Behind the scenes of the impactful roles we place, the teams we build, our dedication to tackling climate change and sustainability challenges, is our ever-growing and passionate team. In our ongoing ‘Faces of Acre’ series, we want to shine a spotlight on the people who make up the Acre team and give our employees a platform to share their passions, speak up on important topics and talk about the pro bono work they take part in.
In our latest Faces of Acre instalment, we sat down with Anna Keen, Acre’s Performance Director, to discuss the Alliance process which is conducted as part of the development of Acre employees. Anna discussed the value of the Alliance process, her passion for developing people and why the Alliance is such an important part of the development of people and the success of Acre.
What is the Alliance and where did the idea come from?
Quite honestly, like most of the best ideas, we stole it! Back in 2015 LinkedIn sent me a book to review written by their founder Reid Hoffman called ‘The Alliance’. Having spent years in recruitment and leading teams the book genuinely changed the way I look at employment forever. The general premise of the book is that the employer/employee relationship is broken and for generations, it has been based on the company holding all the control and power. The book explained how in the war for talent they were challenging this model and had introduced a simple yet powerful structure in which to have a two-way contract that increased the value of both the individual and the organisation. This resonated so strongly and has personally impacted how I see my career, how I lead people in my care and also how I view the world of recruitment.
Why was the Alliance introduced at Acre?
The catalyst for introducing the Alliance to Acre was a frustration with our existing appraisal process which had become demotivating and ineffective. Every year we would go through a labour intensive, bureaucratic exercise to score and assess behaviour and then conduct awkward meetings that actually eroded trust rather than built it.
It was time to try something new and I felt that the Alliance could really work for Acre as it was so clearly aligned to the values that are key to who we are as a business. It allowed us to live into Integrity, to truly collaborate and to really innovate around how we develop and support our people.
In my six years at Acre, I genuinely believe it’s one of the most powerful things we have done as a business. We moved from having conversations about performance scores to ones about our teams' ambitions and motivations, from completing long winded appraisal forms to co-creating simple statements on what individuals wanted to achieve in the next 12 months that would enable Acre’s growth but also allow them to acquire skills, experience and exposure that supported them to achieve their goals within Acre or beyond.
Why is the Alliance so important to Acre’s culture?
It creates an opportunity to build trust and transparency from day one. When someone joins us, it provides clarity on how we are going to help develop them in both their career at Acre and beyond. It sets a different tone for how we have development conversations with people and challenges us and them to look beyond conventional development and focus more on supporting them to gain skills but also different experience and exposure. This process is not only aligned to their long-term ambitions, but we also support them to create time to focus on certain values aligned projects makes for a more holistically fulfilling experience at Acre. For example, Jack Mulloy, our Senior Consultant for Sustainable Finance, was given permission to temporarily step back from his work to take part in pro bono work for Sea Shepherd, along with Catherine Harris, Sector Director for North America, to work on the board for the Future-Fit Foundation. The more fulfilled people feel, the better their wellbeing and productivity will be. As a society, we have deluded ourselves to think that people turn up to work and we will take everything that is thrown at them.
Throughout their time at Acre, we encourage every member of our team to get curious about their values and behaviours, recognising the more you know about yourself, the more authentic you feel and the easier it is to bring your whole selves to work. My ambition for Acre is that we are a group of diverse individuals with different experiences and perspectives but that are highly aligned on our mission, a place where everyone feels like they can belong.
It is honestly a privilege to conduct the Alliance process and see the passion and potential of our employees. I hear from people who have already achieved so much at Acre and yet there is still growth in their role and development, and they want to achieve all of this at Acre.
How do you know it’s working?
We get constant feedback from the team about how refreshing and rewarding this approach is but funny as it sounds, we know how successful we have been with the Alliance when it comes to people moving on from Acre. We have a low staff turnover, but it goes without saying that people do move on from Acre and we feel proud that overall, we are helping to enable this move. Not because they aren’t good at their job, far from it, but because we can no longer offer them the challenge or growth they need, and they have ambitions to take their career elsewhere. Through these conversations, we have supported people to go into industry, to return to education or to completely change careers and in turn, they have worked with us to leave a sustainable legacy within Acre. They become part of our Alumni, advocating us in the market, referring us work and inputting into our longer-term success.
Have you always had a passion for people’s development?
My parents are both teachers and when I completed a skill set test at school it came back that I should get into teaching too, but it just wasn’t for me. I have always got a lot of joy out of watching other people succeed and supporting them in achieving their goals. I'd always enjoyed the training element of my previous roles, developing people and watching them thrive. I believe the real success of a company is based on the people who make up the team and how well they’re looked after. The revenue is just an outcome of the success of how well developed and supported the people are.
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