In our latest interview we caught up with our Head of People, Lesley Berton. Lesley is a member of the MAXIS Executive Committee and has been a vital part of the MAXIS journey since the start of the joint venture.
We found some time to catch up with Lesley for a quick chat to find out all about her time at MAXIS, company culture, career highlights and much more.
Hi Lesley, thanks for joining us. You’ve been at MAXIS since the start of the joint venture in London five years ago, can you tell us a bit about how things have changed in that time and how your role has evolved?
I have! I was here on day one back in 2016 when we got the keys to our temporary offices and things have changed massively since then. In our London headquarters, we’ve grown from a few staff in two small rooms to being over capacity. Globally we’re now at 140 staff and it has been great to be able to welcome so many new faces to the business.
My role has evolved from being the only person in HR doing all the initial set-up to playing a key part in our culture and ‘what it means to be MAXIS’ along with sitting on the newly set-up Executive Committee. It’s been quite a journey if I take the time to stop and think about it.
You mentioned culture there and people are always going to be such an important part of any company culture, do you believe we have built a team that embodies the MAXIS values and how have we done that?
Totally, and that’s been very deliberately by design. MAXIS people are flexible, with a global mindset and willing to learn together. While we have, of course, hired based on experience and ability to do the job, we’ve also had a real focus on the potential people have, and the enthusiasm and energy they bring. I see our values of Accountability, Collaboration and Creativity being lived every day and it’s fantastic.
Of course, we have to mention employee benefits – are benefits more important now in attracting and retaining the best talent compared to at the start of your HR career?
For me, benefits have never been more important than now. Traditional benefits such as pension and life insurance etc will always be a key part of the total package, but when we’re making job offers, I’m definitely seeing more questions around wellness offerings and family friendly benefits… and it’s great to know that at MAXIS we have a strong benefits package in place as you would expect given what we do. People really want to be able bring their whole selves to work and have an employer who understands that everyone’s needs differ.
How do you think the pandemic has changed the role of HR?
Obviously, the pandemic has been awful for everyone, but I think it has elevated the role of HR to being even more of a key voice in business – we’re there to help navigate challenging times. It can sound like a bit of a cliché but people really are our greatest asset and at MAXIS we genuinely look after them and want everyone to succeed both professionally and personally.
We’ve survived and thrived over the last 18 months by trusting our people, asking them to be honest about their feelings and challenges, and giving them tools and time to be effective and healthy while working from home. Like lots of employers we’re moving to an agile working model that allows our people to enjoy the balance of office and home that works for them in the long term.
What advice do you give to new starters joining the MAXIS team to help them thrive in MAXIS and in the industry?
Over the years we’ve hired many people from outside of the employee benefits (EB) world and that has helped to give us new perspectives, ideas and ways of working. To those who do come from outside of the insurance industry, I would say don’t expect to learn the business in your first few weeks or even months! Employee benefits and the MAXIS network is a complex world to understand, and the best way to learn is by listening and speaking to our people who have real expertise and are always happy to share.
It’s also important to remember that everyone in our business – no matter what their role or level of experience – makes a huge contribution to MAXIS and helps us to be a leader in the EB industry.
Also, I would say build and use your internal network. MAXIS has a flat structure and is a friendly and collaborative organisation, so people are always there to help and guide you with suggestions and new ideas. I’ve been here over five years and I’m still learn something new every day.
What is your proudest achievement?
I don’t really have one achievement that comes to mind. Needless to say, I’m super proud of everything we’ve achieved at MAXIS but I’d say I’m most proud of how I’ve handled some really difficult situations. When you’ve worked in HR as long as I have, you will have had to deal with some really tricky topics – large-scale redundancies, company closures, bereavements, colleagues with serious health issues etc. Looking back, I’m proud of the humanity I’ve brought to these situations and knowing that my being there made things a little bit easier for the people involved.
Away from work, how do you like to spend your time?
I have a four-year-old son who just started his first year at school so ‘down time’ is mainly spent around him and his activities. If I do get the chance to go out for a nice dinner or go to the theatre or cinema then that’s an added bonus. I’m continually trying to learn Dutch, but I need to devote more time to it, and walks with our big blonde Labrador “Gus” are always nice too.
And finally… Where’s your favourite place in the world you’ve travelled?
I’m very lucky and have travelled quite a lot, but the only place I have taken multiple trips to is New York. For me it’s the ultimate for culture, nightlife and energy. Next on the list though in Monterey Bay as the ocean is definitely my happy place and seeing a blue whale in real life is top of my bucket list!