How Twinkl is successful in keeping employees engaged and happy

I literally had tears in my eyes while I said goodbye to the team. To those lovely faces I had only met on screen and never had the chance to see in 3D. I still hadn’t sat down for the cup of coffee we kept talking about having one day.

I sat in my car as I needed to go out and get bits and bobs around the same time as we had scheduled our goodbye call. I parked the car with a lovely view over the ocean and the beautiful mountains you can see from Reykjavík and dialled in…

Twinkl made the best of a tricky situation

I had the honour of working at Twinkl during my last months in the UK and my first weeks in Iceland.

Twinkl is a company I knew as a parent. During Covid-19 times I had crawled their website for material for home-schooling. As a former kindergarten teacher, I got a little too excited when I saw all the fantastic resources they had to offer. The creativity put into their efforts and professionalism shone through and made choosing between material almost difficult. There was so much fun to choose from!

Obviously, these unprecedented times meant a company like Twinkl grew, attracted attention and was quite successful.

However, this is not a given.

Bad resources, unmotivated staff, lack of updates etc would have done the opposite. Being the right company at the right time with the right people will determine whether you make or break.

Getting settled in a new job, at home

After an interview with 2 people from HR I got offered a job as a digital copywriter.

I couldn’t believe my luck! Getting paid for writing! …and getting a job while many others were losing theirs.

It revolved around SEO and that was a little scary.

Luckily for me, I had used lockdown to learn the basics and therefore understood some of the terminology and wasn’t completely like a rabbit in the headlights when they spoke about things like Keywords, SERP’s and Meta description. However, google console and other google tools scared the bejesus out of me as they seemed overcomplicated.

I may undersell myself, however, I always say that I am not a very technical person. Therefore, I knew I would have to take in as much as possible and soak up as much knowledge as I could.

At Twinkl this was nothing to worry about. From day one I was in a team. In this big company I was in a small personal team. Even before I started doing anything of importance, I was a part of something.

The first weeks were all about learning. We used Google classroom and went through our material there. It had been planned well and everything was in bite sizes, manageable and clear.

During the time we were doing our courses we still met our team every morning. While we studied we also had live sessions where we were introduced to different departments of the company, as well as live lessons in more complicated matters, where we had the opportunity to ask questions.

While we studied we were slowly eased into fulfilling our role by doing tasks based on real examples and finally we got to go live.

During all this time we were in touch with our team and team leader.

We were also in touch with other people and everyone was super helpful and willing to jump in when needed.

On Fridays there was both a quiz and we would also have a coffee meetup with other people, from other teams which made it feel like being in an office setting and you randomly bumped into people from different teams and departments during a coffee break.

The nature of different meetings

I have heard people say you shouldn’t have a meeting just for the sake of it and that meetings can be a little too disorganized and that sometimes people meet up, talk for hours and walk out with nothing. I’ll agree hours of chat and no suggestions or real solutions sounds like a waste. However, what I found is that meetings don’t always have to have a purpose and they don’t always have to be efficient.

Some have celebrated the fact video meetings seem more to the point and more efficient.

I celebrate companies that can actually get people to relax enough to have fun, talk and be themselves on these calls, as they would by the watercooler.

Twinkl’s culture made this possible.

The Friday chat made this easy, I spoke to people from other teams about doctors, grandparents and various random things.

My team agreed that we all felt drained on Wednesdays. Bang on in the middle of the week most the team members felt they hit a wall and were creatively drained. The muse seemed to fly off to somewhere else at this time of the week. Therefore, my fantastic team decided to press pause and meet up for a chat and recharge at exactly this point of the week.

We put everything aside and had a tea/coffee chat. Moaned about how drained we were, what we were doing etc. and didn’t feel alone. This really helped in feeling as a part of something and worked as a reminder, that even though we were working from different rooms, in different buildings and sometimes in different cities we were all going through the same stuff.

Our daily morning team meetings were different. They usually had a purpose but this was a shared purpose, for you and your team. Sometimes we shared what we were doing and answered each others questions. Sometimes we were asked to reflect on a certain topic and share our thoughts. This really helped us to get to know each other both personally, and professionally. Some meetings were educational, either our team leader would go through things we needed to know or learn or he would invite someone into the meeting to teach us about something.

Once a week our daily meetings would usually be fun/silly. Our team leader would prepare a game or a discussion where we would often end up in stitches laughing. Pictionary was especially fun!

My team leader took time off twice. While he was away, we were allocated different teams.

The first time this happened I felt like they had broken my band up and as if I shouldn’t enjoy anything the other team did.

However, it was a great experience to get to join in with a different team. I felt just as welcomed there as I did in my own team and again, felt like I knew more people “around the office”.

The first time I was with a team that wasn’t mine we played a game, we got a list of items to gather in a given timeframe. Once everyone had their items we did a little show and tell. It was funny and very enlightening. You got to see things you would never see if you would only do things at the office or go to a pub down the street. It was so much fun I felt a little guilty towards my own team, like I was cheating on them by enjoying myself!

Once my week with this substitute team was over I said goodbye to them and looked just as much forward to meeting them in real life as I did my own team.

What simply can’t be replaced remotely

The hardest thing about working under these circumstances was not to be able to tap the person sitting next to me on the shoulder and say: “How do you do this?” or “Could you look at that for me…”.

The thing with technical things is, while you are gaining confidence it is incredibly valuable to be able to ask someone to sit by you while you execute certain things and see whether you are doing it right. Or to have a quick look at something and nod or give you a few pointers if needed.

This is difficult when everyone is working remotely.

While you can seize a moment when someone is not busy in real life, you don’t know what people are up to at different times when they are somewhere else.

You have to send them a message and risk disturbing them or not getting an answer for quite a while if they are clever enough not to be disturbed while they are busy on a task. This can delay your own work or you might use something you are not sure is completely up to the standard you want it to be.

Of course, I also miss meeting people in real life, walking the halls of my new work place etc. but this was the one problem I felt was hard to overcome.

At Twinkl they did everything they could to bridge this gap and to be honest, they did so well. I simply feel like no matter how great your efforts are at these bizarre times, nothing will completely compensate for real life settings. However, the fact that this is the only fault I found while working there shows how amazingly they are doing.

Saying goodbye

…when the team answered I thought I would be as cool as a cucumber but as soon as I opened my mouth to talk I could feel my voice starting to break and my eyes fill up with tears. I couldn’t even make out the beautiful scenery anymore. I turned the camera to show it to them, and wipe away the tears, without them noticing.

I had spent 3 months as a part of this amazing team! I had gotten to know its members. They were my mates and colleagues.

I was in a team filled with talent, empathy, humour, and strength. They all had such fascinating stories of their own and were great human beings.

With tears in my eyes I invited them all to visit once covid was over, I told them I couldn’t believe I was saying goodbye before I even got to meet them and that it was not easy for me to accept the fact that the day we would meet in the office, look at each other in 3D and have tea/coffee in real life wouldn’t come for me.  

Twinkl for me is a company that truly can say it manages to make its employers feel as if they are a part of a team, that they belong, even though some of them haven’t met a single person off screen.

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