Quick fire with Paul Stokey, head of Shoosmiths’ employment law team
From running a ‘think happy’ workplace to raspberry doughnuts, Paul Stokey tells ThePeopleSpace how legal firm Shoosmiths gets ‘the people bit’ right
We are delighted to announce that award-winning law firm Shoosmiths has become the ThePeopleSpace's legal Brand Partner. We caught up with Paul Stokey, employment partner, to discover what it’s like to work at a firm described by employees as having an ‘infectious buzz’; why one client described him as “the most emotionally intelligent lawyer” he has ever met; and what our readers can expect from Shoosmiths’ contributions.
You talk a lot about the ‘people’ bit of the business. Why is this important to Shoosmiths?
Every business will say that people are important to them but I believe that what we do at Shoosmiths more successfully than most is to bring that to life. We know that in everything we do, in every internal and external decision we make, our people are at the core of those decisions. We want our clients to know that, whenever they are talking to our people, those people have got a smile on their face and they're happy and they're engaged. You can't force this, you can only achieve this by creating the right environment to enable your people to be happy, positive and constructive.
Your values are ‘pulling together’, ‘talking business sense’, ‘being within reach and responsive’, and ‘taking initiative’. Can you give us an example of when you all ‘pulled together’?
A good example is a project with which we're about to go live for a UK-based, multi-site organisation. We're carrying out what we think is one of the largest training exercises for this client. We've got 12 sites throughout the UK and we’re pulling together to find the best people for the project and client, regardless of where they are based, in order to best meet the client's needs. It’s bespoke training that is helping the client get the most from its people. One of the key ways we differentiate ourselves from our competitors is that we not only work with clients to resolve disputes and issues, but also try to ensure their business as a whole improves. Training is at the heart of that.
You’ve been rated a Best Employer for 13 consecutive years. Can you sum up why you are a great employer in three words?
‘Listen’, ‘learn’ and ‘care’.
Can you give us a bit more information about how this works in practice, please?
Well, we’re constantly listening to all of our employees, whether it be in a one-to-one, which we have every month with everybody, or in everyday interaction. It’s not a shallow tick box exercise but a genuine process to understand what's really motivating, or potentially demotivating, the employee at that one time. This enables us to make changes to ensure we get the best from them and ensure they feel they can be the most productive and the happiest they can be with us. What we learn from this is how we share information as a senior management team and as a partnership group, as well as constantly sharing best practice in terms of how we look after our people. We put caring at the heart of everything we do.
You work with a wide range of businesses, from FTSE250 firms to tech giants and some of the largest banks. Is there any sector you would love to help out?
We would like to talk to any business that is genuinely interested in improving its own businesses through getting more from its employees. I strongly believe it’s a win-win situation – if you create a happier and more content workforce you can get more from that workforce. Everyone knows that in HR, but we know that, from a legal aspect, we can help businesses to achieve this.
Krispy Kreme is one of your clients. What is your favourite doughnut flavour?
Glazed raspberry. It’s a classic and definitely the favourite in the Leeds office!
Finally, what can ThePeopleSpace audience expect from your contributions?
Clear, concise insights from a legal perspective but without the waffle! There will be a practical emphasis on maximising the opportunities your workforce presents, but at the same time minimising disruption and issues that can be thrown up by the workforce. This will be through practical applications now, but also looking at the growing issues around ethical data use, people analytics and their implications to the future workplace.