COVID-19 Team Blog: Sarah Pickerill

12 May 2020

4 minutes to read.

We’re proud of what our teams are achieving at Carpenters during the coronavirus pandemic. Written by colleagues across multiple divisions of the company, they hopefully provide a small insight into our continuing working practices and values as we all adjust to our new world.

Here is the fourth in the series from our Head of People, Sarah Pickerill. 


Starting a new role in lockdown

“The UK Government announced that the country was essentially going in to ‘lockdown’ on Monday 23 March 2020. No unnecessary travel, home working to be implemented and the mantra, ‘stay home, save lives and protect the NHS’ introduced. Absolutely understandable of course, as we faced the only global pandemic most of us have ever experienced in our lifetime. However, this week, was already to be a significant one for me; after spending 3 out of my 6 months’ notice on garden leave I was more than ready and excited to start my new role and take responsibility for the HR & Development team at Carpenters Group.

I answered my phone rather cautiously on the morning of Tuesday 24 March, in trepidation as to whether the CEO would still want me to join them in these unprecedented times. Thankfully, I was assured they believed it was absolutely right to have strong HR leadership in place to support all our people, including the senior leadership team.

My laptop was delivered to my home, along with instructions as to how to get online. I managed to sort it all out easily the night before my first day. Most people, I imagine, before starting a new job would at least ensure they had visited the hairdresser and make an effort to look smart. With social distancing, my hair appointment had been cancelled the week before and there seemed to be little point putting my new work clothes on to sit in my office. Day 1 of meeting the HR team and the Operations Board was jeans, not great hair and attempting to homeschool two teenage boys – not what I had envisaged.

That aside, I was straight into meeting people via ‘Teams’, I’d already met some of the HR&D team and the Operations Board after being kindly invited to their Christmas night out and the Employee Awards evening. Both occasions introduced me to the very positive culture Carpenters have about looking after their people and caring about their community. Put simply, ‘doing the right thing’. These are not just empty words for the company. I am overwhelmed with the passion Carpenters owners, Donna Scully and John Carpenter, have in the tireless work they personally undertake to support foodbanks and countless other charitable initiatives. Leadership, values and culture, begin at the top and this is clearly visible. Genuinely caring about people, even when difficult business decisions need to be made, means dealing with people with compassion and empathy. There is nothing un-businesslike about that, people deserve to be treated fairly and equitably.   

Obviously, every team is currently operating remotely and although there have been challenges, it has also presented us with some fantastic opportunities. Like everyone in the country, our people are going through personally challenging times, but the flexibility we have to still work effectively from home has enabled us to support our people and our clients and it gone incredibly smoothly. Work is something we undertake and produce results for, not a destination to visit every day, Carpenters recognise this and the technology to support this has been brilliant. People have the freedom to work in a way which suits some often-complex home arrangements at the moment and our continued progress means this is working for the business as well as our people. I have been so impressed with our frequent internal communications, directly from Donna Richards, our CEO. Her words highlight the care she feels for our employees; speaking to people in plain English about how the changing environment is affecting them, their families, their mental health, keeping everyone up to date with fortunately much positive client news and importantly providing a good dose of fun.

You can only create a positive culture with authenticity; leaders with personality, showing they care, so people believe it. Those leading by example are the true role models. I feel very fortunate that I am working alongside such positive role models who genuinely want the best for the business, achieving this with people on board because they know they are valued.

Despite the very unusual start, I have loved my first month at Carpenters and am very excited to be part of the future. Whilst I have yet to enter my ‘new’ office I already feel very much part of the furniture."

About the author 

Sarah Pickerill, Head of People

Sarah Joined Carpenters Group as Head of People, responsible for leading our HR, Recruitment and Learning & Development teams as well as working closely  with all teams across the business.

Sarah has worked in professional services firms within the HR and Development team for over 20 years, most recently as a HR & Development Director. Her role will see her ensure Carpenters continues to be a fantastic place to work, where people are listened to, innovation is embraced and people feel valued as they help grow both their own career and our business. Sarah wants to ensure working practices are modern, that employee engagement is high and that we have a culture, which we are all proud to belong to.