Pioneer Profile: Meet Claire Pallett

19th Feb 2024

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’re delighted to introduce you to Claire Pallett, People Director at 15below, and one of our 2024 Pioneers. Read on to hear all 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?

My career could have been so different as my degree is in Library and Information Studies! Luckily it included some People Management modules which really sparked my interest. So it was ‘Goodbye Dewey Decimal System, hello Employee Engagement’! The People profession brings so much variety depending on the sector and size of business, and I realised pretty early on that I was most excited by SMEs where it’s possible for every single member of the team to make an impact. I’ve been really lucky throughout my career to work in really interesting businesses – starting in Marketing and then Tech - and I really can’t imagine doing anything else.

When did you become interested in flexible working, EVPs, Employer Brand, and the future of work?

Being in this profession has been a real journey for me. I started out fresh from my HR Masters thinking that policy, process and theories would be at the core of being good at my job, but experience (and many mistakes!) have taught me that businesses are successful and profitable when their people are supported, listened to and treated as individuals. It sounds completely obvious, but yet we still see businesses making decisions that affect its people that seem so arbitrary. The current push to force people back into offices, for example, really worries me as I’m yet to hear a convincing argument as to why…  

What is the most impactful change that you’ve implemented?

Our move to a completely flexible hybrid model following Covid has been a complete game changer. I am lucky enough to work with incredibly smart people at 15below, and this way of working gives them choice as to how they will do their best work. It now seems very odd to think that we all used to plod into the office 5 days a week, spending lots of money on travel and losing lots of precious leisure and family time. We’ve only seen positive things as a result of this change, from both a business and a people perspective.

What’s the biggest impact flexible working has had on your own life?

Until we launched our flexible hybrid approach, I had always been office based, and I cannot believe the massive change that this way of working has had on my life. I’ve always struggled with my mental health, so the ability to choose where to work in order to suit how I’m feeling on any given day is invaluable – especially as it means I can spend more time with my unofficial Mental Health First Aiders – my 3 cats!!! I’m a single mum to 2 amazing teenage boys and I always thought that by the time they were teenagers they’d need me less, but actually the touch points at the start and end of the school/college day are more important now than ever before. The fact that I can be at home for them, even if it's just to give them a hug goodbye or hello, is so important for all 3 of us.

What’s the biggest challenge of being in your role/industry right now?

Diversity continues to be a huge focus for anyone in tech. It's such an exciting and rewarding industry which anyone, regardless of their background, should be able to join. We are working really hard to ensure that we are doing all we can to make this possible. Working flexibly is a massive part of that, particularly for women, together with our family friendly policies.

What do you think the next big trend is in working culture?

It feels like a really exciting time of change with lots of ‘traditional’ working norms are being challenged and there’s an impetus to put people first. Remote-first working, Work from Anywhere schemes, pay transparency, the right to ‘disconnect’, the 4 day working week and so on… The challenge/opportunity for People professionals will be to identify what will work for their own businesses, now and in the future, and only to make changes because they’ll add real value. Exciting times!

Take a look at the other Pioneers who made the list, and subscribe to our newsletter to get updates on new Pioneers, guides to help you navigate your strategic role, and exclusive invites to webinars and events