people strategy, people and culture, what is a people strategy

What Is A People Strategy & Why You Need One

Bridie Houlihan

Bridie Houlihan | Founder & CEO Female Health Founders

We had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Mullins (FCIPD) Director of Latitude HR. Samantha is a people and culture expert, and has kindly taken the time to share her expertise with Female Health Founders in this introductory article we ask, what is a people strategy, explore strategies to empower people, and delve into people and culture.

Hello Samantha, thank you for being here today! Could you start by giving our Female Health Founders readers a bit about your journey as a people and culture consultant and what inspired you to work in this area?

I am curious about why people think and behave as they do, after my Psychology degree, this led me into a career in HR. My passion is helping individuals to reach their full potential and that aligns with the work female health founders are doing to enable women to live their best life. 

I love the variety of working with business of all sizes and sectors. Latitude HR has been a dream of mine for many years. However, as with many other female founders, sometimes our dreams get put on pause. Last year, it felt like it was now or never, and I haven’t looked back.

Samantha Mullins, people strategy, strategies to empower people, people and culture, what is a people strategy,
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What Is A People Strategy? For those new to the concept, what exactly is people strategy, and why is it a game-changer for businesses, particularly in the women’s health sector?

It is simply taking a step back and reflecting on what is important when it comes to your people.

Too often companies, of all sizes, react to people issues as they arise rather than having a clear purpose with some defined outcomes that will help them grow as a business.

-Samantha Mullins

If I can encourage companies to turn what they perceive to be their biggest people issues into practical solutions, then it’s a win-win. When you create a culture where people feel heard, work well as a team, are supported and provided with opportunities to learn. They are more likely to join, be motivated, well and stay.

Women’s health ventures often have unique purpose driven missions. How can a people strategy be tailored to align with the specific goals and values of businesses in this sector?

The beauty of taking time to think about your employer brand is that the personality of your company can be used to shape your people offer. Customers today want to know that your company values are demonstrated internally, and externally, and employees want to work for values-driven organisations. 

Showing that you are living the values of your business will attract candidates that align with those beliefs. In return, your customers will connect with this and be more likely to stay. 

Samantha Mullins, people strategy, strategies to empower people, people and culture, what is a people strategy,
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What are some common challenges female health founders might face when it comes to managing their teams, and how can a well-crafted people strategy address these issues?

When you first start recruiting employees it is important to ensure you have the foundations in place, this will save you difficulties later. A solid contract of employment, clear policies and guidance and an employee handbook tailored to reflect your business will give you confidence. It helps to set the boundaries and enable you as the employer, and your employees, to have a shared understanding of what is expected.

Creating a positive workplace culture is essential. How can female health founders create strategies to empower people, and foster a culture that promotes innovation, inclusivity, and overall well-being for their teams?

Don’t be blinkered and lean into your core values. Create a culture where failure is seen as an opportunity to learn as this will encourage innovation. Recognise that diversity of thinking and lived experience will give you a richer environment on which to grow, create opportunities to bring this challenge in. 

Have open and honest conversations about how people are feeling and when they hit a difficult time ask them what they need. This could be a range of responses and will be different depending on circumstances.

It could be a practical change, such as temporarily reducing hours, signposting or accessing relevant resources, or offering an intervention such as counselling.

-Samantha Mullins

One size does not fit all. There are lots of organisations that offer employee assistance programmes that may be worth investing in to provide added reassurance.  

Samantha Mullins, people strategy, strategies to empower people, people and culture, what is a people strategy,
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Recruitment plays a big role in team success. Any tips for female health founders on attracting and retaining top talent in a competitive market that aligns with their people and culture?

Think about what your ideal candidates are looking for from their employer. Yes, money is important and so are lots of other factors like annual leave, flexibility, additional benefits, wellbeing offer, and the culture of the organisation. 

Promote the job, the culture and the benefits in your job adverts so that candidates emotionally connect and see themselves working for your company. When it reflects the things that are important to them in terms of values and lifestyle this is more likely to happen. 

Interviews are an opportunity to turn them from interested to keen. Demonstrate your passion for your company, share what employees can expect, create a space for their questions and set up a selection process where they are encouraged to showcase how they would deliver the role.

Diversity is strength. How can a people strategy actively promote diversity and inclusion, ensuring varied perspectives within the team?

Self-awareness is key and when you are looking to recruit or engage with underrepresented groups, speak to those with lived experience to better understand how something you might not perceive to be a problem could be a barrier to others.

Action is key. Often people are nervous in case they get it wrong but if you have a considered approach with an authentic intention, you are already way ahead than the company who don’t know they have a problem. Seek advice and evaluate new initiatives, we learn by doing and that will inform improvements and lead to better outcomes.

Given the rise of remote work, what considerations should female health founders keep in mind to maintain a connected and engaged team, especially if they have members spread across different locations?

The key to success is having clear boundaries informed by organisational, team and individual needs. An open and honest conversation with your employees should enable you have a two-way conversation to understand what is important to them and to share the reasons why certain practices need to happen. It is important to connect as a team and cross-organisationally to prevent siloed working, think about how best to do that given geography, other demands and required outcomes. 

If you want the team to come together once a week, month or year, be clear about when and why. Crucially, when those in-person days happen, make them valuable through preparing prior to the day, thinking about key outcomes and what can only be achieved when you come together in person. There is nothing worse than coming into the office and feeling like you could have stayed at home.

Samantha Mullins, people strategy, strategies to empower people, people and culture, what is a people strategy,
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For our go-getter entrepreneurs in the women’s health field, what advice would you give them when it comes to crafting and implementing an effective people strategy from the get-go?

Don’t be afraid of it. Businesses take time to define and review their business strategy, think about people strategy as one element of that. Importantly, when you get to the point that you are thinking about recruiting then seek advice. This doesn’t have to cost a lot, and there are a lot of accessible resources online or companies that offer HR support to small businesses.

A small investment at an early stage to lay the right foundations will prevent a significant cost later.

-Samantha Mullins

3 Take-Away Actions

  1. Stop burying your head in the sand – if you have a people issue or want to start recruiting don’t let fear get in the way.
  2. Start thinking about your people strategy as an element of your business strategy and make sure you are getting the best from your investment.
  3. Book a no obligation exploratory conversation to talk about getting the foundations right or building a people plan. I am happy to help you identify your logical next step and if I can’t help, I probably know someone who can.

How To Connect With Samantha