10 months after joining LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions as Senior HR Business Partner, we get a chance to speak to Samantha Ambler about what brought her to the company and what changes she has already seen. She is a member of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) at the company and possibly one of the most passionate HR professionals we have ever met.
Prior to LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions, she did a stint in the public sector at the Cabinet Office, and the Department for Work and Pensions. Before that, she held HR positions in a range of different industries at Barclaycard, Centrica Storage, British Gas, The AA and OneTel.
Samantha is buzzing with ideas to drive one of LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions' (LNES) key goals – making the company a' Great Place to Work'. We caught up with her, here are the highlights:
Perhaps the most obvious question, what brings you to LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions?
Samantha: My career has predominantly been in the private sector, albeit the last two roles I did were in the public sector. I'm a HR 'generalist' by design and I've enjoyed the variety that working in different industry sectors has allowed me. It has also given me a well-rounded experience. When the opportunity came up at LexisNexis, I was instantly attracted to it – the legal technology space is incredibly exciting, the growth potential for LN ES is clear and the heritage of the organisation is truly exceptional. And if all that wasn't enough, what really nailed my decision to join the business was my recruitment and onboarding experience, which was fantastic because it really allowed me to get under the skin of the business, its culture and values. I felt immediately that there was a strong alignment with my personal values, I knew this was a real learning organisation and a place where I would genuinely have the space to innovate and drive continuous improvement.
How do you see your role in the business?
Samantha: My role is about leading and evolving the 'people' agenda within the business. Quite refreshingly, the HR programme is in fact largely driven by the employee base here at LN ES, which is represented in the culture and values, the health and well-being programme and a number of other initiatives. Not many organisations manage to achieve the level of employee input that we have here.
I'm just the facilitator really. I use my professional expertise to further the current programmes and to guide, but ultimately, what's so fantastic about my job is that all I'm really doing is setting a few guard rails to help people take their passion forward. It's that passion and interest in driving the HR agenda that really makes this such a great place to work. I spend a lot of my time coaching and guiding, but fundamentally I work with an organisation that is full of energy and motivation to make this an outstanding place to work... so that's a real pleasure.
Within this context then, what are your top priorities as the facilitator?
Samantha: I have four top priorities right now – health and well-being, culture and engagement, developing talent in the business and attracting the best talent into the business. So, I'll explain my focus for each of these.
What's important from a health and well-being perspective is that we create an environment where people are aware of their own needs so that they can then invest in their health and well-being. Ultimately, we want people to be happy and successful whilst they are at work, but also outside of work – because both affect one another so intrinsically. Our business success depends entirely on us having well, thriving, happy people. We have great levels of employee engagement here and that's because we focus on the whole individual and not just the individual in the work context. When I talk about facilitating the 'people' agenda, in the context of wellbeing, culture and engagement; my role is about sharing the wealth of inspiring ideas and practice that exists across the business and bringing a bit of thought leadership from the external environment that might be useful for my colleagues. But it's easy and pleasurable, because our high levels of engagement are genuinely organically developed.
Talent is really very important. I'm committed to ensuring that as a business we create an environment internally that allows people to meet their individual aspirations and goals as well as that of the business' by giving them the space and time to grow and to try things out. This business is exceptionally good at supporting learning – I know myself that not a day goes by where I haven't been pushed out of my comfort zone in some way and that, as we all know, is when we have our best learning experiences. We encourage people to try things, to fail fast, extract learning, and apply it next time so that we all constantly evolve and grow. We really encourage experimentation and have a number of processes and initiatives set up to encourage this. One of the most remarkable things about LN ES is the extent to which it's a safe place to get things wrong – I'm incredibly proud of this characteristic. A priority in the talent development area is around investing in our people management community. Line managers are absolutely critical resources within any organisation and they've had a tough journey over the last decade or so. So much has been devolved to them and its important therefore that we invest in them to make that devolution and empowerment work effectively. They are driving the development, motivation and engagement of the teams they manage, so it's imperative that we underpin the change in their roles with a programme to build capability.
It's also incredibly important that we continue to attract the best people in the industry to join the business. We already have some very talented people working here, but business doesn't stand still and if we aren't constantly working on our talent pipeline, then we aren't setting ourselves up for future success. I'm focussed on creating a reputation whereby people will aspire to work at LN ES. There is a real opportunity to strengthen our employer brand presence in the communities we operate in and we are in a fortuitous position of having access to a significant potential talent pool.
Diversity is really key, including playing a role in furthering the 'women in technology' agenda as well as in other functions in our business where, like many organisations, women aren't represented enough. We are already making headway on diversity with a four percent increase in our gender balance in the time that I've been here and it's down to a number of very deliberate actions. But it isn't enough and so we have more work to do. Recently, I was at a local school speaking to Sixth Formers about careers in IT. I'm delighted to have been invited back to their annual Prize Giving and Speech Day. But we need to build more of these links within the local community. We are also making our recruitment messages 'gender neutral'. We have put all our recruitment literature through a 'gender decoder' software to ensure that the materials don't subconsciously weigh in favour of a particular gender. We are building our activity plan for working with local schools, colleges, universities and through relevant events to really drive this work forward.
Tell us a little bit about your role within the Senior Leadership Team at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions?
Samantha: Only a month ago, a comment in my 360-degree review from one of my SLT colleagues was that I'm the barometer and conscience of the team. I'm really pleased by that – but I also think it's far too generous! I'm part of a team where I never ever have to champion the 'people' agenda. In fact, quite the opposite –– it's very often others on SLT bringing the employee voice to our discussions and plans. This is probably one of the things that inspires me most about working here, HR is never an add- on, it's really in all of our DNA.
I see my role as being functionally agnostic in a lot of ways, I'm part of all teams and therefore involved in everything that goes on in the business. It gives me a good understanding of the organisation and helps me keep my finger on the pulse on the human resource element of the business. In some ways being the only woman on SLT brings a lot of positives too. My voice certainly gets heard when I need it to. But as I said already, we need better gender diversity at senior levels in the business, so I'm always on the lookout for another female with the aspiration and ability to join me on the SLT!
If there's one thing you would like to be known for here at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions, what would that be?
Samantha: Wow, that's a tough question – there is so much that I want to us to achieve! We really developed something very good in our Thrive programme and I would like to establish LN ES here in Leeds as a strong employer of choice for people too. However, if I stopped working here tomorrow, it would make me very proud to say that the one change I brought about in the business was gender diversity and equality across the workforce. I'm terribly passionate about this. Fortunately for me, the company too is sold on this goal, so I'm just providing a gentle nudge in the right direction. But if we can make significant change on this, I'd consider that a good legacy for sure.
Finally, what keeps you busy outside of work?
Samantha: I have my hands pretty full – between being 'mother of the bride' with my daughter getting married next year to preparing for my son to start school in September. My other half is a builder, so we tend to have some sort of development project on the go most of the time!
I also like to take on a personal challenge each year. This year it was participating in the RE Cares Charity Walk that is organised here at LNES (this year for Dementia UK) – for someone who hasn't walked more than six miles in one go, 24 miles is genuinely out of my comfort zone!