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Interviewing Tribepad’s brilliant women: Michelle Clarke

Tags: Diversity and Inclusion, News and PR

As you might expect from a company whose philosophy is ‘people first, product second, profit third’, the role of People Manager is just slightly important here at Tribepad. Michelle has been helping us embody that philosophy for nearly five years.

We chat about manifesting ‘people first’, inclusion and hybrid working, and her growing confidence within HR. 

Hi Michelle, thanks for making time to chat. The last couple of years have been rocky, especially for HR folks. How have you protected Tribepad’s ‘people first’ culture?

Putting people first has to start with our own culture – creating a positive working experience where everyone can bring their best. Or we couldn’t do what we do for clients. 

That’s a big commitment to always listen to and learn from our people, to make sure we’re delivering a workplace that speaks to their needs. Like so many businesses, we were fully office-based before the pandemic so it’s been a massive change, practically overnight.

We’ve spoken to everyone a lot throughout these changes, to understand what’s working, what’s not, where they need extra support. There’s no shortcut to conversations like those. We want to hear everyone’s voice, to make sure we’re building a work environment that works for everyone.

What are Tribepad’s plans for the future? Are you coming back to the office? 

Based on conversations with our people, we’re going to continue with flexible hybrid work. 

I’d say we’re predominantly home-based right now, but some teams choose to come into the office and work together at least a few times a week. 

We actively encourage both – whatever’s right for the individual. We know some people really love working from home, but also some people have felt quite isolated through the pandemic and missed the social side of the office. Being able to nip out for a walk, or lunch, or a post-work drink.

I feel positive about what hybrid work means for inclusion, too. I’m a step-mum, and that’s made me more aware of how tough it can be, to fit different family dynamics into the traditional workplace model.  

We’re proud to champion a culture where everyone thrives, whatever their differences. And to create products that empower recruitment teams to do the same. 

Let’s talk about inclusion, because that’s a huge part of making work better for everyone. How does Tribepad prioritise inclusion?

I think it’s important to be honest and humble: we know we’re not perfect. It’s notoriously difficult to increase female representation in tech, and we often get predominantly male applicants for roles. We’re taking practical steps like rewording job adverts and briefing recruitment agencies but there’s still progress needed. 

There’s a lot of change happening right now and we’re taking an explorative approach; learning as we go. But we’re committed to the journey – and we know we don’t know everything. 

We’re working with an external HR consultant and chatting to an ED&I consultancy at the moment, for example, to give us an external perspective. They’re helping us make sure we’re actively designing for inclusivity, both in our culture and through our products. 

Lots of people are worried about the impact of remote work on culture. How will you protect Tribepad’s culture when people work from different places? 

Having a strong culture to start with certainly helps! The challenge with hybrid working is meeting everyone’s needs. Some people might really miss a busy office, while others would much rather work at home.  

We actively encourage our teams to collaborate and connect, and it feels like there is a strong sense of connection running across Tribepad. We can always do more though, and now restrictions are easing there’s more scope to physically meet up, which is great. Especially for those who are new to Tribepad. 

Where do you think that strong culture has come from?

Our culture is all about relationships. The better you know people, the better you work together, I think.

We’ve always had a strong social scene, led by Dean. When we were working in the office we’d often get together after work and build relationships in a social environment. Now we do lots online too. 

But it’s not about forcing people to socialise if that’s not what they want. We’ve always put a big emphasis on the individual. Everyone is unique, with different life experiences and different preferences – the workplace has to respect that. 

That approach runs through everything here. Take professional development. We’re big on helping people upskill, so we can keep building the right skills in-house to continue delivering an amazing product. But we completely understand the timing has to be right for people. There’s no point creating stress by mandating certain courses. We want to provide a platform for people to grow in the right way and time for them. 

What’s your own professional development journey been?

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to evolve with Tribepad. When I started here my role was part-HR, but I also had the chance to work in various roles, like supporting the customer success team, running training for the ATS, and creating training materials. That gave me a great understanding of how our other teams work. 

I’m now finishing my CIPD qualification! When Tom [Tom Webb, COO] started here, he was immediately an excellent coach and supporter, helping me develop. He encouraged me to think more about what I wanted from my career and that’s how I wound up taking my CIPD.

We’ve also been working with an external HR consultant, Helen Roberts. Helen has been absolutely amazing for me and my development, as well as for Tribepad as a whole.

A colleague and I recently attended a fantastic two-day programme developed by Helen and her business partner Kay. The programme is called ‘Talented Women’ and its aim is to help women overcome any limiting self-beliefs. Tribepad has now invested in the programme further so all women here can attend if they choose, with brilliant feedback so far. 

Training like this has made me more invested and passionate about doing the right things, making sure we’re turning up in the right ways for our people and clients. 

We talk a lot about the value of finding your true work tribe. Does that ring true for you? 

Yes, absolutely. I’ve worked for quite big companies in the past and you can feel quite lost. A bit of a number. I joined Tribepad because I wanted to join a smaller organisation where I could have an impact. Here I can see how the things I’m doing make a difference, to clients and to our people internally. It’s made me feel a lot of passion, knowing there’s a lot I can do here to influence change and make people’s experiences more positive. 

Tribepad has given me more confidence in myself. When I think about everything I’ve done in my career, I’ve got lots of experience in different areas. But until Tribepad, I’d never really pushed myself. I don’t know if I’d have done things like my CIPD, or like taking the role of People Manager, without Tribepad. I think I’d always have had that niggling voice in my head saying, ‘you can’t do this. You’re not good enough’. 

Well, we think you’re more than good enough Michelle! Thanks for making time to chat. 

Tribepad is a platform for better for everyone. At our core we believe the right job is life-changing – and we’re excited, and privileged, to be part of that. Come and change lives with us?

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