In your enthusiasm to secure a new career opportunity, have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you’ll enjoy working in the business you’re interviewing at?
For Matthews Steer’s new Human Resources Specialist, Natalie Neilson, weighing up whether you will fit in with the workplace culture of a prospective employer is a critical step in deciding whether or not to accept a new role.
“I'm a big believer that recruitment is a two-way process,” says Neilson. “You need to feel like a prospective new workplace is somewhere that you want to go every day and spend a significant period of time each week. Ultimately, that’s what a job is.”
Neilson says the key to successful job hunting it to be honest with yourself about whether you feel you will fit in with the business’ employees and culture.
“Everyone who works here at Matthews Steer believes in our culture, and that it’s the right culture for us, but that doesn't mean it's the right culture for everybody,” she says. “We wouldn't want somebody coming in to our business and feeling unhappy because our culture didn't fit them.
“Similarly, if we had a candidate who was technically qualified, but not a cultural fit, that would be a 'no' for us in the same way that someone who didn’t hit the mark technically would also be a ‘no’.
“Workplace culture only works if it’s lived and breathed. It’s okay to hold people accountable to your company culture, and for everybody within the business to feel they're able to do that.”
With more than a decade’s HR experience, Neilson is well qualified to talk about workplace culture.
A law graduate, UK-born Neilson began her career at a recruitment agency, but quickly decided a career in sales was not for her. She segued into a more generalist HR role at the Boston Consulting Group in London before making the moved to Volex, a manufacturing company where she worked for nearly five years.
After Volex, Neilson took time out to have her first daughter, then took on HR consulting work for 18 months before having her second daughter. The family relocated to Australia when her second child turned one. Neilson joined Matthews Steer in August this year, and says she felt the culture the first time she walked through the doors of the Essendon Fields office.
That culture is underpinned by the ‘Nurturing, Optimistic, Inquisitive & Passionate’ values that drive Matthews Steers’ purpose, which is to ‘empower our communities to live their potential’. This ethos dates back nearly 30 years since the business was first established in the garage of founder Ken Matthews’ Keilor home in 1980.
“You can ask anybody who works here about the culture and they’ll use their own words, but they’ll all describe the same thing. That’s really powerful because it reveals what’s important in the business, and shows that the culture is working,” says Neilson.
“We have a mix of teammates who have been here since the early days, who remember the business’ family origins, and help to carry that feel through into the modern-day firm, and more recent employees who bring new and fresh perspectives while honouring that family business ethos.
“I hope that family feel remains because it makes Matthews Steer a unique place to work.”
Having worked in businesses where she’s engaged employees working in different countries, with multiple cultures and languages, operating in multiple time zones, the value of the personal interactions she enjoys at Matthews Steer isn’t lost on Neilson.
“From an HR perspective, I’m looking forward to the time when I can walk into meetings and know, not just how particular colleagues like to work, but also understand their personal circumstances, and what’s going on in their lives and how they’re going.
“That’s unusual for growing companies like Matthews Steer,” she says. “Normally at some point there's a period of time where the business loses its family feel and becomes corporate. Our business has done a really great job of mixing the two elements; making the corporate and the family feel work together in unison.”
With family a significant part of Matthews Steer’s DNA, the business is focused on both providing women opportunities to progress up the career ladder, and supporting all its employees, male or female, who have responsibilities outside work to continue to progress their careers.
“That doesn't have to mean parents,” says Mum of two, Neilson. “It can mean teammates who have parents who need help, or people who are experiencing a period in their working life where it's difficult to juggle things.
“What is key is how we tackle that as a business, and how we create a culture of support around those situations, while also considering how that affects the business.
“As the company continues to grow and gets bigger, I’d like to preserve that moral compass and help to keep that family feel at the centre of the business.”