Pioneer Profile: Meet Beth Lang
4th Oct 2023
It’s time that we recognise the people behind the evolving world of work. Our working lives have shifted to being more inclusive, more people-centric, more flexible, and just plain better for both employees and companies.
These changes didn’t just happen: they were put into place and upheld by individuals and teams working to create a better working future for everyone.
So we’re finally putting the spotlight on the people who make great companies great: the people-people.
People-people are crucial to the success of every company. They find you the talent that drives you forwards, and they’ve taken on an increasingly strategic role in the past few years – often taking on responsibility for mental health, diversity and inclusion, culture, EVPs, Employer Branding and team happiness.Read more about the Pioneers List and go behind the scenes to understand how and why we’ve selected our Pioneers.
We were lucky enough to speak with Beth Lang, Head of People at Lunio, about her career, her experiences with flexible working and building great company cultures, and her hopes for the future of work.
Tell us a little bit about your career history, and how you got to where you are now. What were the key milestones?
It’s been an unusual journey! I started my career in digital marketing, before moving into delivery and then operations management. Ironically enough, I made that switch because I wanted to get away from people management – I thought that managing processes would be easier and more aligned with my skill set (following some feedback from a previous manager to that effect!)
It wasn’t until I was Head of Operations at User Conversion, and my boss brought to my attention that actually the way I approached everything was people-first, and all the projects and initiatives I was proposing were actually things more associated with a HR/People function, that I realised I had inadvertently and organically moved into a People role.We changed my title to Head of People & Ops, and then when User Conversion was acquired I had to pick a lane and People was the obvious choice! It’s where the majority of my experience actually was, it’s where my passion is, where my skills are, and what I enjoy (in direct contrast to what my previous manager had told me – so there’s a lesson in not always taking feedback as fact!)
When did you become interested in flexible working, EVPs and the future of work?
Probably when I took the job at User Conversion back in 2017. Working in tech, I really wanted to move to Manchester; but with this taking my commute from a quick 15 minute drive to a rather unreliable 1 hour train journey, I really needed somewhere that would allow me some flexibility in my start and finish times. I’d had to pull out of another role in the city because they wouldn’t allow me any flexibility at all, which just wouldn’t have been workable for me, but UC were fine with allowing me to flex, and also encouraged me to work from home at least 1 day a week.I’d come from a workplace where, despite it being entirely possible in my role (and the boss himself doing it twice a week!), working from home was not allowed except for the most extenuating circumstances – so to be offered it upfront was amazing to me. This kick-started my interest in flexibility, and just how much of a difference it can make to attracting, engaging and retaining talent. I was my own prime example!
What's the most impactful change you’ve overseen?
I’d love to say the 4-day working week at Lunio, but it’s probably a bit too early for me to claim that as the roaring success I’m sure it will be, as we’re only 6 weeks into a 3 month trial – but so far it’s looking very good!
Otherwise, I’d say the fully flexible working policy we had at User Conversion: we took a real leap of faith, and it paid off. We spent months deliberating over what the best version of flexible working was for everyone – hybrid working, core hours, set office days etc – and came to the conclusion that we should just trust our teams. No rules: work from wherever you want, whenever you want, with clear expectations given around how to make these decisions, considering the needs of the business and clients as well as themselves.
Following the rollout of this in early 2019 (yes, pre-pandemic!), we continued to deliver excellence for our clients whilst also seeing employee engagement and happiness soar, absenteeism drop, time to hire plummet and spend on recruitment drop completely. We had our absolute pick of the bunch when it came to hiring, and the feedback from our team was incredible; they valued the autonomy and trust they were given, and repaid it in hard work and loyalty.
What’s the biggest impact flexible working has had on your own life?
I’ve been able to stay doing what I love after having a child! That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. It would literally be impossible for me to work in Manchester and juggle childcare, drop-offs, pick-ups, last minute phone calls from nursery and so on if I wasn’t allowed lots of flexibility in where and when I work, and that’s true for so many with caring responsibilities.
What’s the biggest challenge of being in your role right now?
In the People industry, I think the biggest challenge we face is one we’ve always faced: getting a seat at the table. We need to demonstrate that HR/People is not just a cost centre, and in fact has the potential to add huge value to a business: if we are given the access and opportunity to do so.Another challenge is shaking off that dusty old HR image of the boring, isolated fun police, whose purpose is hiring, firing and protecting the business, and nothing to do with supporting people. It’s the antithesis of how I want to be seen, and it’s why my team is the People team rather than the HR team.
What do you think the next big trend is in working culture?
I’m hoping it’s transparency. Salary transparency in particular is something that would leapfrog the fight for pay equality forward by decades. I won’t pretend we’re all the way there on this at Lunio – yet! But we always include salary in job ads. In my experience, companies that don’t include at least a sensible range have something to hide.And working from anywhere – that’s something I’m hoping to roll out at Lunio in the not-too-distant future.