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Wendy Alexander | 19 December 2019

Three things I learned from my team in 2019

As we say goodbye to 2019, it seemed like a good time to reflect on some of my greatest lessons this year.

We’ve just celebrated the end of 2019 with our friends and families at Coene’s, a waterfront restaurant on Oriental Parade in Wellington. Incredible food, attentive service, and charming wait staff. Wellington even turned on some stunning weather. 


Being an introvert, I’m more inclined be an observer rather than someone who networks like a ninja at social functions. As I sat there in a quiet moment watching my team connecting and sharing stories, I reflected on what it takes to double the size of a company in a year, while holding onto an established and loved culture.  


As a life-long learner, I consume content from a wide range of mediums but what I’ve realised this year is that most of my learning comes from those around me, especially my team. Here are the top three things I learned from my team this year as we head into a well-earned Summer break: 

Growth but not at the expense of culture 

In the last year Kin has grown from a foundational team of 7, to a team of 14. Since we launched in October 2017, we’ve worked with more than 150 clients, filled over 500 roles, and recruited across New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and the UK. We have been incredibly blessed to attract a group of Kinners who live our values and everything we stand for.  


Some of our growth has been deliberate and planned, but truthfully some of it was taking a leap of faith and hiring when the right person came across our radar. Doubling numbers in a short space of time comes with a few speed wobbles, but as we celebrate the end of another year, I realise that with the right people who have the right attitude, anything and everything is possible. 

Building a sustainable business means embracing flexibility 

Many of our crew don’t work full-time, and we encourage and embrace working flexibly. We don’t go in much for metrics at Kin but one thing I do keep an eye on is utilisation i.e. the number of hours each team member is actually working vs how many hours they want to work.  


If somebody commits to working 24 hours a week, and they’re consistently doing 30, something is going to give. As a leader, my resolution every year is to make sure each of my team feel as good in December as they did in January. Recruitment can be a tough gig; it can be as rewarding as it is frustrating, after all, we’re dealing with human beings!  


We start conversations about workload and utilisation early, encouraging team collaboration and sharing of work. With this approach being the norm across the team, my hope is that we will avoid anyone flirting with burn-out. 


With some in the Kin team coming from a background in traditional recruitment agency environments (where there are hefty commission-based placement fees), sharing of clients, candidates and work is not common. Those in our team who have left these environments, have left feeling used up and exhausted. One major benefit of walking away from commission-based recruitment is that there are no territorial barriers to overcome and our team freely and routinely support one another when it’s needed. 


Based on the energy at our Christmas function, I’d say that together, we have the balance about right! 

Creating a sense of belonging is when the best work happens 

I mentioned earlier that we embrace flexible working, I’m a big fan. Our Auckland crew all work from home, with the option to jump into a shared workspace when the need arises. In Wellington we have an office, but most of the team work remotely. My biggest challenge then becomes this: how do we create a sense of belonging and connection in a distributed team?  


Right now, we connect as a whole team using vidcon once a week for a decent catch up. In addition, each team member has a half hour 1:1 each week – anything and everything is up for discussion. This wholistic approach to connecting and a genuine desire to embrace the whole person means we’re connected at a very human level almost all the time.   


But what I’ve learned from my team over time is that the real magic happens when we come together in person.  Each quarter we gather together in one location to invest in our learning and to share. When I observe my team during these Kin days, the best way I can describe it is as a seething mass of happiness. The simple act of shared learning, sharing successes, and sharing failures (where the best learning happens), is priceless. This sense of ownership and belonging is when we all do our best work. 


With 2020 just a couple of weeks away, I’m grateful to have a team who are all-in, and who bring their whole selves to work. 


What are you grateful for as the year draws to a close? 


- Wendy