· 2 min read · Features

Senior management don't have all the answers, nor should they


Collaborative, empowered teams often come up with the best ideas, and the right culture supports them

A growing company needs a strong team driving it, so businesses must attract the best talent and retain it to stay ahead of the game. Competition among recruiters is fierce, and an attractive culture that complements an interesting role is more important than ever.

To that end Trainline has just hired our first chief people officer – someone I worked with at eBay and former VP of talent and culture at Wonga.com, Robin Hancock.

Historically, there has been a shortage of data and technology skills in the UK. As an e-commerce company this has been a challenge for us. However, UK tech talent has come of age and firms are finally competing with the US when it comes to offering an attractive proposition to those with the right skills.

We are doing everything we can to encourage the best talent to our 200-strong UK tech team. By migrating to Amazon Cloud and giving our developers access to tools such as New Relic, which provides data-driven insights on app performance, we want to ensure we are competing effectively with industries like banking that are looking to attract similar skills.

I believe that a flat company structure also leads to a collaborative, empowered team and a lot of great ideas. Senior management don’t have all the answers, nor should they. A good day is when we have a heated debate as it leads to exploration. I spend a lot of time thinking about the core strengths of individuals and how I can match those to business needs. Learning I’ve picked up along the way in my career is now helping me to establish Trainline’s culture – one that’s fun, professional, friendly and, above all, customer-centric.

An enthusiastic and passionate leader can have a viral effect across any business – I can’t stand hierarchies. I thrived at eBay because of its flat structure. I learned that it brings out the best in people at all levels of an organisation. Employees need to feel free to speak up, engage and share their thinking, which in turn helps them to develop the confidence to take on more responsibility and progress.

Another thing I care deeply about is diversity. My teams at eBay would typically have 30 or more nationalities spread across Europe and a fairly decent gender split as well. If you have diverse teams you know you won’t have a blind spot – you’ve got a good representation of different views. You also know that when staff have a heated debate they’re more likely to come up with a better solution than if they all agree.

Trainline sees its people and its culture as equally important to any other department of the business, including product development and marketing. This mindset means that we take the time and make the effort to seek out the best talent for our business.

My role as CEO is to create a vision for what I want the company to achieve and ensure we have appropriate skills to make that vision a reality. At its core this means hiring the right talent and nurturing existing employees, so that they have a constant stream of opportunities to help them grow. Robin’s role as our first chief people officer will be crucial in making this happen, and his track record shows he’s the best man for the job.

Clare Gilmartin is CEO at Trainline