Embracing the Human Approach in the Workplace: CluneTech's Story

Cathal Divilly

In the tenth episode of the Red Cube Podcast, Great Place to Work CEO Cathal Divilly is joined by Rachael O’Shea, Head of Employee Experience at CluneTech. Rachael draws on her learnings from the past few years in switching to remote working and highlights the measures CluneTech have taken to improve employee experience and flexibility, based heavily on “doing what works for you”. Building on her “be human” approach, Rachael also discusses how the new way of working has forced employers to become more personal and how important change is for organisations to thrive and grow.


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 Rachael OShea

Rachael O'Shea
Head of Employee Experience


Cathal Divilly
Great Place to Work Ireland



Cathal Divilly: Welcome, Red Cube listeners. You're very welcome to today’s podcast. We are delighted to be joined by the Head of Employee Experience from CluneTech, Rachael O'Shea, Rachael you are very welcome. 

Rachael O'Shea: Thank you very much, Cathal, delighted to be here! 

Cathal Divilly: Rachael, how are you? 

Rachael O'Shea: I’m good! Bit miserable out, and I know Irish people tend to always go to the weather for the conversation starters, but yeah, it's milling down, definitely coming into the depths of winter but still smiling so it can't be too bad. 

Cathal Divilly: Still smiling, and lashing rain in Dublin here as well Rachael. So diving straight in Rachael to the important pieces – how was Las Vegas? 

Rachael O'Shea: It was amazing. Yeah, so we attended Money20/20 last week so big FinTech conference, and my first time in Vegas actually! So managed to get some sightseeing in, but obviously it was quite a hectic work week and but glad to be back into a routine. Vegas is another world to say the least. 

Cathal Divilly: Well, great, welcome back. I haven't been to Vegas myself, but certainly on the bucket list to go there. And Rachael, what about the fact that you were interviewing Formula One stars? How was that? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yes, so for anyone that doesn't know, Transformate, one of CluneTech’s companies – and one of Ireland's most recent tech unicorns, might I get that in! – we sponsored the Haas F1 team so we were lucky enough to have Kevin actually – Kevin Magnussen, sorry, we're on first name basis now Cathal!

But we were lucky enough to have Kevin Magnussen, one of the Haas drivers at the stand last week so I think I was probably the envy of a lot of people. I got to do a Q&A with him, got a selfie of course as well, had to get that in! But yeah look absolute gent and definitely one of those kind of career-defining moments I think, where you're like oh my God, hello, who am I?! You know, this man is used to much more professional interviewers, so definitely an experience! 

Cathal Divilly: I’m sure it went great Rachael, looking forward to it. When is the episode out? Is it out in a few weeks? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, it'll be out in a few weeks. It's a really intimate setting and the questions were quite varied. Everything from, you know, Kevin becoming a dad to his actual kind of driving and driving style and preferences. So yeah, keep an eye on CluneTech and Transformate social medias. If people don’t get fed up of me after listening to this podcast, that is...  

Cathal Divilly: Not at all, we'll check that out. So I guess for our listeners, Rachael, your own career to date and a bit about who CluneTech are. 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, so I'm a Waterford woman, born and bred. Educated in Waterford and obviously WIT recently rebranded to SETU. I’ve a bit of a random background in that I suppose I got to a point when I finished my undergrad where I didn't know where I was going to go and I didn't know where my experience would get me, or how my experience would get me there. And so my background is actually in events, marketing and radio, funnily enough. And I suppose when they all came together, I was offered the role of Engagement and Communications Executive for CluneTech.  

And yeah, that was four years ago, since October, so four years going strong and definitely, you know, wouldn't change it. It's very much the type of role that encompasses everything. I try to describe my role as you know, I help people to like their jobs and I help to ensure that we are a Great Place to Work so that we can then tell the world we're a Great Place to Work, so very much the full 360.

But CluneTech look, we're a really really interesting - and Irish - organisation. We have about eight different companies in the group, so our overarching goal or mission is to make business better for our customers. So we offer everything from you know, cross-border payments to global payroll, we've got a marketing agency in the group as well, and it's just really dynamic. It all stemmed from taxback.com, which was our first company, founded in ‘96, and every company in the group was very much led by that company CEO, but then our overall group CEO and founder, Terry Clune. So very much a hands-on company.

We've 1500 staff now, but I think there still is very much that kind of startup feel where we've got such an incredible team that are all kind of willing to step in where needed. So yeah, about 400 staff in Ireland, a thousand in Bulgaria. And then you'll find us everywhere – Peru, Mexico, Australia, the US, so we’ve a really really nice geographic spread as well. 

Cathal Divilly: That's great thanks Rachael, and in terms of part of your role obviously supporting CluneTech on the Great Place to Work journey, CluneTech 7 years as a Great Place to Work, Best Workplaces for Women, on the Best Workplaces for Women list, Best Workplace in Tech and you know what's been really cool is kind of seeing how CluneTech listen to the data and make improvements year on year, which is really great to see so congratulations on that.  

In terms of the background, so events, marketing, radio. I guess there's some useful traits there, right or useful sort of crossover traits in terms of the Employee Experience? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, definitely, I think look obviously a lot of what marketing is is comms right? It's communicating and whether that's selling a product or selling ourselves as an employer – that might come out a little bit wrong! – but you know, I think for me, the way I view our employees is they’re our customers and one of the biggest learnings I suppose over the last couple of years and I'm sure you'll agree, is that the relationship between an employee and an employer is gone much less transactional, right? And I say many years ago, it's not. It's a couple of years ago – you went to work, you got your paycheck and that was that. Whereas now it's a lot more two-way, y’know, so employees now expect a level of an experience I suppose, you know my title is Employee Experience!  

We're paying them for their skills and their expertise and the experience they have gained over the years, but then we need to now be in a position to give them something. So I think, yeah, like I laugh, to be honest because I remember finishing college, I did a very brief stint in radio sales and absolutely hated it. People think if you can talk, you're good at sales – it's not the case!

But when I got approached about this role I kind of went “oh my God” … Like it kind of was that moment of enlightenment where everything I had ever done up until that point kind of came together and presented itself in this role that I still feel is very much made for me, and I hope that my team would agree with me as well.

But yeah no two days are the same and I think being able to see the impact that myself and the team have and like you said, you know, seven years recognised as one of Ireland's Best Workplaces. It took a lot of work to get to where we are and it's taking a lot of work to remain in that list as well obviously, other employers have got a lot more competitive as well. So yeah, it’s a journey. 

Cathal Divilly: Absolutely and in terms of that journey piece, we're working on an infographic case study at the moment which we’ll release quite soon, which will just help our listeners to kind of see that journey that CluneTech have gone on over the last number of years.  

So marketing is communications, I completely agree. I also completely agree that you have to sell your culture and you have to sell yourself as an employer internally and externally. So it's good to be able to say it.

I know we're through certainly the worst of it, but so we’re coming out of COVID right … Any sense Rachael as to sort of top three learnings for you and CluneTech post-COVID? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, and it's so weird to say post-COVID, are we post-COVID? And you know there's that whole debate of the now, the future ... I think look, first and foremost, kind of touching on my last point, but be human. I think one of the biggest things we've learned is the importance of being human, and that's in everything; that's in your policies, it's in your communications, you know we’ve taken a much more human approach to just everything we do. And I think like I said about the relationship kind of evolving between employer and employee, I don't think that evolution can happen successfully if employers don't take a more human approach.  

I think second point is definitely do what works for you, and I think this is really important, especially probably for some of the companies on the smaller list for Ireland’s Best Workplaces. We got caught up I think for a very long time, comparing ourselves to  the Googles, the eBay's, the Metas, obviously previously Facebook. And I think you have to be realistic with the resources that you have as an employer, right? No one has the magic ingredients. No one has the secret key to success, whatever you want to call it. But I think it's about looking at OK, what you have in terms of the people, in terms of you know your tools, your internal comms platforms. I'm a big advocate for WorkVivo, anyone that knows me knows I am!  

But whatever you have available to you, use that and then do what works best for you. And try and avoid comparing yourselves to the kind of unreachable companies … I was at an event recently and Nike were talking, but they were chatting about their employee experience and it would be so easy for me to sit there and go “wow Oh my God, I'm going to do all of that”. You can't, right? They've got 84,000 staff globally, they've got Serena Williams as a Brand Ambassador. So they've got like a team of 10 who are just pushing out content internally from her that's all about being a pro athlete and you know, how you can challenge yourself.  

So again, there's no point in me even considering that we could do that … I did warn you, I might go off on a bit of a tangent! But I think the last one and arguably the most important is listen to your people. So I mentioned, my background is in marketing. I very much look at my employees as my customers, right? I had a radio show for a brief stint when I was in college and again our employees are like our listeners as well in that sense, if there's any radio heads.  

But they're the ones that are living your culture. They're the ones that control your culture. They're the ones that eat, sleep and breathe your culture, whether you like it or not. You can do all the fun stuff, you can get the ping pong table and all the stereotypical fun things. But unless you actually listen to what your people have to say and then action that feedback you're at absolutely nothing, and I think that's what we've learned.  

You know there is an element of OK look, manage the expectations as well, because sometimes you can do so much and then there's that kind of feeling of OK, well, what's next? And you do need to get that balance right. But yeah, so to summarise it all, be human, do what works for you and listen to your people, and I think the three of those actually tie in quite nicely together. 

Cathal Divilly: That's great, that's great advice Rachael. And of course you can be inspired by other workplaces, other parts of society, sports, stuff like that, and kind of bring some stimulus back, but you've got to make it work for yourself in your own organisation, I completely agree.

And you talked about listening there Rachael and the importance of having listening tools right, so I know a hot topic at the moment for many of our listeners is what are other organisations doing in terms of their current way of working? So yeah, really interested in the approach at the moment in terms of your way of working. 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, I mean being honest, for us – and this does link into the human approach – we have adapted an approach which is “do what works best for you”. So when COVID first happened and we were actually one of the first companies in Ireland to make that move to remote working, which we're obviously quite proud of. But when we first made that move, we were all working from home. It was the first time we had ever worked remotely.  

But yeah, so we found ourselves in this brand-new territory and it's taken a long time to get to where we are now and to get to a place where we're comfortable with the way we're working and comfortable with letting our employees decide what works best for them. And at the moment that is what works best for them. So for me, you know I appreciate remote working. I work remotely most of the time.  

But we did make quite a large investment into our offices, whereby our Kilkenny HQ now has been fully revamped. So our space there was previously rows and rows of desks, whereas now it is a space for collaboration and it's probably a step in a much more tech direction. And but we've got, you know, open plan flooring, we've got couches, we've got comfy seats where if you want to curl up and kind of get comfy with your laptop, or if you want a meeting room you can do that as well. We've got a state-of-the-art presentation theatre, so having all of those, and again when I spoke about using the resources available to you, we now have this really, really cool space and a really functional space as well.  

But we're not forcing employees to come back, and that was a big decision we made I think August 2020. We made the decision to kind of commit to a future of flexibility. So taking it back to 2019, we never had remote working, so the extent of flexibility at CluneTech was staggered start and finish hours. And they weren't really staggered because they were in your contract. So it meant that when you were signing your contract, you could say yeah listen, I want to work from half 8 'til 5 instead … So you know very, very limited flexibility.  

But then, ironically, December 2019, we worked with yourselves and the team. We had started a remote working pilot, and that you know, the rest is history like. It just got so quickly and unexpectedly ramped up come kind of February/March. But I think from there, you know August, we committed, we said, look, we're going to do flexible working and we made a couple of measures. So introducing part time roles … we had said hybrid at the time, so we very much said look, we're probably going to mandate 2 days in the office or three days in the office.  

And being honest, we just went “why? Why do we need to?” You know, what we're doing now is working and there's a huge level of accountability for our staff obviously so they have quite a big responsibility, managers have quite a big responsibility. But they've taken it in their stride and it's amazing.

I look back to a couple of years ago and to where we are now and I do think COVID did speed up the efforts, but I do think deep down we would have gotten here, but I don't think it would have been within the space of three years. 

Cathal Divilly: Yeah, you know it's interesting Rachael, because Laura in the previous episode talked about how COVID was really good for them as an organisation in terms of building a sense of teamness and actually bringing them closer together. 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah and I think even the point I said like one of the learnings about being human, I mean I was on a call this morning and my my in-laws actually live behind us in a granny flat, but we've a doggie door in between. But my nephew who's three likes to come in and out the doggie door as well. So mid-call I hear little footsteps, he knows how to open the door, come in, you know. But again, that's something you laugh about. I turned the camera around, said “look say hi to everyone he's in the sweet press!”, so I think without trying to, a lot of companies have just experienced the way of life that would have been called a hiccup, or, you know, an interruption before. But it's just life, you know what I mean. 

So I love it, I just think everything has gone so much more personal and again it's forced companies to become more personal. And I think it's the companies that don't kind of grab that with both hands and appreciate it and leverage it as well are the ones that are going to lose out. So we can talk about the Great Resignation and all that jazz, right? I think half of it's a myth, look, turnover is natural. I think no one wanted to leave their job during COVID, right?  

So it was always inevitable that people were probably going to say OK, right what's new or what’s next? But at the same time, you need to still ensure that people do want to work for you and stay with you for many, many years. So being more human and kind of going with the flow, I think there's an element of winging it as well. You know where you have to kind of, say, look, this is the card we've been dealt with. We can either go, yeah, cool, let's go or we can push against it, which is never going to work. 

Cathal Divilly: We love a big term, don't we? “The Great Resignation” …  I believe we should always kind of have a great resignation mindset for our culture, where you know – how do we keep our people? 

Rachael O'Shea: And I think as well there's an element of fearing turnover and our CEO and founder, Terry Clune, he’s a very, very forward thinker. And he's often kind of quoted saying listen, we appreciate people leaving, because if turnover didn’t exist, companies would have the same employees, the same ideas, the same work ethic, everything stays the same! And we as humans, right, we hate change but we do need a level of change to thrive and to experience and to grow. And I think it's very much the same for corporates and for employers.  

But like Terry is often quoted saying that we've seen in the past a lot of employees come back to us, and so it's like that boomerang effect, where they might go to a different company, get a couple of years experience, and then end up back with us.

So as he says, listen, they've learned so much with that company and even if they don't come back to us again, they're kind of paving the way for new people to come in. I mean, tenure is gold at the same time, loyal employees that want to work for you for a very long time, they're golden they really are, but at the same time I do think you need a level of turnover to progress and to excel and to succeed as well. 

Cathal Divilly: Absolutely. Completely agree Rachael and so thinking about the new way of working, so the option is there for team members to choose how they want to work. Do they contract with their local manager or how does that work? 

Rachael O'Shea: So again, it's very much down to the team, right? So if you take me for example, I'm living about an hour away from the office, Waterford woman working in Kilkenny, very fun at all-Ireland time! But I'm in the office when I need to. So when I say I need to, that could be because I'm filming; we're doing a piece with the CEO's on video, we have to be there. Or me needing to might be because I need to get out of my house and I just want company around me while I'm working. It could be anything. 

What we found is a lot of teams have just started doing what's best for them, so naturally there's been this kind of internal revolution where you've got some teams that might come in once a week. They have their team meeting on site.

Other teams might do once a month. They might do a full day together, they might do lunch. And then some people just flitter in and out. Some people are there every day – they hate working from home, and I think that's definitely a big learning, is what works for one employee isn't going to work for another. And I think that in itself has had a huge impact on our engagement initiatives, on our events … 

We've kind of stopped the massive big-ticket constant events. So before COVID we would have had everything on site, so you know our health and well-being week, we'd have random charity events, spinathons, and we've kind of stripped that back a bit. So we still have our flagship Christmas party, our summer party – obviously we could not get rid of them!  

But what we've actually done is, with our Great Place to Work team we’ve started smaller Great Place to Work events. So our team are quite prominent internally and they are called our Great Place to Work team, they're all volunteers bar myself obviously it's within my role! But we've got an amazing team of volunteers across the companies, across departments. But what we've started doing is doing capacity events. So say limiting it to like 30 people, so you know we've gone ziplining in Castlecomer in Kilkenny, which was absolutely breathtaking, right?  

Cathal Divilly: Sounds great and horrific. 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah great and horrific! I had a new team member join only about two weeks before, Lauren, she’s incredible. But she obviously came along and I thought she was going to quit there and then, I was like “if you don't want to do it, it's fine, I promise you can still have your job!” But yeah, we've done events like that, we did a cleanup for World Earth Day back in April. We've gone kayaking down the river in Graiguenamanagh.

But the whole idea is they are limited to 30 people, but they're first come, first served. So we're getting a really nice mix of employees. Again, sometimes you'll get a full team that'll take part, and they'll say, listen, there's seven of us, can we join? Yeah, I don't mind who comes, just as long as we fill the places.  

And even just that again the events themselves, we’re looking at doing an escape room for the next event, or like a bowling “bring your own beer” party. So again, the people that mightn’t get in a kayak or mightn’t zipline across the Republic of Ireland’s longest zipline – we were told not Ireland anymore, apparently there's something going on up north! – but they have the ability to join in on other events as well. 

Cathal Divilly: Wow that’s amazing, so capacity events. It's the first time I’ve heard of that sort of phrase. You create a bit of urgency as well by it sort of being limited I guess, right? 

Rachael O'Shea: Definitely yeah. And again, everything is done quite fairly. WorkVivo is the centre of all of our communications, so it's literally as simple as you e-mail our Great Place to Work team, we get you on the list. And it does, it creates that sense of urgency. It's kind of nice as well, because there is that sense of urgency, so you lose the “Oh well, I'll go if you go”, which is a really common thing, anyone that organises any employee events knows the way it is. And it's like “Oh well, I'm going to go if this person goes” and you're trying to get numbers and it's a nightmare.  

But it's worked really well for us and we still have our virtual events. We do a lot through Laya Healthcare, they're brilliant, they've got their digital gym which we avail of for our staff. We've got webinars. And I think again this year it has been that element of stripping it back, so trying to focus in on I suppose more niche topics.

So we recently had a webinar on menopause and how to kind of cope with menopause in the workplace. We had a webinar for World Stroke Day recently and to help people identify if someone is going through a stroke. But again they're more niche webinars that don't, you know, cost a huge amount, rather than doing one huge event that not everyone might be interested in. So it's been very much a learning curve, but we've enjoyed every second of it to be honest. 

Cathal Divilly: It's great and I know you mentioned the Great Place to Work team there a few times Rachael and just for our listeners, that's your internal working team. 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, that's not ye, yeah. 

Cathal Divilly: That’s another listening tool I guess in terms of kind of listening to and taking feedback from people and of actioning from that which is great. So for organisations out there and for listeners out there, of which there is many that are still trying to land on their current way of working.

Now I know your approach might evolve as things move like, which is great, right? Any advice for them in terms of things to do before they reach that decision in terms of their current way of working? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, well I think one thing I would say is look at the pros and cons of either approach. So look for us, we have our headquarters in Kilkenny, one of the biggest pros for us of adapting the way we're working is that we can now hire people all over Ireland. So we have employees in Donegal and the far-off side of Kerry that don't have to make an 8-hour commute to get to our office.

And I think that in itself is incredible. It's opened up a world of opportunities and that's just in Ireland. I mean obviously globally as well, we have benefited from the lack of an on-site presence and needing people in person. 

And look, the way we work, that's not going to work for everyone, so we've had to really overhaul the trust we have in our employees and that's been a big effort that again, we were kind of forced into with COVID – the remote working pilot we had started in 2019, that was 10% of our staff where we said look, we'll trial it, six months, we'll see how it goes, we'll get feedback from the employees as well as from the managers, we'll see if productivity has been impacted.  

And it was very granular. It was very much a tedious kind of task, but we knew we had to provide some level of flexible working. We knew back then in 2019 because we saw it. We were losing staff to companies that were offering remote working or people that could you know, work on their commute to the office 'cause they travelled by train or whatever it might be.  

So we went with it, we had to, and I say we had to and being brutally honest, you know we are a financial services company so we could have remained onsite and that actually is a very important point to mention as well. We were considered essential services, you know, we do transfer money back and forth. So if we really wanted to, we could have remained onsite, but we didn't because we knew that wasn't what was best for our people and we knew we didn't need them onsite to get their job done.  

So again, I think people that are looking at maybe adopting a remote approach or a hybrid approach/ flexible, they need to be prepared to adjust not only the way they think, but probably the level of trust they have in their people, but equally trust them to get the job done.

These are people that as I say, they're all adults! Like they're all highly trained and highly experienced and highly talented people that are more than capable of getting the job done, but we as an employer need to trust them to do that and it says so much about your culture. 

So yeah, look at the pros. Like I said, it can open up a world of opportunities if you're struggling to fill certain roles. Being more flexible in your approach can be really beneficial, but I think equality as well is a huge thing, and this obviously is underlying in a lot of elements of culture, but you cannot tell one person yeah, you can work from home as often as you want, and not make that available.

Now, obviously, there's certain outliers like pharma. OK, you need people onsite, on a line, and then you've got your admin team that can work remotely. I obviously don't mean those people, right? I'm not expecting people to fill a line from their house! But in all seriousness, your approach needs to be consistent across the board. It needs to be fair, you're going to end up annoying people if you make it a thing where one person can benefit from remote working and another one doesn't, but give people the option.

I have a friend living in the Netherlands – she moved there with the promise that an office was going to be set up and basically the company never did. And she now is looking elsewhere because she wants an office to work from and she doesn't want to sit in her room all day, she lives alone. So you know you need to appreciate that again, like I said what works for one employee won't work for another as well, and that's so, so important. 

Cathal Divilly: I love the piece around kind of doing a pilot study as well Rachael, so for anyone that's afraid or there's a leadership team that are afraid to dive right in then you know, well, let's do a study and let's take a percentage of the organisation and let's draw learnings and let's go from there.

And I know you touched upon it as well, the work that you've done in the Kilkenny office in terms of that space and that creates more opportunity for meaningful connection then when people come together right? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah. And we did get our ping pong table! We got our ping pong table, we've got a little putting green out the front … And like I know we laugh when we say the ping pong table. But in all seriousness, I get it! I get it now. People are on their lunch, they're having chat over a game of ping pong or you know it's a fun way to delegate work as well.

But yeah no, I think having that space where people can come in is amazing. And again, look I'm not disillusioned either. I know not every company will be able to say “yeah do what you want guys but we'll have this space waiting if you want to come in”. We are in a lucky position where we can do that and so again, it's about doing what works for you. 

Cathal Divilly: Any experience Rachael with leaders that might be struggling with the new way of working for whatever reason? How do you engage with them? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah. OK look, being completely honest and this is not at all like a fluffy answer, but our CEOs were not for remote working at all. They are now, so in terms of struggling, they're not struggling, right? They've genuinely done such a U-turn in their mentality towards it. But even at that right, we, back in 2019, had to really pitch the remote working piece and there were a huge amount of reservations.

There was the fear of the unknown, lack of trust, and again, it's about having a really frank and honest conversation with that leader. Obviously stats if you can give clear black and white stats on productivity, that would be incredible. In the space that we are in, we're a group of companies, it can be quite hard to get just a simple “here's productivity”, right?  

But trial it, see how it goes, what’s the worst that could happen, right? You do it, it goes awfully, OK well then we're not going to roll out remote working or hybrid working because it doesn't work for us. But again, if you're trialing it, it’s not just to prove a point to leadership, it's also for your staff as well. So if you trial it and it doesn't go well, you need to do it really well where you're recording everything, you’re monitoring everything, so that you can then go to your staff if it does or doesn't work and say listen either “great job, here's how it went” …  

A lot of the time I think staff will have that kind of responsibility to, you know, still perform obviously, and again I'm making the assumption that most companies are reluctant to offer remote working and staff want remote working. Again, that's not necessarily correct. But definitely monitor, record everything, use stats, like you can't argue with stats, you just can't, it's as easy as that!

So obviously you know your anecdotal stories about how it's helped this person, how the flexibility has helped to get this employee into this role and back into the workforce – they're great, but unless you have it in black and white, so that can be things like your turnover. Like our retention I think went up 30% during COVID, where a lot of companies did suffer from the great resignation. I think our referrals, I don't have the stat off the top my head, but employee referrals have gone up I think to like 200% or something insane like that. And again, I do think a lot of that has to do with the level of flexibility that we are giving our people. 

Cathal Divilly: Wow, so employee referrals, so this is current employees recommend to somebody that they know to come work with them. 

Rachael O'Shea: Exactly and look we all know the value of a referral, I'm not going to go down that rabbit hole because you could do a full podcast on that! But again, your employees are more likely to refer people that will be culture fits, those people again have that person that they know in the company, they’re more likely to do a good job because they've got kind of the extra layer of guilt I suppose where someone's neck is on the line! But we all know how valuable referrals are, so to see ours increasing is brilliant, but I do think a lot of that has to do with flexibility.  

And it's amazing, like I'm doing out the RSVP's for the Christmas party now which is like our flagship event – we rent out the Lyrath in Kilkenny it’s stunning, but it's just such an amazing day, right? But I was doing that out and I copped one of our long-term employees – his wife has joined the company, and he was saying oh are we the only couple in the group? I said, no, you're not at all, we actually have a lot of couples, some that actually, I suppose, came from within the workplace and some that would have possibly joined in around the same time.

But to me, to see that someone would encourage their wife, not just a friend, not just someone that they know, their cousin’ cousin … Like that's their partner and they're saying, hey, you should actually work for us, there's a job there you should go for it. I just think that's amazing. I think that's like top tier referrals. 

Cathal Divilly: You'd want to be really evil to recommend somebody you know the culture that isn't that good. 

Rachael O'Shea: But that's what I mean! That’s the reality of it, right? I think as well, we’re all human and I think Irish people in particular, we get guilty over the most random things and I always wonder about referrals in other companies, - are they as nerve wracking, it’s like OK I'm gonna put this person’s CV in and you're going, Oh God, I hope they do a good job! But I do think that it’s embedded into us, and it's anything, you know yourself, if you're recommending a plumber, an electrician, you're going “they better not screw that up!” 

 So I do think it probably is a cultural thing, but again, yeah, like you said like to us it's incredible to see people saying, “hey, I've worked here for X amount of years or even months, but I think you'd really enjoy it”. So that's top tier pat on the back! 

Cathal Divilly: Rachael last question before we chat about Disney. 

Rachael O'Shea: I love it! 

Cathal Divilly: So how do you see the approach evolving kind of over the next year or so, any thoughts on that? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, I think a lot of companies are probably going to – I say become quite similar to us as if every company in the world knows of CluneTech and knows of me and our approach to working! –but I do, I think the more individual approach is going to become the norm in my opinion.

I think people have become a lot more vocal about how they feel and what they want and what they expect, and there is a level of managing expectations, but there's also an element of you need to deliver. You owe it to your people to deliver a certain amount and again within reason. 

But I mean for us, like our culture has changed and not to kind of go away from the question, but just to give the listeners a really, really good insight. But like in the last couple of years some of the things we've introduced, and I often say that I think for a long time we were playing catch up. We were an Irish company that were competing with the big boys and girls in tech, but we weren't quite there yet and I think being honest, we're finally at a place where we can compete.  

But things like health care, back in, or actually last year sorry 2021, we increased our health care to 100% paid, we increased our pension. And this is all in addition to the commitment to flexibility. But things like this year we did summer flex hours, so you build up your hours, you can finish early on a Friday. We have life-work days now. So literally a half-day every quarter to just get your bits done. Like whether that's getting your nails done, whether that's the NCT on the car, there's no eligibility criteria, staff can use it however they want. 

You know, things like that – we've upped our annual leave, we added company days. So like we have come from very much started from the bottom, now we're here. like it is. Like it is that in a nutshell where we're not this company, and I don't want anyone listening to think oh but sure they’ve 1500 staff, oh sure they have all of this. We didn't, and I can promise you that we have genuinely taken this approach.  

We've got kind of our schedule for the year, you come online – well online now – you give us our Great Place to Work results early in the year. We have the ceremony generally, February/March, we have a great night with yourselves in the team. But then we break it down, so we do our focus groups. From then, myself and the Great Place to Work team meet our CEOs. We go through everything with them, we give proposals, we give best practice examples. So it's a cycle, it's a journey and I think you need to really just step into it, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.  

So in terms of in the next 12 months, I do think a lot of companies are going to kind of say “OK, what do you want? OK, well you do that like, you do you, what works for you”. And it’s not easy, look I mean from an admin standpoint, I'm sure there's HR VP's and HR admins that are listening going “Oh my God, how do we track that on Core” and “how do we create a policy that encompasses that?”  

And by all means, if anyone wants to reach out and say “listen, any advice?” or you know, look at a policy or whatever it might be, we'd be happy to help because I do think we're all in this together, not to quote High School Musical – I'm really, really leading into the Disney at the end!

But we are all in this together, you know, and obviously Best Workplaces, it is a competition, we all want to be #1. But at the same time, if we work together, I think we can collectively provide employees both in Ireland and all over the world with an incredible experience, whatever that looks like to them. 

Cathal Divilly: Yeah, of course, and there's no perfect workplace, right? But we need to listen, continue to act, continue to evolve. Let's have a chat about Disney so. So Rachael is a massive Disney fan. You'd be OK with me saying that right? 

Rachael O'Shea: Yeah, of course, fine! 

Cathal Divilly: What's your favourite Disney movie? 

Rachael O'Shea: Oh, do you know what … It's like asking you to pick your favourite child you know what I mean? Look recent years I think Disney went through a period where they kind of got lost a bit. But then, like Moana, who doesn't love Moana, and Dwayne the Rock Johnson.

He was actually on TodayFM recently and he was just brilliant, like he was incredible. But yeah, I think recently Moana – I used to love Pocahontas, I actually have videos from when I was a child and going around pretending I was Pocahontas. So yeah, have to give an honourable mention! 

Cathal Divilly: OK so Moana and Pocahontas. I'm actually Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I was Dopey in the play in school. We were doing a play, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and we said OK, we gotta pick the names of the dwarves … and almost like they practiced it, everyone turned at the same time and said, well you're going to be Dopey so there we go. 

Rachael O'Shea: No comment, Cathal, I'll reserve any judgement on that one. 

Cathal Divilly: We might delve into that again. Any favourite shows at the moment that you're watching on any of these Netflix/Disney streaming channels? 

Rachael O'Shea: Oh, these are really tough, you only said favourite movie etc. Cathal! But do you know what, I watched something called The Old Man recently, thriller, don't know what streaming platforms it's on, it was on the dodgy box don't come for me! But it was incredible, really really good series. Think about 7 episodes.

And then Kanan, the storybook of Kanan, it's a spin off from Power on Netflix. Brilliant, I love a thriller. I think people think I'm just about Disney, I'm kind of the opposite, like watching Jeffrey Dahmer at the minute as well. And so strange but you gotta watch it Cathal! 

Cathal Divilly: As strange as it is, it lures you in. I love the way we talked about the dodgy box there, so we won't …  

Rachael O'Shea: Haha yeah, skip over that. Cut it out! 

Cathal Divilly: Rachael, thank you very much for joining us. It's been a pleasure and thank you very much to you and CluneTech for their partnership. Congratulations on your continued success. 

Rachael O'Shea: Thank you for having us! Survey goes live I think a month from this Friday, so hopefully it'll still be all positive vibes again in 2023. 

Cathal Divilly: The journey continues, talk to you soon.  

Rachael O'Shea: See you later, thanks Cathal.