Paws is a London-based startup disrupting the global pet industry, making it easier and more affordable for people to care for their pets. We spoke to Niamh, People associate at Paws, about building a culture focused on wellbeing. Her cavachon, Peach also joined us!
A people (and paws)-first organisation
The nature of what people want from work is changing. Employers are becoming more aware of the impact that wellbeing has on their company culture and productivity. Paws is ahead of the trend, looking for ways to enhance the welfare of their employees. As Niamh explains, “if you’re stressed and not getting enough sleep, you’re not going to be as productive in work.”
Niamh is in charge of the ‘keep, grow and infrastructure’ areas in the people team — which includes onboarding Paws’ new starters. It also means making sure everyone’s happy and growing in their roles. Keeping 40+ people engaged, with lots more to join, keeps Niamh pretty busy. But she describes her role as “the best job ever!”
In her previous role, Niamh had more set tasks handed down from above. “With Paws it’s totally different. As a people person at a startup, you jump in and help out where you can. I have total freedom in choosing the projects I get to work on as long as they have an impact — that’s how our wellness week was born.”
Creating a warm (wet-nosed) welcome
Starting a new role can be an exciting but stressful experience. As Niamh has seen elsewhere, “being the newbie, it can be so uncomfortable and nerve-wracking for people.” Paws want to help people make that transition smoothly. That way, the new starter feels “as welcome as possible.” Compared to “not knowing anyone when they first arrive and not having spoken to their manager since the interview.”
Niamh was able to see first-hand that things were done a little differently at Paws. After accepting her role at Paws, she received regular emails and updates throughout her notice period.
“It made me think: ‘they’re so nice keeping in contact with me — they must really care!’ And then coming to the other side, starting in this role and seeing that everything is set-up and automated through Personably, it was just brilliant.”
As part of their pre-boarding process, hiring managers are in touch with new starters. They also try to invite the new starters to a social beforehand to meet the team.
A new Pawster has onboarding sessions scheduled for their first days and weeks — including learning about the company vision, the software they’re going to use and who they’ll be working with. They’re welcomed on their first day by lots of wagging tails and their ‘Welcome to the Pack’ swag box. Even the uncertainty of knowing who they’re going to have lunch with has been taken care of. “It really helps to get the new starter engaged and excited for Paws.”
Niamh told us, “The onboarding process is such a crucial step. It’s the time we get to introduce them to the company culture and make them feel part of the team straight away. If someone feels uncomfortable and unwelcomed on their first day, that’s an experience that can stay with them for a very long time. Our goal is to make the onboarding process as smooth as possible and memorable — in a good way!”
Another nice element of someone's first day at Paws is all the four-legged colleagues. Niamh mentions, “Dogs are icebreakers, they really are! It’s awesome to have them around.”
Maintaining a pawsonal touch
As Paws continues to scale, the People team don’t intend to lose the personal touch that characterises the company, “we know we’re going to grow so quickly but we want to make sure that our attention to detail scales.”
“Onboarding will always be a priority and will be organised to the highest standard, regardless of the number of starters in one day. The fact that Personably can help us achieve that at scale is amazing. We don’t have to worry about people not feeling engaged when they start and can make sure they all have the same amazing start to their Paws experience.”
“Before the team used Personably, it was quite manual. It involved a lot of templates, no automation of emails, and a lot of scheduling for meetings. Now we don’t need to worry about these things — everything is set up and ready to go!
This way Niamh has more time to concentrate on other projects which have included improving the swag box, intro sessions for new starters, bringing people together for monthly socials and organising a wellness week. Niamh told us, “we did about 10 events throughout the week - focusing on mindfulness, mental health awareness, Yoga, HiiT classes, a Terrarium workshop, smoothies and healthy snacks every day.”
Some of the other perks of working at Paws are also related to learning and wellness. For example, Paws use a tool named ‘Sunlight’. This lets employees spend their allocated budget on areas like improving their sleep, physical and mental health, or learning opportunities. Also, everyone at Paws is entitled to a week off when they get a new puppy — dubbed ‘Pawtnernity leave’. Plus there are lots of other things like free breakfasts, unlimited holidays, flexible working hours, access to coaches, and Babylon health.
“And of course, there’s a whole suite of dog benefits as well to match our dog-friendly proposition. On top of that, Peach gets free check-ups with our in house vets. The fact that Paws puts so much emphasis on our wellbeing and growth, shows how much they care about the whole team.”