Empathetic, intuitive, creative, kind. They’re just a few of the words we’d use to describe the wonderful human that is Claire MacLeod, Head of Learning and Development here at Meet.
Since joining us full-time and emigrating to San Diego, Claire has been non-stop, transforming our L&D function and along with her trusty team, supporting our people across our five global offices.
Whilst dropping by our London HQ for a flying visit, I got the chance to sit down with the lovely Claire to chat all things L&D, from how it all began to her plans for the future! So, without further ado, let’s get you clued in…
Let’s get going… How long have you been at Meet?
Okay, so on a permanent basis I’ve been with Meet for around 8 months, joining the business back in January. Prior to that, I was with Meet as a freelancer for around a year and a half.
I thought you were here longer for some reason.
It’s a funny one because I really have fallen for the business – it’s just a great place to be! Consequently, it feels like I’ve been here a lot longer. I have to remind myself it’s actually only been a relatively short period of time!
I feel that way too! I think it’s down to the people because there’s such a nice balance between new starters and old timers here at Meet - it keeps things exciting!
And that’s a really lovely thing to see; that we’ve got so many new starters so you can see the business growing and evolving, and yet at the same time, we’ve really developed the pattern of being able to retain people long-term which is really exciting.
It’s such a nice atmosphere to be in. I feel like everyone is individual with their own unique quirks, but also like the same kind of person. I don’t know, I just love everyone here.
I know what you mean. It’s true. It might sound like a bit of cliché, but whoever you bump into at Meet, they tend to be really nice human beings and they genuinely want to do well, and for the business to do well. That’s what makes working at Meet an absolute pleasure.
Yeah – so lovely! So, what’s the story of how you went from freelancer to permanent?
So initially, when I joined on a freelance basis, I was covering maternity leave. Then we got into more projects, and it felt like there was a real need to build out the L&D function as the business grew. Being able to focus on that was great because it’s actually something that I really love!
I started to build a team and it was at that point I began to really develop an affection for the company and the team and was thinking, ‘ok, it’s going to be hard walking away from this’.
As a freelancer, that’s what I normally do. I’ve worked with countless businesses on short-term projects and essentially work to make myself redundant, leaving a company with a function in place.
With that said, I always felt it would be a shame not to be part of Meet’s full story. Then, towards the end of last year, we started talking about me potentially coming on board on a permanent basis, and in January that became a reality.
That’s so nice! How has the L&D department developed since you’ve been onboard?
It’s changed a lot, from being part of the people function to a standalone team with a global presence. We still work really closely with the people function, and I never want to change that – we work on a lot of collaborative projects, and it makes total business sense for us to do so, but as the business has grown, we’ve needed to develop our L&D offering separately.
Previously, L&D was focused on new starters, so one of the things we’re steadfast about is ensuring that there’s support available for people throughout their careers at Meet. We want everyone’s development journey to be continuous, so they feel they’re getting the right sort of challenges and the right sort of support to succeed.
What does that look like?
So, the first project – going back to new starters – was to build out Meet DNA; a 12-week onboarding program that’s loaded with knowledge about the first few months as a recruiter.
We’ve continued to adjust Meet DNA since it’s launched to reflect the changes within the business as it’s grown. For example, historically, Meet was quite a Permanent-heavy company, but now Contract recruitment has become a huge part of our offering, as well as the development of our Partnerships division. We need to be able to cater to all our teams equally and DNA now does that.
Another shift we’ve seen is more people getting involved in business development activity and winning their own clients earlier in their careers. The new Meet DNA formula ultimately takes people on that journey.
That’s really cool – I’m sure the recruiters will be buzzing to hear about that! For you personally, what do you love most about L&D?
Well, I started in recruitment myself and I enjoyed the sales process, but for me, there’s nothing better than seeing people develop and grow and put things into practice to succeed. That’s what keeps me coming back!
Plus, every day is completely different. Even if you’re working with the same material but with a different group of people, they’ll bring a totally different colour and a different shape to it, and that makes it really exciting and a real challenge.
You’ve totally revolutionised L&D in the short time you’ve been here, what’s coming next?
That’s a funny one because if you asked Hannah and Anton, they’d probably say one of my development areas is that I’m never fully satisfied!
We’ve now developed Synthesis, which is our advanced sales program for people at the 6-9 month mark. On top of that, we’ve got Partnership-specific modules and our Business Development Bridge, which sits in between DNA and Synthesis.
What’s next is looking at our leadership training and external coaching programs. I’m hoping to really redesign that, from entry-level leadership upwards. I want to make sure that coaching is available to a much wider pool of individuals. To all of us in the senior leadership team, coaching is hugely important – we’ve all had coaches ourselves and have experienced first-hand just how beneficial it can be. We want to incorporate that to really help our people succeed and support them in their development.
From there, it’s about specialist training. So, one of the ways people in my team can develop is through building their own teams, but another way is to move towards a specialism. For example, Abby, who’s based in New York, is naturally leaning toward a Contract specialism. She’s got a really strong Business Development focus that aligns with the Contract team’s needs, which will hopefully enable us to have Contract-specific modules that sit alongside our core programs. I want to replicate that for Permanent 360 and Client Partners too.
Then, on top of that, I want to see more on offer for the Hub - the team that supports our sales team. We’ll be looking at what we can do in terms of broadening the training that we do there, which at the moment, for me, doesn’t go far enough.
That sounds like you’re going to be really, REALLY busy, but I’m so excited to see how it all develops! You recently moved to San Diego, how’s that been?
I think moving has given me a really good opportunity to get to know different stakeholders, which I’m really fortunate about. Not only do I get to live somewhere that’s pretty much sunny all year round, but it’s also enabled me to spend more time with our teams in San Francisco and New York, which prior to odd trips, I’ve only really been able to do over video.
Plus, I can still come back to the UK and Berlin and continue the relationships that I’ve got there. One of the things I love most about my role is that travel is incorporated, and I feel hugely grateful to have the opportunity to work with so many different people globally. It’s allowed me to get to know the business as a whole and it means I get to spend more time with my team, and with stakeholders, and better understand how each unique function works which is helpful.
Each of Meet’s offices services a unique market within Life Sciences. Do you feel like being on the West Coast has immersed you in the BioTech space it’s famous for?
Yeah, absolutely! It definitely gives me a better understanding of that market and the challenges they face. The more I know about our global markets and the therapeutic areas we cover, the better the training provision that my team and I can offer. As a global team, with someone in each location, we collectively have exposure to each different area of the company and the markets we cover, which only helps us develop the function.
Do you think training varies from office to office, or do you think there will always be certain trends and a certain way of doing things?
Well, there will always be that degree of flexibility to make sure that what we offer is tailored, but with our core programs, what we want is to create consistency globally.
For me, core training, core standards, and the processes that we follow are very similar, but then we also tailor to peculiarities in the different markets and the types of businesses we work with.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to be one size fits all, which makes for quite a nice hybrid. Overall, our L&D programs remain the same, but they can definitely be customised to what’s needed in each team and market.
Do you think you’d ever move to another office?
Ooh I don’t know! Who knows? Who knows what the future will bring in terms of Meet’s development? On that note, I just want to end by saying a massive thank you for all you do to support each and every one of us – I can wait to see how these next developments unfold!