Work is changing.
But that’s not just my opinion – it’s a fact. In 2020, the days of working solely for a monthly payslip are long gone. Now, people expect more from their work.
They expect their managers to help them grow personally and develop professionally.
They expect their company to listen to them and act on what they say.
They expect a workplace that runs seamlessly and in a way that is fair, productive and supportive.
I’m no exception to any of this. The fact my job title happens to be ‘CEO’ doesn’t change a thing – I’ve never wanted work to be something I just ‘turned up’ for.
I want to spend my 9-5 doing challenging and exciting work, surrounded by people I enjoy working with, in an environment I love.
That desire has informed every decision I’ve made whilst building Charlie – every step of the way, I’ve tried to build a workplace where I’d want to work myself.
Making work better at Charlie
Ever since we started Charlie back in 2015, we’ve been iterating and experimenting on how we ran ourselves as a company.
We experimented with unlimited holiday – and when we realised it didn’t work, we replaced it with something that did. When members of the Charlie team began to have their first children, we designed a parental leave policy we were proud of.
In 2019, we introduced sabbaticals to give our longest-serving team members space to take stock of their career – and later, we completely reimagined the way we handled career progression altogether.
Those are just a few examples of how we’ve worked internally to make work better at Charlie – but it’s always been a mission that extended to our customers, too.
Helping our users make work better at their own small companies
The reason we started Charlie five years ago was to help banish the administrative HR tasks that every business needs to contend with. Looking at the product now, I don’t think we are a million miles away from achieving that (although there’s still plenty of work to do).
But the truth is that getting the admin done just isn’t enough anymore.
I wrote at the start about how our understanding of ‘work’ is changing dramatically – and with it, so too has what small companies need from ‘HR software’.
It has become clearer and clearer to me that, for Charlie, solving administrative headaches is only scratching the surface.
If we were going to help our users to really make work better, we have to reimagine what Charlie could do and be.
Making work better in 2020 – what are we working on in the next few months?
1 - We're re-releasing our Reviews feature
When we released the first version of Reviews back in 2018, it quickly became clear to us that the feature didn’t live up to the high standards that we set for our software.
The feedback from our customers was pretty resounding – the first iteration of Reviews was clunky, unclear and made it difficult to oversee how a review process was progressing.
Over the past 9 months, we’ve had half of our entire product team focussed on putting that right.
In a couple of months, we’re rolling out a brand new Reviews, completely redesigned from the ground-up. The new Reviews feature has been designed to help small companies build a culture of growth by encouraging meaningful and productive review conversations. We’ve also given admins much, much more oversight over how their review process is progressing and where it’s getting stuck.
2 - We’re bringing HR Advice and our software closer together
Back when we first launched HR Advice in late 2018, we weren't 100% sure how it was going to play out. We knew that a lot of small companies wanted guidance on their HR processes – but we didn’t immediately know the best way of delivering that advice or even how to package it into a service people would pay for.
15 months later and HR Advice has proved immensely popular. We've found there is a real appetite among small businesses for HR advice that has been tailored to their needs and delivered with a human touch.
In 2020, we’re exploring how we can take the best elements of HR Advice and further integrate it with our software.
By creating a service that is human-led yet software-enhanced, we want to create something that can support any small company with the People side of their business.
3 - We’re helping companies make their company culture ‘real’
In the second half of 2019, we spent a long time exploring how Charlie could help small companies make their internal culture more tangible – to take something that has always felt very abstract and help them make it real.
One thing we discovered was the untapped potential of the company handbook. “Once it’s written down”, people told us, “it just lives inside a filing cabinet – out of sight and out of mind”.
In 2020, we’re looking at different ways Charlie can help companies ‘make real’ their company culture by making it part of their team’s day to day reality.
4 - We’re continuing to iterate on and open-source our own company policies
Any effort to make work better for our users really starts inside our own office, with how we run Charlie.
We want to help and empower other small businesses to make work better for their teams by testing and experimenting with new and progressive ways of working – and sharing what we learn along the way (warts and all).
Last week, we unveiled Charlie’s new Mental Health policy to our team. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be keeping an eye on how effective it proves to be and tweaking it as we go. As we discover more about what does or doesn’t work, we’ll share our findings over on The Workspace blog.
5 - We’re exploring how Charlie could become the ‘home’ of every company’s growth and development program
Growing and developing team members is a huge task – and our updated Reviews feature is only one aspect of getting it right.
At the moment, most companies’ growth programs are spread between many different and disparate places. This can make it difficult for team members to really understand the value of the development opportunities they can access and makes managers' lives more difficult than they should be.
In a few months, we’ll be exploring how Charlie could pull together the many different threads that make up a good development program to create something that feels more tangible and valuable for the team member.
The projects I’ve sketched out above are the headline acts – the exciting, flashy stuff that always feels great to work on and release.
But, as ever, we’ll always be working on those things that help everyone using Charlie day in, day out: improving our UX, spotting and fixing bugs and offering world-class levels of customer support.
2019 was a big year for Charlie – and I'm beyond excited for everything that 2020 is going to bring.