere to say it's magical and I know that sounds a bit naff to some people. But you know, I worked in HR for sort of 30 years. And I have never been in a situation where I've felt this sort of level of magic in terms of a movement and it is a movement. It's not just one or two people. You know, you're talking about a movement of people passionate about change and about delivering great services for their customers. I mean, it's amazing.
MH: Yeah. Enchanting is another word.
AL: I like that. Yeah, enchanted.
MH: Another thing I was going to say, it's like people say there's nothing that could have prepared you for this year. But actually, as far as being prepared goes I think Companies House had it as prepared as you could be for something like the pandemic.
AL: Yeah interesting, isn't it? Because gosh we would never want this. Of course, we wouldn't and I'm sure lots of other organisations feel the same. That you know in a sense you've had to respond. But it's these challenges, these horrendous challenges, that come left field or be at this is a much longer one that really show how resilient you are as an organisation but also demonstrate to me that if you invest in your people and you provide this infrastructure, and you really you live and breathe a sense of compassion and connection. Whatever hits you, you will come out of it stronger.
AL: Now that's not too for one minute to disregard the personal circumstances of individual, which have all been very different. But what we've tried to do, is to say from a work perspective, we're going to try and really help sort of mitigate stress for you, we're going to try and support you so that you can carry on supporting your customers. Because actually we're all dealing with a lot of tough stuff personally as well while this is going on. So, you know our commitment to the sort of well-being and mental health and physical health has been even more important. But probably bigger than that to me has been the social connection. Making sure nobody's left behind, making sure nobody feels isolated, checking in with people to make sure they're all right, and you know as a compassionate employer, as Companies House is, we genuinely believe that that's our responsibility. And that matters to people.
MH: It really does. Yeah. And that leads me on, you touched on our culture. But can you tell me from the start basically about our culture story.
AL: Okay, so, you know, we've always had a great culture in this organisation. But you know particularly three years ago when we were looking at transformation and where we saw ourselves as an organisation, we brought that to life by engaging with the whole
workforce in workshops to say what makes what do we want to cherish? What do we want to hold onto that makes us special? But what do we perhaps need to change? And we realised we had sort of three key behaviours we wanted to focus on, and they were adaptability, boldness and curiosity. That perhaps they weren’t as prevalent as they could have been.
Okay, we did have the compassion and we had that sense of community, but we wanted to build on it. So, we've done a huge amount over the last three years around the adaptable, bold, and curious behaviours. And so, they have become our sort of link to things like our ideas hub where we encourage people to come forward with new concepts and things that are stopping them from doing their, you know, their work effectively. We've got our boldness, which is about actually challenging the way we do things and challenging the status quo. And just challenging because actually this isn't personal. This is about the best outcome for our customers and that's really helped. And then the curiosity, which is really been about you know, all of us looking outwards, being aware of what's going on, how that relates to our organisation, questioning and you know, all of these things have been gradual. But you're starting to see that change, and this is about building on that and also saying under the umbrella of the community, that's why our networks are so important. Which is we wanted people to have this passion for the organisation. And so, we've got probably I think it's nearly 30 networks in the organisation now which cover all aspects of diversity and inclusion, but also cover areas such as our Coaching Network, our Environmental Network, our Community Social Responsibility Network. They are a collective group of people who care passionately, and they've come together to say, and this is the boldness, we want to be part of this change journey and we want to be the difference. And that has been, as I said, magnificent to see but it's evolving on a daily basis. And what you are then seeing in terms of boldness is, it's not led from the top. This is coming from all parts of the business to say, right, how can we improve this? What can we do differently? How can we make change for the better? Which if I'd spoken to maybe a year or two ago Meg, I would have probably said if we can get that, it would be amazing. I didn't think we'd accelerate it to the sort of level; we have which is partly been driven by COVID.
MH: Yeah, it's funny isn't it? How sometimes something so negative can actually bring out positivity.
AL: Yeah. And I think when we're all working and we're going to be working in these ways and dealing with what's going on in society and you know the worries about the pandemic etc. for so long. It's trying to find those moments in, what you can control. So, we talk a lot in terms of what can you control in the work you do. We can make sure you have meaningful work, we can make sure you feel safe and trusted and supported at work. We can make sure you understand how you're making a difference; you know. Because research shows if you feel like you're making a difference, that can really help. So, if we can alleviate any of the pressure and stress associated with work, that has got to be helpful in terms of how people are able to manage the other aspects of their lives.
MH: Yeah. Amazing really. So, my next question, a huge part of the culture at Companies House is within our networks. Can you tell me about their strength and their power?
AL: Well, I mentioned how many we've got but you know for me particularly its exec sponsor. So, I'm exec sponsor for the Ability Network which supports and celebrates those of us in the organisation living with long-term health conditions, of which I'm one of those. Our cancer Advocates group, again. My own personal experience of cancer has made me want to be part of that group. Our mental health advocates and first aiders. They are again a key one. But there are so many others and I think you know the point I want to get across is that we’re not one thing. And I think I talked about this when we had a culture meeting, you know, I don't just identify as a woman, or a mother, or someone with a disability. I'm a mixture of all of those things and the fact that in this organisation, you can connect and reach out, and be supported, and work with colleagues who have a shared understanding and a passion for something is the bit that truly I think makes it magical from my perspective. And whether I'm an ally for one of our other groups, whatever it is, this sense of community and family, but also not just a talking in shop about making real change. That's probably the strength. And you know in the last two weeks alone, we've seen you know, our Working Families Network take off. Our FACE Network, you know, our Faith, Allies, Culture, and Ethnicity group. You know, all of these groups are being coming forward because people are recognising that they would like to see change, but also to give this further sense of connection. And they all come under the umbrella of culture and culture change and engagement and that's probably what makes it so powerful. It's not just what we have to have these diversity groups. It's much much bigger than that.
MH: Yeah. It's not a box ticking thing by any means. I've been part of the Women's Network since I started Companies House and I sit in the meetings and it's not just for women it, you know, the men come along to those meetings at the allyship part of it. I think it's something that I'd never experienced in a workplace before. Like there might be like groups of people but it would be just them and it wasn't open and fluid to everyone for everyone to see. So, it's really unique in that way.
AL: That's good to hear. That's good to hear.
MH: So, my last question for you is thinking about during this year, what have you learned about yourself? In both a professional and a personal capacity, if anything.
AL: Oh, I learn something every week Meg. Honestly because when we talk about the curiosity, it's about being curious about yourself, being clear, you know constantly learning, evaluating.
So, if I take professional first, so I've learned that however much you plan, you can't be ready for everything and you have to be able to adapt and respond. I've realised that I thrive and get my energy from personal connections. So, I have struggled with having to work remotely. I know it's absolutely the right thing to do from a safety perspective, but I have struggled with it because I genuinely loved going into work every single day and I would interact with maybe 40 or 50 people and I just love that energy it gave me. So, I've had to find other ways to get that energy. And I think as well as professionally as well for me, I've learned that I've had to be more creative and definitely develop more digital skills in terms of how I connect and also, as someone very visual, how you learn using the tools remotely, the digital tools. I'm really challenging myself to think about how I can do that in different ways.
Personally again, I suppose the same. It's back to that needing sort of personal connections. You know my own personal anxiety. I have got family members who were shielding for a long period during the lockdown. So, you know worrying about them. But also, you know, I was somebody who like lots of spontaneity and in my personal life often travelled a lot. And so, I've had to spend the last six to nine months at home. But actually, I've realised that you can still get lots and lots of joy out of being in your home. So, I talk about jolts of joy. So, my garden. If you could see now with my desk, I've got flowers on it and candles. I've got everything going to sort of create this positive space for myself. And I think that's what I've learned. That actually you have to adapt, which comes back to the adaptable, to your circumstances. And it’s back to that mindset. Reminding myself that this is the right thing to be doing because this is about safety and this is about others and it's about making sure that we keep each other safe but also, we're still able to deliver. So, it's been a fascinating sort of six to eight months. And I think this is the point about all of us probably learning every day and keep thinking. Okay, we can't control everything but there's a few things we control in terms of our mindset, how we want to approach things, and again, probably I've earned you've got to reach out when you think I'm having a tough day today, I could really do with some social contact, face-to-face, but I'm not going to get it. So, how am I going to deal with that? So, they would be my sort of learning things. What about you?
MH: I think listening to you then, would you say that you're quite extroverted?
AL: Oh, yeah, definitely.
MH: Yeah. Well, I'm the on the other side, which I think shocks people sometimes about me, but I've actually really enjoyed my own time and my own space. Like, don't get me wrong there have been times when I've wanted to see other people and my partner's worked throughout. So, I have spent a lot of time alone and it is just the two of us. But yeah, I actually realise I really enjoy my own company. I knew it. But I definitely know it now.
AL: That’s fabulous because I mean I love my own company, but I like it at the end of the day and interestingly there was five of us at home. So, my husband was shielding. My daughter was out working from home with schooling and my two university student children were home too. So, five of us in the house was a nightmare. That was the first thing. It really was. But I was always someone who like to keep home and work very separate. I loved going to work. I used to talk about it being my respite. Because I just loved it. And you know, if you've got complicated home life etc, and everything else that's going on. I loved having that separation. So again, I've struggled with that sense of how do you separate the both.
I've also found, and I'll be interested but I've tended to revert back to seeming to do all the cooking and all these other sort of very domesticated jobs that I never did before. So, I'm trying to push back on this one. I don't know how it's happened.
MH: Yeah, some things can't stay. Can they?
AL: No. No. So, I'm pushing back on that. But I'm trying things like getting out and walking around outside to try and turn it into a different sort of work and home, you know, I'm trying to learn and I'm learning from others.
I'm reading lots of material about techniques to try. Because this is here for the long term. So, you've got to adapt, and I want to adapt but I also don't want to lose who I am. And I think you know, one of the other strategies I've used is to do things like I'm doing with you now, but also to connect with other HR professionals in other organisations to learn from them because that gives me energy. So, it's finding where you get your energy from. Because if you're dealing with things like COVID as I have, since the beginning, it can be very miserable and quite draining. So, you have to think how else can I get my energy and keep myself motivated so I can also motivate others.
MH: Yeah. Well, I think your inspirational. I think you know, like you said earlier you've been doing the job that you do for 30 years. It would be so easy for you to sit back and say I know it all, I'm done. I don't need to learn, but you're just on a continuum journey of learning new things and that is why you are where you are.
AL: Oh, thank you Meg, and that's why I love working with people like you.
MH: So that concludes my questions for today. Thank you so much for your time. It's been an absolute pleasure.
AL: And with you. Take care of yourself.
MH: Thanks, Ang.
Thursday Aug 20, 2020
Thursday Aug 20, 2020
Thursday Aug 20, 2020
John-Mark Frost chats about what he’s learnt about himself in a professional and personal capacity over recent months. Also, about how customers and colleagues have been kept safe, revised levels of service and the golden thread running through Companies House: diversity and inclusion.
Megan Hayward: Hello and welcome to a brand-new episode of “Meet the team” from Companies House. Like many things big and small, this series has not been what we planned in January. In our first two episodes of “Meet the team” which I will link in the show notes of this episode, we recorded with Oceanne and Toby in our Cardiff office. But since then due to government guidelines following the coronavirus outbreak, I now find myself hosting this episode at home in my living room with my dog on my lap. I'd like to welcome JM Frost who is the Director of Operations at Companies House. He is someone that as soon as we started this series, I knew I wanted a record with. That was then and this is now and after everything that's happened over the past few months and the work that we've done supporting our customers during this difficult time, I'm even more excited to introduce him. So welcome JM. How are you?
John- Mark Frost: I'm good. Thank you Megan.
MH: How have you been finding this time?
J-MF: Yeah, it's been interesting. So a mix of being in the office and working with colleagues there and the mix now obviously of working from home as well. And of course, I've got two reasonably young children. So being at home, there was always a reason I knew shouldn't be a teacher and this confirmed that I definitely chose the right vocation and choice of career. So, let's say yeah, we've all survived we've almost got to summer holidays, so all is good.
MH: I think teachers have actually gained a lot of credit during this time.
J-MF: Yes, teachers and hairdressers.
MH: Yes, definitely. So my first question is what have we been doing at this time to support our customers?
J-MF: Yeah. So, lots and it's been really interesting to make sure that we've taken a lot of care to make sure that we had a balance between wanting to try and provide really high levels of customer service,maintain the sorts of service that we would provide during normal times as much as possible, with of course balancing that with keeping our colleagues safe. And so we were fortunate in some ways the majority of the services that our customers use are already online. So we've been able to keep them working, keep them going and support our customers through those online services, but we do have some particularly some of our more complex cases, complex case work. Where it was very much paper-based. So trying to maintain those services has been more challenging in terms of our customers often were at home. They weren't able to get out, weren't able to print or even if they were at home that the directors of the company they needed to sign things were at home somewhere else. So it was a real challenge, so it was looking for us to work with legal colleagues and policy colleagues to look at innovative ways that we could try and do it differently.
So what did the law require us to do in terms of the Companies Act and how could we try and support our customers to do some of that differently? So we've stood up new services, so we've got the emergency filing service where customers can go on and upload an electronic copy of a document and we focus that on the services that weren't already electronic and where customers couldn't already do things digitally. So we've done that. I mean even within a couple of weeks of lockdown we'd launched an extension service which in the first month or so had 90,000 companies applying for extensions and we were able to give extensions to those companies entirely digitally so they knew they had more time to be able to file their accounts with us and we form part of working with BEIS, our kind of partner and parent department and the Insolvency Service another partner organisation with BEIS another agency in government. We worked on the Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill which went through and became an Act just earlier this month and so as part of that we were then able to look at that and make sure that we were supporting our customers giving them longer to file. Most companies now have another 3 months to be able to file their accounts longer on some of the confirmation statements and other things that they've done. So trying to do all we could whilst enabling our customers to do what they need to do to stay compliant with legislation.
MH: It's amazing and really things that in a normal world would take a long time to come to fruition just making company changing policies in weeks really.
J-MF: Absolutely I mean, normally the legislation would take months or years to go through the process and it was drafted within 3 or 4 weeks. Working really closely, collaboratively across government departments, working together across agencies, but also really listening to our customers. So what did they need? What do they need us to do what were some of the challenges that they were facing so that we could try and develop it and adapt it to kind of meet their needs.
MH: Yeah brings me really nicely on to speak about how the colleagues have been kept safe at the same time because obviously to make all this happen there's the team's behind all the work that goes into it?
J-MF: Yeah, absolutely and it was a big challenge so as an organisation, you know we have great, fantastic digital services. Digital services both for our customers and for our colleagues, but we did tend to be quite office-based. So obviously our headquarters based in Cardiff and then offices, small office in London, Edinburgh and Belfast, but we did all tend to be in the office every day. And so suddenly we went into lockdown and the vast majority of colleagues between 90 and 95% of colleagues were almost immediately working from home and working from there like we are, from lounges, spare bedrooms, our kitchens, wherever we were, so that was great. So we were able to get people home at they were safe particularly those colleagues who maybe were vulnerable. If someone was in one of those vulnerable categories it was really important t to us to make sure people were safe. Then there are some things like I said that that needed to be done for us to keep the process running so to keep the Companies House information service and keep the register up to date we needed to do some stuff in the office. So in each of our offices in Edinburgh and Belfast and in Cardiff, we've kept sort of skeleton staff in who are dealing with the post that arrives and then processing the really the kind of paper documents. They might be big documents or things that we couldn't do at that stage digitally, so yeah go do this first so it's really critical services and I will always be immensely grateful for those volunteers.
So we did it on a volunteer basis of people saying, look people who are fit and healthy weren't in the vulnerable groups who volunteered to come into the office and run those services with me. I was there as well so for the first kind of 10 weeks I was in the office every day with them as a thank you to them. I wasn't as useful as a lot of them, but yeah, we managed to get through and managed to retain those services which you know are paramount to us maintaining that customer service. We weren't always quite as quick as we would normally be you know, there were some delays in the process, but we did manage to maintain those services to our customers.
MH: Well understandably so and that's what I was going to ask as well, was what was the biggest challenge and how have our service levels been revised during this time?
J-MF: Yeah. So I think that the biggest challenge was really finding out how critical our services are so, you know as our role as Companies House. We want to kind of drive confidence in the UK economy. We want to enable people to be able to look up the Companies House service. Look at the information about companies to make decisions. To know that information is up-to-date and is available there. I mean last year we had just over 9 billion searches of that information, a hugely searched piece of information and data source in government. To do that we needed to make sure that it was up to date and that the information was available. So that challenge of making sure we could do that in a timely way, that we could get the information in whether that be on paper, delivered by hand or trying to increase some of the digital elements and trying to make sure that our customers were aware of what they could do and encourage them actually in some cases. There was already a digital service so we could point our customers to look do that. That's the quickest way we will get it and of course getting so within the operational areas of Companies House is about 600 people who work in my area and so getting them home, where not all of them had kit initially, so getting that the kit the computers and such, so forth to then making sure they were safe and then changing our processes and adapting really quickly to get done what we needed to get done as quickly as we could.
MH: Where there's a will there's a way.
J-MF: Absolutely, absolutely.
MH: So my next sort of area I wanted to speak about with you is diversity and inclusion. It's really important to us all at Companies House. I know it's something you're quite heavily involved with and I was wondering if you could expand on that area?
J-MF: Yeah, absolutely. So yes, I think it's really important to all of us at Companies House as you said, and I'm really passionate about it for a whole host of reasons, but because as an organisation, we should reflect the citizens that we serve. We are only here to serve our customers and so we should be diverse in the way that we are made up so we can have those perspectives on a personal basis. So I'm the son of a single mother who was on benefits, so having that perspective, you know, some of my other colleagues maybe came from very different homes. Maybe there was plenty of money around and we all bring different perspectives. So we need to realise our customers will have those perspectives from different backgrounds.
So my mum was an immigrant, she was from another country. I'm from a mixed heritage background so those perspectives that I bring I think hopefully will help me have the perspective with the range of our customers. So it's really important that we’re as diverse as the citizens out there that we serve but also that as an organisation, we're inclusive so we all have our own backgrounds whether that be background of race, culture, ethnicity, gender, the age that we are, our background whether we're Welsh speakers, whether we're not Welsh speakers, you know, LGBTQ perspective, you know all of those things. We will bring our own perspectives with us and our own mini-cultures and our ethnicity with us and it's really important that people can bring their whole selves to work. You know, we've got a really challenging role in Companies House. It's a role that we love. I'm really passionate about but as part of that we want people to focus on the role that they've got to play so they can flourish be the best that they can be in their role, not trying to hide something about themselves. So we want everybody to be bringing their whole selves to work so they can focus on doing the job that we want to do, to serve our customers to the best of their ability. So yeah, as I said, it's really important that we're both diverse and that we're a really inclusive and welcoming culture, something that you know, we're working on. I think we're doing it. We've made a lot of progress which is great. But there's always a lot further to go.
MH: Yeah, it's one of those ever moving things, isn't it? You can't just say, oh we've done it now and we're diverse, we’re inclusive. It's ever moving.
J-MF: And I think COVID and the kind of situation has really helped because of course we've kept colleagues safe, as I talked about, physically safe from the virus and those sorts of things which is really important. But also it's about keeping people's well being safe and well and one of the various things we've done is around the networks that we have. So we've got a range of different networks, where that be the carers network, where that be the LGBTQ network or the faith network one of the ones that we’ve recently developed is the working parents network. So, you know to try and support people through this time. So different people created different resources and things so that people could then share with their children to keep them busy and support them because you know, it was really challenging being at home, lockdown for a number of months with the children there and as we mentioned at the beginning, you know, I'm definitely not a teacher so these resources were useful, so it's about being inclusive and considering people's well-being as well as their physical safety.
MH: Yeah. I've been in Companies House I think coming up for 9 months and it’s something that honestly blew me away just the community. There’s space for everyone which is really lovely. My next question is what has this time taught you personally about yourself in a professional capacity?
J-MF: That’s a great question. I think it's amazing how both myself personally and as an organisation and kind of colleagues that I've worked with. It is amazing how resilient we can be, you know, it's you know, we always had plans for business continuity. What if there was a fire? What if there was a flood? What if the electricity went out? You know, these are sort of things you plan for and I'm not sure any of us had planned for a pandemic that meant that pretty much most of the world went into lockdown for 3 or 4 months. But it's amazing that we've coped. You know, we have been really resilient. I think collaboration has been the key. There's a phrase I think that, necessity is the mother of invention that actually when we need to it is amazing what we can do and I think I think that's true but also being in this it's really important with all of us working virtually and working in different locations to make sure that we remember that we're human that we do need to have a chat. That we do need to have to keep that human element of connection going. That's part of our kind of, our well-being and our safety as well so that we remember that we are people and that all of us need to connect on that level of working together not just of colleagues and getting work done. But we hopefully have to enjoy what we do and how we do it so that we can deliver more.
MH: Thanks, and maybe a bit profound but the same question but what have you learned about yourself in more of a non-professional capacity? We know you’re not a teacher.
J-MF: Yeah. I'm not a teacher and it was a good career choice. That's a really good one, I guess that I really love my family, but I didn't anticipate being locked in with them for 3 months, but don't tell them that I said that!
MH: Well, thank you so much JM. I'm at the end of my questions now. It's been an honour to chat to you. It's clear. You're so passionate about our customers and our business as a whole I knew it before, but I definitely know it now so thank you very much.
J-MF: Thank you very much for your time, bye-bye.