Inspired Selection Webinar - “A Roadmap for Positive Change: Agility and Adaptability in Publishing”

On Thursday 8th October, Inspired Selection hosted the first of our series of webinars – “A Roadmap for Positive Change: Agility and Adaptability in Publishing”. We were delighted to welcome an incredible panel of speakers: Sanphy Thomas, Managing Director at Jessica Kingsley Publishers and Director of Professional Publishing at John Murray Press; Teniel Pillai, HR Director at Encyclopaedia Britannica; and Sarah Caro, Publishing Director at Basic Books, to offer their insight on how through positive change, organisations and employees are adapting and shaping the workforce, paving the way for a bright publishing future!

With many of us now working at home, this has meant organisations have been forced to adapt – Sanphy spoke about how, at JKP, this has forced hidden talents to really come to the forefront and she’s seen people display leadership skills, creativity and demonstrate different ways of doing things in order to achieve their goals. By taking people out of their ‘normal’, they are forced to adapt and she is determined to make this part of the JKP culture moving forwards. At Encyclopaedia Britannica, this was a similar story, but Teniel also highlighted that the conversations we can now have with each other when remote are more meaningful than those we might have had in a day-to-day office environment. And for Sarah, who started her brand-new role during the last few months, she has seen first-hand the huge value in virtual interactions and the supportive and understanding nature of the industry.

If you are starting a new role, job hunting, or hiring during these times then it is safe to say there have been a number of challenges for everyone involved. One of the advantages is that with everyone in a similar situation, hiring managers in particular are aware of the challenges that people face when working remotely; there is a shared understanding that whilst we can’t replace the learning that is done in the workplace, we can be kind to each other to ensure this is managed in the best way possible. Sarah has both been a candidate, and a hiring manager during this process and shared her top tips to make a great first impression:

If you’re a hiring manager:

  • Give the candidate time to relax into the interview, start with an informal chat first
  • Outline the shape of the interview and explain what the structure will be
  • Be extra conscious that for the interviewee, this is an extra challenge - they will be nervous, with a short time to impress and will not necessarily be confident on video.

If you’re a candidate:

  • Listen!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer if you’re not sure of the question to ensure you are on the same page
  • Prepare some questions to ask – this shows enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness

If you’re job hunting right now, starting a new job, or returning to work after a period of furlough -remember to be kind to yourself. These are not normal times and when you’re living in such a fast-paced world it is important to take a step back and not to put too much pressure on yourself.

We are all acutely aware of diversity, more than ever before in the publishing industry and this is certainly something that we should all be championing. To those of you from an under-represented community, Sanphy stressed the importance of celebrating what diversity brings and not to be afraid to ask about the hiring organisation’s diversity strategy. By asking this you can show them directly how your unique perspective can impact the business and how they can nurture authentic diverse communities through your ideas. With the shift to more home working, there is now the potential to cast a much wider net from a geographical perspective, which will in turn encourage a more diverse and flexible workforce.

As a Manager, Sanphy spoke passionately about the importance of being an adaptable leader, there has to be an element of comfort with ambiguity and risk taking; strong communication and clarity of expectations; and a positive but realistic outlook to maintain a motivated team.

The industry has undertaken a huge amount of change and of course, there will be priorities that remain, and those that don’t. The panel talked about how wellbeing has improved, friction has decreased, time spent with families is becoming increasingly more important and there is a need to allow people to keep doing the work they are doing, and keep doing it well – whilst maintaining a high level of trust and empowerment. There is now real recognition that people are more than just resources, and there is an absolute need for compassionate leadership to continue and ensure publishing remains agile.

Our panel closed with a couple of questions from the attendees – one of which was around covering letters. On a quick poll it was found that all 3 panellists would review a covering letter before looking at an applicant’s CV – they are looking to see that the individual both has the skills and experience that match up with the job they are looking to hire, but also that your covering letter oozes a professional passion and enthusiasm for publishing, and working for their organisation in particular.

We are so grateful to our fantastic panel for their insights on how they have driven positive change and seen the workforce adapt towards a very bright publishing future indeed!

This was the first of the Inspired Webinar Series. Look out on @InspiredJobs for details on how to sign up for the next one in November 2020.