Martha Lane Fox is a British businesswoman and philanthropist. She entered the House of Lords as a crossbencher in 2013, becoming its youngest female member, and was appointed Chancellor of the Open University a year later. Baroness Lane Fox also chairs Doteveryone.org.uk, the independent think tank and charity she founded to champion responsible technology for a fairer future. She is one of the UK’s first and most noted dotcom pioneers, co-founding Lastminute.com in 1997.
How important is it to build an employee brand and company culture?
Clearly, it’s essential for employees to be attracted to your business but you don’t have to be famous, you just have to be good.
I don’t think you can possibly be prescriptive about what a good culture looks like but the days where companies are able to get away with having no wider social purpose are over. Secondly, culture is people. You can have endless documents about your company culture but it’s all irrelevant
unless the company and the people working in that company are judged on those values.
What role should leaders play in driving these values and company culture?
It’s their job!
How important is it today to look beyond the salary alone?
Everyone wants to belong to something with a higher purpose – to feel like they have meaningful work beyond just being paid for it. That’s why it’s really depressing that the world of work has shifted to a much more fragmented, anxious, insecure one for so many people. One of the great
challenges for the next few decades will be to try and help people who are on zero hours contracts or part of the so-called gig economy to feel as though there’s more value to their work life
What actions are you taking to address the gender pay gap and diversity issues?
The first thing is using my voice wherever possible to highlight it, whether it’s through social media or through speaking about it. Secondly, making sure to keep the focus on these issues on every board I sit on. Thirdly by making sure that within my own organisations there is no gender pay gap.
I don’t run organisations, I only chair or sit on boards, so I’m one removed from the management. My role is to challenge, to ensure the right questions are being asked and to make sure that we have the broadest view of diversity, making the biggest inroads into inclusion that we possibly can.
How is working culture changing around maternity and paternity?
What I have mainly realised as a parent is just how unbelievably ill-equipped we are in this country and how much we have to do to actually receive the full benefit of half of the workforce. It’s absolutely nuts that there aren’t more effective places for childcare, corporations providing better
childcare, and much more shared childcare. I feel the UK scores about one out of 10 right now for our success in this area.
What technologies and tools are you using to make internal communication more effective?
Collaborative working software has got so much better. I’m totally addicted to Slack and I use Trello a lot. I think we’ll look back on email and wonder what the hell we were doing. Work today has got to become more collaborative, removing the unnecessary bureaucracy from your teams.
How is training and development changing to meet business demands?
What has to change is the idea that you go off and you do a course and somehow
receive a qualified ‘tick’. I’m 45 and I read the other day that someone of my age will have something like 11 different jobs or careers in their lives but someone of 20 will have 22.
To my mind that is absolutely no laughing matter – it’s incredibly complex to navigate that life of 22 different jobs or careers. So, training and personal development needs to become more focused on how you help people understand their competencies and meet the need to build resilience,
curiosity and understanding of the shifting world around them.