Why talent acquisition paves a path into people & culture


Why talent acquisition paves a path into people & culture 

I love it when workmates laugh behind my back and grab coffee without me

Said no one ever. 


Not if they know what great company culture is, anyway. 

Of course, workplaces who shun toxic behaviour don’t just happen. Mostly, they’ve got a dedicated people & culture person (or team) working harder than Trump’s tanning goggles to create the right environment. 

And many of these unsung heroes have jumped from talent acquisition into their people and culture roles. 

But how do you transition into P&C? Can anyone do it? Is liking people enough?

We wondered, too. Then we stopped wondering and rounded up 6 gurus who’ve actually made the move from TA into P&C and are positively crammed with career advice (which they’re happy to share). 

First in the podcast chair was Emer McCann. She boldly bounced from TA into P&C a few years back and, after honing her craft at software startup, Deputy, now manages the people and talent function at Simply Wall St

She talked us through her transition, what she’s learnt along the way and how you can pivot into P&C, too.

Falling into recruitment and falling in love with start ups

Like many of us Emer fell into the recruiting game and, after a few years, moved to her first start up. As Deputy’s 70th employee, Emer got heavily involved in recruitment and people operations, ‘building things from scratch to see how the function was developed over time…and I just fell in love with startups, really.’

That experience primed her for action: she’s since helped Simply Wall St expand from 15 employees to 66 👏

Putting in an extra 20%

Mulling over making the move? Emer advises going above and beyond.

‘[At Deputy], I was always trying to do lots of other projects,’ she says. ‘You’re probably doing recruitment 100% of the time and that extra 20% is those other projects you can get involved in.

Like what, you ask?

Emer says onboarding is a logical place to start.

‘I think a lot of people who move from recruitment into the P&C space first dip their toes in the water with onboarding…and I do think recruiters play a massive part in driving an awesome experience in that,’ she shares.

‘[For me], I [wanted to] take that employee experience, not just from recruiting them into the role, but then what happens after that? How do I ensure the people I’m hiring are still happy?’

Is it just us or do you think every organisation needs an Emer?

Care about the employee experience? P&C is for you

We’ve established Emer cares deeply about the employee experience. And, she says, it starts from Day 1.

‘If you think about the whole journey, really you have to work as a team,’ she explains. ‘If you’re not recruiting the right candidate for a role in the right type of position and the right business, then that’ll come to me in 6 months [and I’ll have to] solve that problem.

‘So it does all start from the beginning…[and] that’s what I love. I love that whole experience.’

No doubt employees do, too!

Soft landings not guaranteed


So get prepared for takeoff with Emer’s cheat code:

1. Coach, don’t advise

‘A big switch for me was changing the way you handle stakeholders to be less of an advisor and more of a coach,’ Emer recalls. ‘[Knowing] where to step in, where to pull back…and really helping them drive lots of questions so they can come up with the right answers.’

2. Communication is key

If you’re in a startup, your role is highly likely to be standalone. You’ll wear many hats, including marketing and PR (let’s not forget therapist, project manager, legal eagle…yep, P&C requires a broad set of skills!). 

And, when it comes to comms: yours need to be on point.

Emer, a self-confessed ‘people pleaser’ said this didn’t come straightway to her.

‘Having my own understanding of my communication, but then [also] communicating with the employees internally…that messaging…has to be so intentional,’ she offers. ‘[It’s about] really preparing the communication and how you’re communicating – when, how often, what format etc. 

‘That’s why a big part of what I’m very passionate about is sharing learnings and information in that space because there’s a lot of work…in creating this content…and we’re all creating it from scratch.’

3. Start big

Emer may have fallen head over heels for startups, but she actually recommends trying your hand in a bigger business first.

‘I would advise people to try and go into a larger organisation where they can learn from their team,’ she says. ‘It’s like a baptism of fire when you go in on your own and trying to figure out how things are done (or how things should be done) when you’re a one-man band is really tough.’

Chat to HR people, pump them for information and, if possible, shadow them (in the least annoying way possible).


Loving what you do (and finding a community who does, too) 

Genuinely caring about someone’s career, mindset and wellbeing isn’t for everyone. So those who are in those roles usually find themselves thinking, breathing and talking all-things people pretty much, well, all the time.

‘People not in our field…get bored quickly because all we do is talk about work!’ Emer says. ‘We’re always just so passionate about it.’ 

Community, therefore, becomes a super important part of P&C – especially with many people now working remotely at least some of the time. Bouncing ideas off one another (particularly if you’re in a standalone role) and getting a different perspective keeps us positive, motivated and – let’s be honest – sane. 

(If you’re after a community of P&C beasts, head over to Emer’s Slack channel, People Space. You’ll connect with fellow P&C professionals to ask questions, share resources and feel supported).

Talent acquisition: the perfect platform to spring into people & culture

Ready to take the plunge from TA to P&C? Tune into our Moving from Talent Acquisition to People & Culture podcast series for tips, tricks and career advice from people who’ve actually done it.

Get inspired by Emer’s journey. Be bold enough to take your own 💪🏻

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