Insight into – MAG-O and how they approach the ‘War on talent’


Leading up to the latest Insight Into event, we hear more from Kelly Singleton, HR Director and Nolan Hough, MD on their culture and what they are creating at MAG-O.


MAG Airport


At the event we will be getting some insight on different ways of working across different businesses – Can you describe how you operate?

Traditionally we are a legacy business which operates under ‘waterfall’ delivery processes.  That is, we define our needs, scope a piece of work, procure a solution and build.  Only once the final product is delivered are we able to ascertain whether it is a success or not or indeed if customers want to use it. Whilst this may work for large infrastructure investments such as a new terminal building,  it is not necessarily the most effective approach for delivering digital tech.


At MAG-O we adopt ‘agile’ development processes.  Within agile methodologies, we create a hypothesis, build a minimum viable product (MVP), conduct user-tests in a lab environment (with actual users) and launch to market in very short cycles.  Usually these are cycles of approximately 2-6 weeks depending on complexity of the development. Through AB testing, we test the new version (the ‘A’) against the ‘control’ (the ‘B) where we can very quickly ascertain success. We are able to continually improve the proposition through iterative sprints or fail fast pivoting to something entirely different.  This way we get to the answer fast taking valuable learning as we go.


In terms of how we work, at MAG-O its all about co-creation.  We believe in the value of multi-functional teams, working together to solve customer problems. We have purposefully broken down hierarchies.  Leadership teams, software engineers, designers, test engineers, revenue managers, marketers and product leads work together centred around a project. We use tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams to work in a multi-functional cross-team virtual environment. This goes beyond MAG-O into our airports & Group functions where we work closely with Commercial, Operations, IT, Finance, Legal Procurement & HR.  These tools are effectively WhatsApp for teams where you can create channels, projects and virtual teams. We are actively trying to reduce our reliance on email and rather communicate in a conversational way. This way everyone knows what everyone is doing and are able to contribute, challenge and learn together.


MAG-O Logo


What do you do for fun as a team?


We are having our second ‘Disconnect to Connect’ trip in the lakes.  This is where we push teams to conquer their fears, work together (usually in the rain) and then have an evening to relax, eat good food, have a few drinks and bond. We have monthly team nights out, Pizza Friday on the last Friday of every month. We are also competitive when it comes to fitness.  We have a gym, the team conduct yoga and spinning classes.  Many of the team go to gym together, arrange runs & cycle trips from the office.  We also have cross-fit classes led by the insane Katie Cox – (most of the chaps are intimidated by her because she’s stronger, fitter and a little scary).


What’s the environment like to work in?


Fast paced, energetic, innovative & collaborative fuelled by copious amounts of the best espresso on site.  There is no dress code, we work flexibly and treat everyone as adults. We are a team of leaders working in empowered teams and we have found that this brings the best out in people. If people are able to bring their whole personality to work and can balance their life commitments, then they are more likely to be engaged and wedded to the team vision. Most importantly we have lots of banter and an amazingly supportive culture. Half of the development our colleagues have experienced, whether that be professionally or in the gym, has been peer-to-peer. It is a lot more powerful than traditional methods.


How do you attract people to the business?


We have a strong brand and a great story. After that a great environment and fantastic colleagues, loads of ambition and teams all working to the same goal. The fact that we are a start up with the opportunity to deliver something that has never been realised by any other airport business is a hook.


Everybody told us there is war on talent and we are just not sure that is true. It is true that for certain roles demand exceeds supply, but is it a war? We don’t believe so. This is because we were a new start-up working within a wider business that was far from digital. How were we going to attract talent? We approached it very differently. We built a campaign #Something, we threw ourselves into the digital scene, attended conferences, talks, etc. We communicated with the market digitally and personalised the candidate experience – although we are not sure everyone loves a video selfie. Our approach enabled us to attract circa 70% of our talent through direct channels. We then partnered with niche agencies who had the right approach and understood our values. It has been a success. Now it is all about how we keep them.


Why is your culture different and how do you make it sustainable?


We’re deliberate about the culture we are trying to create.  We try to balance leading the team with involving and empowering the team.  We set out clear expectations around co-creating, everyone owning the targets, desired outcomes and knowing they are integral to our success.  By way of example, all 60 people share the same objectives irrespective of role, level or length of tenure. We don’t always get it right but if the team are bought in they sustain the culture. It is important to note that the team hacked the colleague strategy and so the areas we focus on are a good investment of our resources. We hold culture stand-ups every month where we focus only on culture and engagement. We think it all adds up – when you listen to people and focus your efforts where it matters most, you are much more likely to get a result.


Find out more about MAG-O, alongside a panel of business leaders from some of the North’s leading digital businesses by getting your ticket HERE


Event Invite September 2017