Sunday Times Top 100: We Celebrate Our Fifth Award



When we made the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work for List for the fourth time last year, it would be fair to say I was pretty chuffed. To have made the list for the FIFTH time this year, coming 53rd on the list, really does feel like an amazing achievement. Each time we’ve heard we’re in, I have to confess on the one hand to feeling a little surprised: only to reproach myself and think “why on earth am I so surprised?!” Let me explain.

My role at Search Laboratory

When I first joined Search Laboratory in 2012, I knew I was onto a winner. Honestly, this is the best HR job out there. As Head of HR, not even Richard Branson waving an unlimited-holiday policy and a business seat to Bermuda could tempt me away. We have an amazing team; they are caring and considerate, whilst having an insatiable appetite for innovation and development. Working in an environment where staff love to learn is wonderful. There’s an enormous sense of family, and Ian (our CEO) truly is at the heart of everything we do (happily seen delivering cake to everyone on a tea trolley on the company’s birthday, or playing his guitar with our very own “Search Pistols”). 

I’ve worked in companies in the past, where I and the managers banged the Times 100 drum; where we had the full PowerPoint slide deck and quarterly meetings to discuss what everyone was going to do, how they were going to do it, and by when. We had SMART goals that were communicated to the teams. The approach here at Search Laboratory is quite different.

What makes a Sunday Times Top 100 Employer?

The clever people at Best Companies, in their 16th year of running the survey, know what elements lead to an engaged workplace. The term “employee engagement” is frequently bandied around by HR professionals, and by this we mean: having the right environment where people feel looked after, cared about, developed, nurtured, and rewarded enough that they are motivated to give their greatest efforts for the company’s success. The essential ingredients are broken down in the survey into the following categories:

  • Robust leadership
  • Having a positive affinity with the company
  • Good relations with your manager
  • Opportunities for growth and development
  • A strong sense of “team”
  • Good pay and benefits
  • A company who gives something back to the world around it.

Our unique approach

Quite a lot to go at there. So, how is it that we’ve made the list five times? What is our strategy? For starters, there’s just something about the people we hire. You know a “Search Labber” as soon as you meet them. They fit straight in and bring passion, energy and digital know-how to the table. They don’t take themselves too seriously and (cheesy as it sounds), enjoy a work-hard, play-hard culture. We have a very strict recruitment policy where only the best get through. I would say the team mould us, just as much as we mould them.

On a day to day basis, we actually don’t talk about Times 100 at all. We have a management team who already want to do the right things in these areas, simply because they are the right things to do. Contrary to every management book or seminar on effective goal-setting, we don’t meet or plan for Times 100. The fact we employ people who care so much, seems to be a winning formula for us. Of course, sometimes as an employer, we get it wrong. We’re certainly not perfect, but we try to learn and improve the way we do things. The digital industry is naturally one of continuous improvement, and this approach spreads to everything we do without needing to be coerced.

Now of course, I don’t want to do our management team, or staff, a disservice by implying we don’t do any work that impacts these areas. We do, but it is happening in a very organic way. The only time we actually talk about Times 100 is when the results come out. Making the list is like being given the winners rosette each year for our hard work, but without knowing we’d actually entered the race. It tells us that the projects we’re working on are the right ones, rippling along in the background and without the need for us to jump up and down about them.

I’d like to say a personal congratulations and well done to all my colleagues at Search Laboratory, thank you for making my job so rewarding. Working for a Sunday Times Top 100 Employer is certainly something I feel very proud of. Here’s to making it for the sixth time next year!