The Heart of Success

London-based Syft Online Ltd. is an online staffing platform that provides direct communication between employers and job-seekers and handles payroll. This helps provide clarity and control for all parties. Automating the process enables Syft to charge employers lower fees so that they can pay higher wages, in turn attracting the best workers.

But Syft is more than an app. It offers employers an innovative, cost-effective solution to meeting temporary worker needs. Behind the innovation is a team of people who are passionate about taking the best possible care of their clients, job-seekers and colleagues. That dynamic, compassionate corporate culture landed Syft on SIA’s list of Best Staffing Firms to Work For in the UK and Ireland for the first time in 2020.

Passionate about work. Syft’s positive work environment is a natural result of its founders’ management philosophy. “When you start a company, you want to make sure you’re creating the best atmosphere possible,” says Jack Beaman, co-founder and CEO. “You recruit better people and have more fun by making it a great place to work.”

Beaman and COO Novo Abakare founded Syft in 2015 while they were between jobs. The company experienced exceptionally rapid growth during 2020, despite Covid-19 shutdowns, adding nearly 100 employees while shifting their client base and expanding into the United States.

Syft’s internal employees enjoy comprehensive benefits packages, education and training options, career development opportunities, and a supportive management team. The team’s welcoming approach is evident from a prospective employee’s first contact.

Keir Tutt joined Syft as UK operations manager in November 2020. Before interviewing, he researched the company on employer review sites and learned that Syft employees had a reputation for being passionate about their work.

“If you have people who are passionate about a company, that’s a good sign,” he says. “As I went through the recruitment process, I felt that they were looking after me. Whether I was successful in getting the job or not, they still cared. I could relax in the interview process because they allowed me to demonstrate my skill set and abilities.”

His feelings about Syft proved to be right on the mark. “That open communication chain has carried on,” Tutt says. “There’s never a time you’re not communicated to, whether the news is good or bad.

“I’ve worked with a number of companies, and this is first one where there is a clear line of sight from mission and vision to what everyone does on a daily basis.”

Continuous communications. Open communication and caring for people are part of the Syft culture by design. “Taking care of my team is 100 percent my job,” says Sarah Peck, sales director. “The whole management team wants to make sure that we are approachable. We all respect each other, and that comes directly from Jack and Novo.” Supporting staff during the pandemic has meant being ready to offer flexibility when employees face challenges related to Covid-19, including childcare concerns during school closures or the need for compassionate leave after the loss of a family member.

Syft’s practice of open communication has been challenged by the shift to virtual platforms necessitated by the Covid-19 lockdowns. Ordinarily, the team would meet at a local pub Fridays after work and have semiannual social gatherings to maintain their relationships. They’re also accustomed to meeting with clients in person to build trust and familiarity. The management team has had to think creatively about how to fill that gap.

“We’re used to being face to face with colleagues and clients, so it’s been a learning curve,” Peck says. “We do put a huge focus on well-being for the teams. We offer educational programs on deskercise, yoga, nutrition, self-esteem, lunchtime mindfulness, and loads of fantastic initiatives that the HR team have launched to support the teams and bring them together.”

Sustained communication keeps staff up to date and connected. “On the sales team, we have a morning kickoff and evening finish-off, so there are touchpoints every day,” says Peck. “We have the UK all-hands call on Friday as well, checking in with team members and the management team.

“Then on Fridays we have ‘shift’s end’ — it’s our virtual pub. We have weekly competitions and offer gifts and bonuses to recognise what employees are doing for us.”

Opportunities Abound. Providing employees with opportunities is another important component of the Syft work environment. Peck joined Syft in 2017 with a background in sales. She started as the business development manager and progressed through four different management roles before becoming sales director in June 2020. She has appreciated the opportunities Syft offers her and her colleagues.

“We do a lot in terms of career development,” she says. “I’m a great example; I started in one role and was able to gain promotion along the way. So on top of a great culture, we’ve got opportunities. The new hires coming in are going to be put on a potential career path right away.”

For new employee Tutt, working remotely has posed obstacles to getting to know his team. “I’ve never met any of them in person!” Tutt says. “You can still develop relationships, but you have to work harder in the virtual world than in the office because you’re not having coffee machine chats.” Tutt was introduced to his team and co-workers via online staff meetings, and he has found ways to adapt to virtual communication.

“One of the benefits of being new is you get to ask dumb questions,” he says. “I’m asking questions all the time — how does this work, how would you do it better? Asking those questions, you get a lot of information and build trust. Another way to gain trust is to make things easier for the team. Showing how I can help them breeds trust.”

Syft be nimble. Throughout these challenges, Syft managed the feat of successfully pivoting its business focus during 2020. “At the start of the year, we were primarily supporting the hospitality industry,” Beaman says. “We had been doing logistics and warehousing, but it was a smaller proportion of our business. Then, with Covid-19, hospitality nearly went away.

“Despite that, we will be a bigger company this year than last year. That’s because of our internal team’s ability to be nimble and quick. We had a lot of workers who couldn’t work in their usual fields, but we gave them skills to transition. In the hospitality and warehouse industries, workers can easily cross over into new sectors.”

Syft has also expanded into the United States, with 17 employees in Austin, Texas, and plans to expand further — a task that is also complicated by Covid-19. “It’s like a startup,” Beaman says. “You need to build that camaraderie of working alongside one another, but public safety comes first.”

Outside of continued expansion, Beaman doesn’t dare predict what may happen in 2021. But he does know that Syft has the elements in place for success “The companies that stay nimble and can respond quickly will succeed,” he says.

And Syft’s people will remain at the heart of that success. “Without our fantastic people, it would be very different,” says Peck. “We have a very transparent, honest, fun, vibrant, and entrepreneurial culture. We are positive, passionate, and like to have fun. We all have that shared vision — and that’s why it’s a great place to work!”