We spoke with Jo Bean, Head of People, about her journey from Thomsons’ client to Thomsons’ team!
Hi Jo, could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
“Sure! I’ve worked in HR for the last… oh too many years… 15 years! I started working in HR at Samsung. I joined when I came back from travelling and worked my way through all sorts of HR roles. I went from being an HR administrator all the way through to business partnering, specialising in reward, to heading up the reward team….which is how I met Thomsons and became a client. I’ve been head of the people team here at Thomsons since September 2017.”
Can you give us a little insight into your introduction to Thomsons and the journey you’ve been on?
“Back in 2012 I came across Thomsons at the Employee Benefits Live event. They had a big stand that looked like an old sweet shop with little jars of sweets. It was amazing and with my sweet tooth, I was attracted to that! But I was looking for benefits software as well. Interestingly, it was my first day back from maternity leave after having my daughter, so it was a really strange first day, but also a really good first day as I met Thomsons.
We rolled out Darwin at Samsung, under our own benefits brand ‘Highlights’. We started our journey from there, for example centralising payrolls – we didn’t have one system that could actually deliver what we needed to do. Darwin was the perfect solution to help us monitor benefit spend, see how much we were spending, but more importantly communicate how much we were spending on their benefits packages to our people through a total reward statement. We worked on smooth-lining our operation and bringing in salary sacrifice… we didn’t even have that back in 2012. It seems quite normal now but it was a big thing in 2012, so we did a lot of work with Thomsons.”
What did you enjoy most about working with Thomsons as a client?
“I loved working with the people, I loved the whole atmosphere. I always used to love coming into the office when I was visiting to do testing, or setting up the benefit window, or talk about comms. Everyone was so passionate about what they did, bringing brilliant, cutting-edge ideas to the table. I also helped create Thomsons’ Client Journey framework, giving my perspective as a client. I was always happy to be a reference for prospective clients that Thomsons were hoping to bring on board. I spoke at Reward Club Days (our client-specific thought leadership events), hosted ‘voice of the client’ sessions... I did quite a lot and was always able to talk passionately about what I do, but also how Thomsons helped me achieve it.”
What made you make the leap from working with to working for Thomsons?
“I feel like I’ve known Thomsons for years, but it was obviously very different going from a client to joining the pink side. I’ve loved becoming part of the Thomsons family. It’s been a really interesting journey, but ultimately I think what attracted me to join Thomsons was the people – and finding that everyone is just as great as those initial seven Thomsons people I already knew.”
How did you go about applying for the role and what were your first impressions?
“I applied for the role when I saw it come up! Having been at Samsung for so long I think I underestimated how big a change it was, even though I felt like I knew Thomsons. I knew how to use Darwin and I knew the benefits industry, but I still had to learn how things were done from a provider perspective. I had to look and learn fast to determine how to scale our people operations to fit with Thomsons’ massive growth.
But I’m absolutely loving it! Going from being a client to part of Thomsons has been a really interesting transition. As well as there being a lot more people than I initially realised, I found a lot more out about our global teams, and how they deliver everything, virtually around the clock. It’s made me really passionate about making sure all our people have a great employee experience no matter where they are based, with a brilliant benefits package across the globe and relevant benefits for the country you’re in.
Helping our people with their moments that matter is really important to me as well. We’re changing benefits for good for all of our clients, but actually as the people team we need to be able to change benefits for good for our people. It’s twofold for us. We are our own client, we have our own version of Darwin: 361, which I absolutely love as it brilliantly describes the extra degree that everybody puts in here at Thomsons to live our values, and be the fantastic pink people that we are.”
What do you feel you’ve learnt about Thomsons since joining?
“It’s such a high-tech, high-growth industry we work in, it’s been amazing to be part of that journey. As a client I don’t think I really appreciated the work and effort that goes into creating that – it’s given me a much better understanding of how our technology works and is delivered globally.
People still ask ‘Jo, what would you have done as a client?’ – even today I’m still a client of Darwin so I’m always happy to add my thoughts. I think it’s important to share what we do as a people team with our clients. I went along to talk to a potential new client of ours recently and I spoke at Reward Club Day on Diversity and Inclusion. It's a really purpose and values-led company. Our values of being brilliant together, changing everything, delivering excellence and maximising potential are absolutely lived and breathed into our everyday activities and I’m proud to share examples of this with everyone.
I think it’s really important to call that out. We are changing benefits for good for all of our clients in very different ways. We’re helping reward, benefits and HR professionals do so much more in their roles, and give their people a much better employee experience through our software Darwin. I’d much rather think about things from our people’s perspective. Ultimately the people team are here to help Thomsons achieve all of its strategic goals, and we cannot do that without Thomsons People.”