Abigail Farnham, Account Director, Thames Water Contract
Abigail’s driver is to encourage a positive place to work that thrives on exceeding expectations. For Abigail, inclusive leadership is about engaging and inspiring her team to give their all and achieve results. Engagement with her team is paramount; in her own words, ‘if you don’t communicate with your team about the successes and the challenges, people become unmotivated and lacking direction’.
As a working mother herself, Abigail understands the challenges working parents face and is therefore best placed to offer practical solutions, so her team feel at ease approaching her for support. She aims to create an upbeat environment where team members are encouraged to communicate and individual motivations are understood so people can get the best out of their career.
Abigail has given opportunities to individuals with no previous experience, including developing Administrators through to Team Leaders. She also gives employees who may not wish to progress but want to be the best in their role opportunities and scope to keep them motivated and challenged.
Abigail is flexible with parents’ working hours. During school holidays, the team is encouraged to adopt a flexible policy that benefits working mothers without being unfair on team members without children. Abigail also created a new role for a working parent who could no longer commit to a full-time role by working with her to look at what was needed within the team, rather than lose such an asset.
Abigail uses weekly team meetings and monthly one-to-ones to develop relationships with team members and provide a forum for two-way feedback. She also developed a survey for feedback on the team’s service for the client. Results are fed back to the team so comments can be assessed and recognition given where due.
Through her role as Account Director, Abigail leads the Diversity in the Workplace programme, working with the client to promote women in engineering, arranging networking events and giving talks with schools, colleges and universities. She also works with local mental health teams, the Shaw Trust and Jobcentre Plus to encourage those that have been out of work long-term to return to the workplace.
Over the last six months, Abigail’s team has filled over 900 roles and doubled the client’s contractors. She supported the team by taking on roles and running assessment centres as well as her own day-to-day strategic role. She has given team members the opportunity to develop internally and is constantly succession planning for the wider business by training top talent to be the next Account Managers for new contract wins. Her success in creating an inclusive team can be evidenced in the length of time people have remained under Abigail’s management. For example, the Team Leader started with Abigail aged 21 and has now been with the business for 15 years after Abigail recognised her behaviours and capabilities and offered her development and progression opportunities.