5

Star Interview

From the myGrapevine community


Emily Hawkins-Longley,
Head of People,
Dazed Media


The publishing firm’s HR chief reveals how the organisation has used technology to improve workplace communications...

Words by Liam Soutar

The people function has relied on technological innovations to support digital-first working in the last year and a half. Face-to-face meetings and quick-fire questions from across the office floor were swiftly replaced with Zoom calls and a deluge of email communications. With these changes came a raft of additional challenges for HR regarding best practice for communicating with the workforce, and getting to grips with the tech needed to make digital-first working a success.

Just as teams got to grips with the ‘new normal’ of working, after the easing of restrictions, employers were able to start returning staff to central offices. This saw some companies make a full return to the office, while others adopted a hybrid model – allowing staff to blend remote working with time in the office. With this new era of hybrid working – something which 84% of UK firms are planning after the pandemic according to Owl Labs research – it presented another challenge for HR teams – deciding when, and how often, workers would return to their offices, and the role of tech in supporting this.

One employer that is utilising technology to shift towards a digital-first model is Dazed Media, a London-based global publishing firm with titles including Nowness, Dazed, AnOther and Dazed Beauty within its portfolio. Yet, it’s not just the creative side of the business that is using tech to its advantage. In fact, Dazed Media’s recently-appointed Head of People, Emily Hawkins-Longley, is relishing the task of using technology to look after the team on the road ahead.

To find out more, myGrapevine magazine spoke to Dazed Media’s Head of People to learn about how the firm is utilising tech to efficiently manage hybrid working schedules, communicate in different ways, and to foster an “open culture” of leadership accountability.

CV of Emily
Hawkins-Longley

Experience

Head of People Dazed Media

2021 – Present

HR Projects Consultant Mother Contract

Jan 2021 – Present

Group People Director, M&C Saatchi

Sep 2018 – Dec 2020

HR Business Partner and Head of Engagement - Condé Nast Britain

Mar 2014 – Sep 2018

HR Business Partner - Hugo Boss

Nov 2013 – Mar 2014

Education

London South Bank University Msc, Human Resources Management

2008 – 2010

Q

How does Dazed Media use technology to improve its people function?


A

With the world of media very much being online now, people are digesting their content in a different way, and so the pace of HR is a lot quicker.

A lot of work is put in, and the magazines are beautiful, you’d want one on your coffee table. But the bulk of work is put into online and social media, keeping on top of relevant stories and things.

As a business you have to respond to that, and so a lot of comms within the company are over email and video calls too.

With hybrid working, we are asking people to come into the office two days a week and think about what they’re going to be doing while they are in the office. It’s more complex than it used to be, and using tech to help with that has been really key.

We’re looking at a complex booking system so staff can look at which day would be good to go in, and giving each employee a fixed day to come in and sit among their team, then the other day they can decide which day works for them. So we’re looking at tech which will help us manage this.

We looked at something a bit like [a] restaurant booking - i.e. ‘I need to book a table for four on this day of the week.’



“[Office working] is more complex than it used to be, and using tech to help with that has been really key”

Q

What obstacles does hybrid working present, and how do you work around them?


A

We did a fairly regular questionnaire to gauge how people felt about what was happening. We asked what staff would gain from coming into the office, it was interesting to see the reasons why they wanted to come back, so we knew how best to organise things.

They mostly said they wanted to come in and see their teams. The original plan was to be much more fluid and relaxed, have hot desking etc, but we found it would open us up to a little bit of chaos if we didn’t manage it more. So we did say ‘yes, you can have a day to come in and see your team, but then also have a day to choose to come in for yourself’.

Emily’s route into HR


Like many others, [HR] wasn’t something I’d considered doing when I was at school.

It wasn’t until I started working that I realised I quite liked the aspects of working with people. I started as an office junior and decided to see what HR was about.

In HR, you work out where your style best suits, and for me it was that creative world.

I found my style of HR was quite creative, I really like coming up with new ideas and testing the water with management and creating new policies, taking a few risks.

In creative industries, they’re more likely to be up for taking a few risks, and the pace is quite fast. It's a good mix of work and play. And it’s quite a social environment.

The people that work in publishing are naturally ‘people-people’ because they know they need to understand the general public and understand how people are feeling about things.

Q

How has tech improved your workplace communications?


A

We have an executive team meeting once a week, which is brilliant because they can then cascade information to their teams from that.

It’s fairly relaxed and people can feel comfortable to approach me or the MD with any questions that are pressing, it’s an open culture where people are able to reach out.

We still send emails but we found during covid that you can’t rely on people reading emails all the time, so we made sure they were really short.

We’ve learned to communicate in a slightly different way, during the pandemic the use of emails has risen so we learned people start to switch off to them.

So the weekly meetings have been vital to make sure info gets out there to everybody.

"We’ve learned to communicate in a slightly different way... weekly meetings have been vital to make sure info gets out there to everybody"

Q

How does HR support the Dazed Media workforce?


A

I do think in creative industries, they’ve been a bit more open to working from home, and this idea of working in the place that suits you best. They tend to not have as rigid processes around flexible working.

From an HR perspective, what we are doing is at the forefront of everything at the moment, because everyone is looking to us for answers around covid, whether we continue to work from home etc.

It’s thrown up some issues we hadn’t thought of before. So the HR function has remained just as important to organisations.

Everyone expects you to know about the changes to restrictions before anyone else, for example. People naturally look to us to be on top of all these things.

What’s a typical day in Dazed Media’s HR department?


Typically, things move quite fast, especially in the creative industry. My diary changes from the moment I log on, things always get moved around so I need to be quite relaxed about everything.

On a typical day there’s a lot of comms over the company chat, which has replaced our in-office chat where people ask little questions.

I speak to heads of departments and think about project work that we HR people love to do. At the moment, we’re looking at D&I and an activity month that’s coming up. So we’re talking about things we’ll be doing around that.

We’ll be rolling out a new D&I survey to reflect what’s happened over the past few months, and another thing we’re considering is launching an employee pledge document, which reflects behaviours we’d expect our staff to take up. It would be an online document that everyone signs up to, and would be quite practical, like agreeing to using correct pronouns etc.

You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for the next 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.