Hi, my name is Georgiana. I am the CEO and founder of Beaglecat, and soon you will be listening to Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast. In this podcast, I regularly talk to employer branding managers and acquisition managers, and human resources managers in tech companies in Germany, Romania, and the US. For more content on employer branding-related themes, go to employerbranding.tech or beaglecat.com. Stay tuned!
Season 7 of #EmployerBranding: The Inside Podcast starts today!
In the 1st episode of the new series, we met with Tina Holmes, Director of People & Culture and Operations at Amorelie. We had an interesting conversation about keeping your reputation as an employer of choice in times of change. Throughout the interview, we covered several interesting aspects related to impacting change in diversity & inclusion, employee well-being, workplace balance, and a lot more.
And because this season is all about how employer branding is done in Germany, it gives us the opportunity to connect and meet with our guests in person!
What you’ll learn by listening
- Going beyond commercial aspects & breaking taboos when building your employer brand
- The power of workplace balance: working from home & from the office
- Best practices for employee wellbeing
- Impacting change in diversity & inclusion
- Transparency in times of change: how to make employees feel safe
AMORELIE is a fashionable Onlineshop for your Lovelife! It covers everything from kinky dessous, to love toys and games to have a fabulous, fun, interesting life! As one of the leading brands for a fulfilled sex life, AMORELIE has revolutionized a whole industry. Now we’re going one step further. We want to encourage everyone to try something new and talk openly and honestly about their desires and preferences. Our mission: sexually fulfilled humans everywhere.
Podcast link – Enjoy listening on Spotify!
Podcast transcription – Employer Branding T.I.P S07Ep.01
Hi, everyone! Another episode of Employer Branding: The Inside Podcast. And today I’m meeting someone face to face. This is the second time this year I’m meeting my guests face to face. I’m super excited to be talking to Tina Holmes. She is the Director of People and Culture at Amorelie. And Hi, Tina! Thank you so much for talking to us. I think everybody knows what Amorelie does. But please tell us in a few words, what the company is about and what your role involves.
Okay. So our company sells sex toys, very simple. It’s an e-commerce platform, and it was originally founded by a woman to kind of empower women to also break the taboos regarding sex and sex toys. And yeah, we do that for 10 years now. And my role within the company as the director of people & culture and operations as well, since recently, so I look after all kinds of back office functions. But my favorite function, I must admit is people and culture.
Exactly. And you know what? This is why I got in touch with you, because I’ve been following you for a while on LinkedIn. And there’s something about you that I think is very, very visible when it comes to you being the glue in the company, and people coming to you whenever, you know, there’s something people related involved. So I’m wondering, first of all, how does your previous experience help you? You worked for Apple as well. And what is, after you, the glue that binds everything together?
Yeah, two big questions. So yeah, in my previous experience, so I’ve worked for like, three, four big corporations. So I’ve worked for Apple, I’ve worked for Sony, I’ve worked for a marketing agency. I really like change, first of all. I don’t like sticking with a company for too long. And yet, I think the biggest experience, of course, is Apple, because it’s a very big company, and everybody wants to work for Apple. And the one thing I really took away from Apple is the feedback culture, it’s very strongly lifted. So you constantly are exposed to giving feedback, receiving feedback, and sharing feedback, in every situation. So this is something I’ve really embraced and always taken on to my next step, because feedback helps you learn and develop, in no matter what role you are. And yeah, I take that always with me.
Yeah, it helps you grow at the same time, right? Doing what you do right and what you do wrong. And what would you say is the main reason people enjoy working here? What makes you happy working for this company?
What makes me happy is that, yeah, I work with a very diverse group of people. Apple was also very diverse. And yet, Amorelie is a smaller company. We’re currently around 70 employees. We were 130 before, but now we’ve reduced a bit. But the mission really keeps everybody together. So I always joked and I’ve worked for many electronic products. So Sony and Apple, and now sex toys are all electronic products. And I think that sex toys make customers the happiest. Everybody that works at Amorelie loves the vision and the mission of the company, which is sexually satisfied humans everywhere. And there’s no better mission, I think, then maybe saying everybody should have a phone, everybody should have a TV or whatever digital device, I find that it’s very empowering because in the end, we’re also trying to break taboos. So it’s not just for commercial reasons at the end, but we’re really trying to break taboos for women and men to have access to these toys and use them and find their sexual satisfaction, their own journey in their sex lives. So I think that’s very empowering, especially for women. These days, as we all know, that have quite a challenge to become be on an equal level as men.
Yes, integrating everything in our busy lives, right?
So you talk about vision, you talk about mission. Are there other things that you would think, or your colleagues would think, make Amorelie an employer of choice?
Tina Holmes :
I think it’s also the kind of female lead company. We have like 70% females in our company. And I think that really carries a culture that is has a lot of empathy, a lot of emotions as well, but a lot of strong communication and honesty. And I think I’ve never experienced that anywhere else. And for me, personally, I can really be myself and other companies, I’ve always kind of had to be political or adapt. And here I am, for the first time, really myself, being also a single mom with two kids and having my challenges at home. And nonetheless, being in a leadership position, I’ve never felt that was of any boundary to my development in the company, but rather the opposite; that it was seen as something different and that we can learn from each other and that we will support each other to perform best in your professional way, no matter what your personal situation is like.
And you know what, you can absolutely see this from the outside. I think I can see it, and for sure the others who follow you can see it as well. Obviously, Amorelie is a company that doesn’t have much to hide, right? Because here’s the mission, here’s the vision. And yeah, actually, you know what? I might consider it in the future. It feels like a great place to work. I remember talking to you, I think, last year, so one of my question was around employer branding and cultural trends in 2022. But now we’re in 2023. And a lot has happened in the meantime, with regards to remote work, a lot of layoffs have happened in December or November with companies in tech. I want to address still some of the issues that I talked to you at the time. Where is Amorelie on the topic of remote work?
So remote work, we have a really beautiful office. We’re just witnesses, I hope; lots of sex toys laying around there. right now we have lots of hearts everywhere because it’s Valentine’s week. And we have a mental health or employee well-being month. And I don’t understand companies that don’t offer remote work anymore. For us, we have space in the office, and people can stay home. It is recommended to come to the office two times a week, but it’s not a must. We don’t want to start you know.
I think we’ve all learned where we can work best if it’s you know, yoga handstand at home while doing the dishes; if it’s you know, being silently concentrating at home, some people even say that work more hours at home, which surprises me or me in my life where I can integrate like starting early, you know, picking up the kids and then going back online. So we offer both. I think the one thing we need to consider is also giving an incentive for people to come back. So it’s not you know, we have to have a beautiful office, we have to have silent rooms for them.
We have to offer social events for people to interact and almost get people you know back out of their little cocooning to your cocooning session and enjoy socializing and networking again and seeing the benefit of definitely being at home but definitely seeing the benefit of being in the office and brainstorming over an idea which doesn’t come when you’re usually home alone. So this is kind of what we encourage people to come that’s working so Mondays and Fridays as we notice is not so busy and yet Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays are quite busy in the office.
But I think by now everyone knows like you’re saying where they work best and can see the benefits of meeting the team at least once a week or twice a week to discuss company plans. You’re mentioning employee well-being week what does that mean exactly? And how does Amorelie think of this very important concept?
It was developed on its own. We had the first one in COVID times when we realized after the first kind of winter that, including myself, we were all depressed so let’s be honest. And we thought we have to do something about it to kind of snap people out of this grey time in January. It’s never nice if with COVID or without so we live in Berlin it’s like the most terrible month. We started the mental health month to say it’s okay to not be okay. And collaborated with an external agency in called Shitshow that supported us to raise awareness and we kind of asked people to you know, go on walks and we collected money for going outside and forever club Mirror walked where you gave money to FEMA shelter to encourage people to go outside, you know, even if the weather was not so good. And we received amazing feedback that month just raising awareness. So we’ve kind of decided to do it every year in some form.
So this year, it’s not so much about mental health. So it’s more about well-being, with mental health being one part of it. So we offer, it’s we have clothes rack outside, we can exchange clothes, for example, from that kind of, you know, use and reuse things to offering workshops, what motivates you to make people rethink? You know, also, where do they stand after two years, years of being at home and having challenging positions to really think, what motivates me? Is it the right place? Or how do I need to change my job? We had meditation workshops.
And we also had one of one things I suffered from like back problems, like how do you sit best when you’re at home, or in the office or on several different topics, and again, also talked about mental health, not the strong focus, but just to, you know, reach out and talk about it. Because I feel if you look into future trends, I think many people are suffering from mental health issues. And I would almost say that maybe 30% of the people calling in sick are not really, you don’t don’t have a flu, but they have some personal challenges ongoing. And for them to say, you know, it’s it’s not the headache or flu, I’m saying that there’s some challenges. And, and that’s more difficult to, to help employers within the future, right. So flu goes away. But if somebody has a mental health issue, it can go on, and we need to act much differently to support those employees that are having challenges.
And I think, at least for me, it always helps when I talk to other people. And when I discovered that I’m not the only one was getting panic attacks, or I was getting, you know, anxious. It was whatever is happening while it was COVID. And we had the war in Ukraine, which is still ongoing. Yeah, a lot of companies laid people off. So I think everyone’s a little bit stressed at the moment and myself and my job and my safety, my personal life. It helps me like I said, to know that I’m not alone, in going through this. Yes. So I think this is the best initiative a company could actually introduce for its employees. Then you mentioned diversity, you are 70% female company. How else do you see diversity and inclusion?
Yeah. Well, I mean, we’re very strong. We have a few ambassadors in our company, and specifically one colleague, who really is like the internal ambassador of diversity and inclusion topics. So whenever there is something this person does not feel is right, or being communicated in the right way. And this starts from, you know, how we show females on our website, are men, men, are they looking very slim? Or are we showing a true color of a person to how do we communicate internally? Or how do treat gender? How do we address people? Or how do we, you know, what, what does it say in our toilets? Who should be entering the toilet and in what form?
And, yeah, so we have a little group that just gets together once a month to kind of look are we being on the forefront here as well, because Amorelie also sees itself as impacting change when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We also have a sex toy line called constellations that is aimed at the queer community. And we are also one of the first companies that have actually addressed sex toys in the queer community. So it’s always on our mind that there’s you know, there are different ways of having sex and use different ways of different people that have sex in different ways. So it kind of goes hand in hand, and we always have to rethink, you know, what is the latest trend that would be wrong to say, but what is the latest movement and awareness that we have to rethink how we produce sex toys?
How are people having sex? What is important? How are they learning about their bodies, it comes to all hand in hand. So I’m whether you discover your own body as a, you know, heterosexual woman or in any other form, how can we provide products that will help everybody to have sexual satisfaction.
Exactly. Does Amorelie have an employee value proposition? Expressed or not expressed?
Yeah, we have one value, which means celebrating diversity. So this is where diversity comes. Where we just encourage everybody to be who they are. Especially nice to see it at our latest party that we had when we had a kink party, so that was very interesting to see how everybody would express their well-being. You could really see that people feel so comfortable with themselves and their bodies to come to a party to really express who they are. And that’s very special and unique.
How do you see Employer Branding this year in 2023, with all the challenges that are surrounding companies in tech and in Berlin and everywhere?
Yeah, it feels like it’s going from one change to the next change. And one has to really look around. Like, what is the trend? On the one hand, I would feel the trend is a little bit this mental health issue, and yet, on the other hand, it’s safety. Ultimately, do I have a job? Can the company secure me a job and also to be open, like, maybe we, you know, things are changing, and nothing is safe anymore, as we experience with war with COVID. And we have to always adapt. So I think we made use of the non-German word, which translates to the compensation that the government gave to employees to support them in the inflation.
So I think this is a way of making employees feel safe, because they’re getting a bonus to help them go through inflation. So that kind of safety, but at the same time, I think we have to be transparent e-commerce business is, of course, affected by inflation and war. And for everybody to think, you know, that we’re looking after them, that they don’t lose their job, and being transparent on the budgets and the forecasts, and so on. So this is more where we have to, I think honesty and transparency is more important there. And, you know, I don’t know what’s going to be happening at the end of the year with the world that we’ve been through. So. But nonetheless, still have fun, if you can, along the way, you know, to also bring some lightness into the world that we’re in as an employer, because in the end, we’re also a fun brand.
And the good thing is our industry is growing compared to other industries. So because sex toys is something that not everybody has. So we’re in a growing industry, which gives safety in that sense that we’re not declining. But there’s so many people that don’t have this commodity yet, and are interested in exploring. So this is very encouraging. Also, for me, because I love it. There’s still a lot of movement in the industry. Yeah, there’s no new ground to conquer. Yeah, it’s not like a new phone or something else you need. It’s, some people don’t have these devices at all. So yeah. And that’s the curiosity that we’re also giving our employees to explore that with our customers.
Like one of my friends told me recently, the only constant is change. So I think companies need to also understand this and embrace it and, you know, stick with explaining to employees how things work. And you know, in the end, we all understand business is business, but the way you do it, and the way you convey it, I think it’s gonna make a difference in the end. If you had a lot of money, lots and lots of money, what would you do to improve company culture? To make it you know, fantastic.
Yeah, I thought about that. It’s not so easy to say. I mean, training is always something that everybody wants to have, right. But I think I feel many people would like, some kind of coach or some kind of inspiration regarding innovative ideas because we’re in an industry where we have to think about the next big thing, right? Like, what is the next sex toy, what is the next big thing to really explore digital thinking, and encourage people, even more, to think out of the box and give them kind of those tools to learn.
Because we have many young people that work here, and maybe they haven’t worked in, you know, retros and OKRs, as we do, and I’m here to create a space where they can really think about new innovations. And at the same time, kind of guide them via we have mentors, but I think we could do even more have more mentoring, our coaches for them to use to really find their own way and reflect their personal life with their career and to see if they’re in the right space. That would be if I had more money, I would spend it on that.
And then to get to the end of our discussion, you know, I used to ask my guests this question. Is there a book that helped you? Is there a blog? Is there some sort of resource that you feel has helped you along the way? Some people say conferences, some people say, another group of like-minded professionals, for example? How do you feel that Tina has grown and what has helped her become the person she is today?
Well, there are like two aspects to that. So the one book that I really loved as the one from Panama court, building a culture of freedom and responsibility, because I found for HR people, there’s so little to really read, and she really inspired me. And I think every page was learning and especially always, the thought behind HR being the function that has to raise their voice, it’s our job to point out things that are not going right, in a company to the managing directors, and this is, if HR doesn’t do it, nobody else does it. It’s kind of a quote, and I love that.
And on the other hand, I must say, I have an amazing network of HR people that we always exchange with each other. So I have, you know, is it, you know, introducing, time tracking? Or is it introducing remote work policies that it’s a give and take, and everybody knows that we can help each other. So it’s they, they really helped me out by sharing policies or ways of working. And then there will be the day where Karma comes back, and I can exchange something. So and because we know, especially in the last three years, we all HR became so important. And we, I would say 80% of the things that we did we’d never done before. So we really had to learn from each other to explore and regarding, you know, be it mental health, be it remote working, how do you, you know, how do you lead in remote culture? How do you communicate in a culture? And how do you train people? How do you keep them safe? How do you structure salaries? No, you know, with everything that’s going on, so it’s really needed.
And I wouldn’t say there’s one aspect of HR that wasn’t, you know, even the office space, what did it look like? I mean, you know, it’s everything was changed in the last three years. So, and for me, that’s been great because it was always, you know, a little bit is sometimes a side function, and we moved so much to the forefront in the last three years. And that’s something I really enjoy it but it is, but it was a lot of change. And it’s you cannot do it alone. So you need some help from some friends, HR, HR network.
Yeah, we all need and could use that. Thank you so much, Tina for talking to me. This was super useful and informative and fun actually meeting you in your office, where you work on a day to day basis. I wish you all the best.