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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Hastings

Fostering a Remote-First Culture and Understanding Flexibility, with James Varga and Laura Tejada

Not all tech companies may find it easy to transition to a fully remote work setup. Infrastructure, security, collaboration, and technology challenges can stop some business leaders from adopting a remote-first culture.

On the other hand, many tech companies have successfully embraced remote work and reaped its benefits, such as access to a broader talent pool, reduced office costs, and improved employee satisfaction. DirectID, a global fintech founded in Edinburgh, Scotland, is one outstanding example. They are included in Scotland’s Top Ten Flexible Employers for the second year, and their Founder, James Varga, as well as Laura Tejada, Head of Employee Experience and People Strategy, share with us their journey of how they transitioned to a remote-first culture and what tangible positive impact they have gained since.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [01:50] The remote working journey - James shared their transition to becoming remote-first as a company.

  • [03:38] Laura explains her role as Head of Employee Experience.

  • [04:30] Why settle to be remote-first after the pandemic?

  • [06:47] Personalize the experience for each employee and what it looks like.

  • [08:40] What are the 7 Truths of Flexibility?

  • [10:08] Why incentives should also be inclusive.

  • [12:30] Tech stacks for managing your team’s collaboration and structured communication.

  • [15:45] Creating opportunities for your team members to engage with one another in a remote setup.

  • [21:19] Make a clear development plan for your people.

  • [24:53] Discussion on OKRs and embedding a mindset and culture of achievement.

  • [30:02] How the truths of flexibility should impact your way of working.

  • [33:55] Why Direct ID did not pursue adopting a 4-day work week.

  • [37:17] Tangible benefits that DirectID realized upon going remote first.

  • [42:33] What is next in employee experience for DirectID?

The Seven Flexible Truths

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the new normal has drastically changed the way of working especially in the tech industry. DirectID is an outstanding example of adapting and offering flexible working to its team members. They are included in Scotland’s Top Ten Flexible Employers for the second year, and I am keen to hear James and Laura’s insights on what made them go full remote and how it is impacting their business. They operate under rules of engagement called the Seven Flexible Truths:

  • Flexible conversations

  • Flexible learning

  • Flexible technology

  • Flexible paperwork

  • Flexible locations

  • Flexible relationships

  • Flexible gatherings

“Flexibility as long as it doesn’t impact the 3 Cs - the customer, the company, and the colleagues do what you need to do. Why should I micro-manage you? We are all grownups. We are all adults,” says James. Would you also consider this type of setup in your own business? You will hear from James and Laura how doing so has positively impacted DirectID.

Tangible Benefits of Going Remote-First

Some companies in the tech industry might struggle or find it challenging to transition to remote-first work. For others, what may work best is having a hybrid setup. What were the deciding factors for DirectID to go remote first? James and Laura shared their journey: “Those disruptive years during the pandemic, we have to learn to work in a different way. We embraced really strongly the idea of a remote-first culture. I think companies today have to figure out whether you are physical first, or remote first, or if you are a hybrid company.”

What are the tangible benefits of DirectID going full remote?

  1. Talent and Attracting Talent - “By recruiting by the timezone, we’ve moved from a market thats got 69 million people to one that got 769 million people.”

  2. Better Work + Life Balance - saving on the commute and having the flexibility of working everywhere as a digital nomad.

  3. Efficiency and cost savings - offices are expensive, doing a remote-first culture.

This setup has also positioned DirectID to scale up - which they are in the process of doing.

Flexible Technology to Help Your Team Collaborate

James and Laura also shared the tech stack they use for team collaboration in a remote environment. They use Microsoft Office 365, Asana, Jira, Slack, Hibob, Confluence, and Jira.

“We try to keep it as simple as possible… I think structured communication is more important,” says James. They use these apps and platforms to enable high visibility and high productivity. They also nudge their team to decide collaboratively on the schedule for group meetings and events, which is really a benefit when it comes to structured collaboration.

About DirectID

DirectID is a global fintech founded in Edinburgh, Scotland. DirectID is a financial technology company that specializes in providing innovative solutions for identity verification and access to financial data. They offer a range of services and tools that help businesses verify the identities of their customers and access relevant financial information securely. Today DirectID powers some of the world's biggest brands, from banking, consumer, and SME lending through to the gig economy, gambling, and others.

James Varga is the Founder of DirectID and has always been passionate about leveraging financial services as a global trust network. James has more than two decades of experience in the tech and startup industries.

Laura Tejada is currently the Head of Employee Experience and People Strategy of DirectID. Her background is in the tech scale-up world, helping companies stand out to attract and retain some of the top talent on the market.

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Connect with Rebecca

Rebecca is the Founder and Director of The Lucent Group. She has extensive talent acquisition and executive search experience supporting digital and technology businesses through complex changes and fast-paced scale-up periods. She works with businesses advising on C-level, technical and commercial appointments, workforce planning, strategic talent management, recruitment processes, and associated technology and employer brand development. She has led and built successful teams, led numerous C-level, VP, Director, and Head-of searches, and designed and implemented outsourced recruitment solutions. In 2019 she helped a FinTech client secure a place in LinkedIn’s Top 25 Start-ups in the UK. Rebecca is a member of the REC (MREC), a qualified career coach, Certified Interviewer (CI), and has professional qualifications in FinTech, HR, Leadership, Digital Marketing, Diversity, Unconscious Bias, and Talent Management.

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