Jersey: A Culture Where You Can Be Extraordinary: Working Lunch With HR Director Sue Lincoln

Last Updated: 30 April 2019
Article by Sue Lincoln

Most Read Contributor in Jersey, July 2019

It’s a mark of the priorities driving the financial services industry that Ogier's Global HR Director spends less time in her interview talking about recruitment or retention, and far more on the culture that she says sets the law firm apart.

That wouldn't have been the answer one would have expected over lunch with someone in her position a few decades ago, but having spent ten years with Ogier following a 22 year career in banking, Sue Lincoln knows her way around the offshore legal and financial services industry.

Indeed, she has been on the front line of the significant changes that have taken place in recent years in the offshore legal sector.

She considers her function to be much wider than attracting and retaining top talent in a rapidly changing global marketplace. A professional services company like Ogier also needs to create an image and an ethos which reflects the values of the firm.

‘My role has evolved to be more than just looking after people, and the primary responsibility is to preserve the culture of the firm,’ Sue said. ‘That culture includes the people and so must be inclusive, and results in people who spend so much time at work, actually enjoying it.’

The Ogier culture includes such simple policies as a dress down approach for employees, who can dress as they think appropriate – being respected to make decisions about what they wear has underlined to staff that their skills and opinions are also respected, and taken seriously.

‘We’ve moved away from long policies on what you should and should not do and we now trust people to make those decisions for themselves,’ Sue said.

That is a small part of the overall culture which Ogier has worked very hard to create and maintain, particularly over the past four-and-a-half years. That has seen phenomenal growth and significant changes in the way Ogier operates.

‘I’ve really enjoyed that time because the firm is now so different to what it was,’ she said. ‘The owners are now of a different generation and you can do things so much more quickly than before because they're not as tied to the way that things have been done in the past. That has its scary moments, but it is fantastic to see the pace of change that can be achieved.’

The result is a management team with a young profile but which includes a healthy mix including very experienced lawyers steeped in the heritage of a traditional Jersey law firm as well as younger members keen to propel the firm into the future.

That profile, which Sue said helps Ogier stand out from its competitors, has been the result of a much more rigorous approach to the recruitment and development of the team. They no longer recruit just to fill vacant chairs around the table but they bring in new talent to support growth, and rely heavily on internal development to improve efficiency and help fulfil employee ambitions.

‘We have revamped all of our training and learning activity so that we don’t just focus on technical skills, but also on other skills around the business so that people can get more involved with innovation and new technology,’ Sue said.

'That way, lawyers get involved with client-facing innovation projects early on – and that supports our culture of asking questions, challenging old ways of doing things, and encouraging everyone in the firm to explore what’s going on around them, not just the confines of their direct role.

’The output of all of that has included developing the new wills and probate portal, which was not just a group of IT developers creating something new, but business people and lawyers getting involved where they would not normally be expected, and they love it.’

Even the highly experienced management team, including the global managing partner and other busy lawyers have embraced career development and lifelong learning. The result is that a significant proportion of the partnership has come through internal professional development, including seven since the start of 2018. There were also 29 promotions throughout the firm, which is the highest number Ogier has ever made.

This process has been helped by a culture which is consistent throughout the group, so that employees and clients know what Ogier means whether they are in Jersey, Cayman, Hong Kong or any of the other nine offices where Ogier’s employer brand is ‘be extraordinary’.

The culture includes involving the wider team in future planning and there are quarterly employee forums that really do have an impact. As Sue says proudly, a recent staff survey had a 75% response rate which is virtually unheard of in HR circles.

A consistent approach across the whole organisation has many benefits, including the ability to move staff from one office to another either on secondment or for longer periods. Someone has just moved from the Guernsey office to Luxembourg, and Sue herself is an example of flexible working practices.

She spent five years in Jersey with Lloyds Bank before returning to the UK and then being attracted back to the Island to take up the new position with Ogier. She now likes to live back in Bristol where she can get to the other Ogier offices quite easily including popping over to Jersey every month. The firm’s investment in technology means that sitting at her computer in her Bristol garden can be like sitting in one of Ogier’s offices, although regular contact with management and employees is still required. After her visit to Jersey and the Café Zephyr lunch with Connect, she was therefore off to Luxembourg.

That way of working suits Sue Lincoln and it helps her achieve one of the aims of the Ogier culture she helped to create. That is to have fun while you work.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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