Unprecedented with Kath Harrop

Published 31st March 2022

At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to speak to Kathleen Harrop, Chief People Officer of Pomvom, a digital platform company that seamlessly connects guests to their photos and experiences at attractions and theme parks across the UK, Mainland Europe and the US. She spoke to us about how the business has changed as a result of the pandemic. 

Define leadership and what being a leader means to you.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredible leaders during my career and each of them brings something different and unique to the businesses or teams that they lead. For me, being a leader is about connecting the day-to-day activities that each of us does, our own personal growth journey and the overarching goals of the organisation. It’s about making sure that each of us is clear on the role we play in driving the business forward, delivering results and what we’re getting out of the work we are doing and time spent in that organisation.

What would you like your Leadership Legacy to be? 

There should always be a balance between what you put into the work you do on behalf of the company and how that helps you grow your knowledge and your career. I would like my legacy to be that the individuals who I have worked with directly, and in the wider business have been able to bring their whole self to work, that they are clear on the difference that they have made and that they are proud of what we have all achieved together.

What are the “non-negotiable” behaviours that you expect you and those around you to live by?

Respect and integrity are the only two non-negotiable behaviours for me. Those that I love to work with are also committed to driving outcomes, love problem solving and enjoy the opportunity to ‘wrestle challenges to the ground’ and help move the business forward.

What are the Unprecedented opportunities or challenges you/your business are now facing?

During Spring 2020, Covid-19 impacted our emerging businesses across Asia, and we watched as it swept across the globe. Theme parks and attractions closed in the US, Europe and the UK over the course of two weeks, meaning no further income was generated from our business.

Like many organisations, this had a catastrophic impact on us. Our business went into administration and with that came the risk to the jobs of hundreds of people across the UK and globally. We were able to find a purchaser for parts of the business, but not all of it. As a result, we had to reduce and change our business structure, taking the teams down to the minimum we could manage through to the other end of the crisis.

I’m incredibly proud of the teams across Pomvom that worked so hard, during the crisis. I haven’t seen something have had such an impact across the world since 2008. So, what does this mean for the challenges and opportunities we see before us now?

It’s a fantastic time for our business, with a huge opportunity ahead of us as we roll out our new digital product across our attractions and parks. However, people are tired. Everyone has had to do more with less, tackle completely new ways of working, deal with operational challenges and all while worrying about their own health, their families and their personal finances.

So, I see the biggest challenge of 2022 is to bring the joy back into work. Having been lucky enough to take time out from my career in 2019, I know personally, work plays an important part in my life adding purpose, connection and intellectual reward.

As we move on from the pandemic, while being cognizant of the global unrest, the biggest opportunity for me is to align our personal goals for growth and career growth with our propositions as businesses. When there are challenging times, we learn so much. But now is a time to pause and ensure that the balance is right for each of us to provide both individual and business growth.  

Taking this time to make sure we’re all in the place we should be, working on something we are excited about and having open and adult conversations about it are going to be key to tackling some of the wider challenges around talent retention and succession planning. Working on how to make sure we are clear on what our holistic contract is with our teams and how we surface this to future employees will be fundamental to attracting the talent of the future.

Knowing we’re where we want to be, in an organisation that gets us, working on things we are excited about is the key. Having agency on how you work and with whom (hybrid working) is powerful in enabling motivation as we come out of the dark days of Covid and head towards a new and exciting horizon.

Make sure the balance is right and take care of yourself as well as others. 

Looking back to March 2020. If you could change one decision that you made what would it be?

It was incredibly hard for the people that left our company in 2020, given the uncertainty and difficult job market at the time. We knew we had to make the changes to secure the future of the business and the roles we were able to maintain. I would change how we took people on the journey with us during that time. It was challenging with both an administration and furlough but as I look back now, I wonder if there were other options or ways to help the individuals impacted with the change that we needed to go through.

Looking ahead, what are your predictions for the economy? For your business/sector?

Our business sector will go from strength to strength. We are in the entertainment and experience economy and to be honest, after the last two years I think we all need to spend quality time with our families making and capturing special memories together.

Most business leaders are talking about the lack of available talent being the main inhibitor of growth (achieving their strategic goals) – what are your thoughts on this and what are you doing about it?

I think how we all approach work and the role it plays for us has changed. However, some things haven’t. Working on exciting products and projects, with great people, in a way that works for you is as attractive and enticing as ever! Acknowledging this, and understanding that there will be some change while people recalibrate will be key.

Many talented people will also have taken time to decide what they really want to do! Shifting our thinking away from the need for experience to focusing on potential will open up the talent pool considerably. As well as taking a chance on people earlier in their career, hungry for a move.  

So for me, it’s as simple as having a clear proposition and opening up to what good looks like. Be prepared to invest in talent to help them be where they want to be and where your business needs them to be. 

Has your Board Room / Executive Team been disrupted in the past two years?

Other than the changes brought about by the administration and purchase, our executive team has been consistent, with new additional talent being bought in as we listed and increased our capacity to deploy our products.

We’re now focused on how we work together as one global team spread across three different countries to provide the best possible environment for our teams to thrive in.

The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives. In what ways have you recalibrated your own personal priorities and goals

The move to working from home meant that for the first time in nearly 30 years I had been getting close to 8 hours a night sleep! It has also allowed me to connect more seamlessly with my global and distributed teams on sites. I’m going to hold on to the positives of both of those learnings and make sure they stay fresh in my mind as we think about our ways of working for current and future employees.

If you enjoyed this blog and would like to learn more about Kathleen, you can request to connect with her on Linkedin. Alternatively, you can learn more about Pomvom on their website. Read more blogs like this here. 

 

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