Fios Genomics provides bioinformatic data analysis services to pharma companies and academia for drug discovery, development and applied research. (Bioinformatics is the science of collecting and analysing complex biological data such as genetic codes.)
Founded in 2008 and based in Edinburgh, Fios is listed among the top bioinformatics providers, with a large client base in all life science areas. In the last six years alone, its 10-strong team has grown to 46, working with top pharma companies around the world.
Fios has a specialised team of bioinformaticians, statisticians and biologists based mainly in Edinburgh, AAB People has supported the company for over six years in all things HR, excluding recruitment. In the absence of internal HR expertise, Fios sought a long-term partner who could manage, develop and advise on all aspects of workplace life, employment practice and employee relations. The ongoing brief is wide-ranging general HR expertise, guidance and practical tools, from compliance and procedures to performance management, professional development and employee engagement.
A priority since 2022 has been to provide team training across ever-evolving areas relating to people management, such as company-wide diversity and inclusion awareness, to reflect and respect the changing nature of the workplace. Also vital in the post-pandemic landscape of hybrid and remote working has been the provision of training relating to a re-distributed workforce. Pre-2020, almost all Fios staff were based in Edinburgh. Now, most work remotely or within a hybrid arrangement, presenting fresh challenges for leadership, communication and performance management.
Consultant Donna ran training workshops for all 46 Fios employees, including management team training. They included performance management and appraisals guidance for new and established managers, where sessions were created for managers to learn how to manage processes relating to performance management and employee feedback.
Also vital was awareness training in several continually evolving areas: diversity and inclusion, the importance of emotional intelligence in a highly technical, analytical, often ‘black and white thinking’ environment, giving sensitive feedback and having difficult conversations, building resilience and the challenges and practicalities of working from home and here-to-stay hybrid working.
AAB People also provided employee relations guidance, featuring end-to-end process education on all aspects, from mediation, casework, performance management issues to annual leave, maternity leave, absence management, occupational health referrals and disciplinary procedures. In addition, a benefits review and set of recommendations was conducted for Fios in 2022.
Turning to company culture, AAB People ran a Values workshop for Fios in 2020. The outcomes have since underpinned all workplace behaviour, outlook and recruitment, as well as approaches to everyday challenges and problem-solving. An adapted version of AAB’s own ‘Ways of Working Charter’ was introduced, covering mindful, respectful communication with colleagues, people development, time management and overall company culture guidance.
An employee engagement forum was established, in which six representatives of different departments meet voluntarily every six weeks to discuss workplace incentivisation schemes, any emerging team issues and ideas for all-important team social activities, many of which happily include AAB People!
Ensuring robust policies, procedures and compliance is another key part of the brief, including a Right to Work audit to ensure that correct documentation is supplied for every employee in every circumstance.
Ongoing support and a ‘listening ear’ is central to the AAB People-Fios Genomics relationship. CEO Sarah Lynagh has weekly calls with Donna to discuss emerging HR issues and challenges. These might include retention challenges, performance management or specific cases relating to individuals. As testament to her trusted role as senior advisor and HR Lead, Donna is regularly invited to internal leadership meetings where people strategies and decisions play a significant part. She is also first port of call for any employees with HR questions or concerns.
CEO Sarah Lynagh particularly values the advisory role that AAB People play over and above the practical support and guidance of everyday HR issues:
“We have the ideal arrangement, where AAB People are part of our team but act as a slightly independent, neutral source of knowledge and expert guidance. They also ‘keep us right’ in negotiating the teething problems associated with business growth.“
“As CEO of a growing business, you can sometimes get lost in the weeds and the trees. It’s great to have a sounding board in Donna, who can help us decide what to sometimes let go and what to pursue. It’s also beneficial for our business to have access to her wider team and all their client experiences. It takes away the typical pain points of running a company.”
“Before we found AAB People, we had academic processes in place and legal support, but we lacked the ‘softer touch’ expertise needed to nurture a growing team. We needed to take stock and professionalise our HR!”
“We’ve had several new managers facing new scenarios – people whose roles are very technical and who’ve benefited from AAB People’s management training, having never run teams before or been responsible for the development and wellbeing of other colleagues. The training around diversity and inclusion and emotional intelligence really opened our eyes.”
“The emerging issues around post-Covid hybrid-working have been particularly challenging to navigate. It was like a grenade being thrown into our working practice, leading to several new flavours of contract and with them, new types of policy and new people management issues!”
“The world has changed; the levels of flexibility that new recruits, especially younger ones, are demanding, is brand new territory. It’s a fine balance between encouraging office-based working to suit the needs of the job Vs. alienating the discerning talent you’ve worked hard to find. The ‘Monday-to-Friday in the office’ culture is simply no longer an option for some recruits.”
“The values workshop that Donna ran for us was terrific and very worthwhile. We apply the outcomes to our daily practice and stick to those values in our comms, our marketing and in recruitment interviews.”