Headshot of Helena Da Silva Head of HR discusses the importance of a great work culture.

We’re celebrating our thirtieth year at etc.venues which makes it the perfect occasion to talk to some of the extraordinary people who’ve helped shape our business; people like Helena Da Silva, our Director of HR.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I fell in love with hospitality at a young age, my family always had restaurants, coffee shops so I grew up learning how to sell a product and provide a service - that’s probably where my social skills come from.

My parents always told me that if I wanted something in life, I had to work for it and that helped to create a strong work ethic within me. Completed my masters and CIPD qualification while working full time in events, sales and eventually fell in love with HR.  I feel that working in HR isn’t for those who seek the spotlight or instant recognition, but if empowering others shine brings you fulfilment and satisfaction, then it is a highly rewarding role.

What is it that you enjoy most about your job?

My answer might surprise you as you’re probably expecting me to say, “the people”. In a sense, yes of course, it’s true, I love working with people. But I believe that is a pre-requisite because if you’re not a ‘people person’ then you probably shouldn’t be in HR. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my role is supporting the business thrive – by retaining and attracting the right talent and giving them the right tools to support their growth and development. I‘ve always been commercially driven as the financial state of a business directly impacts the quality of the lives of the people within it.

etc.venues team at our chancery lane venue

What’s your main focus?

The main focus is to ensure we have a robust and consistent employee cycle, everything is connected, and we want to ensure our people have a positive and rewarding experience with us. At the moment, my two main areas of focus are retaining our talented team and attracting the right talent to join us on this ambitious journey: 

1. Retaining talent is about understanding and meeting the needs of the people who work here. My job is to make sure this is a company everyone wants to work for – whether you’re on reception, in the kitchen, or on the phone. Keeping the teams engaged, motivated,  that’s why regular catch ups are important, it’s good to visit our teams where they’re working and have a chat about everything really.

2. Attracting talent starts with the CV, experience is important it is what “brings you through the door” but the soft skills get you the job at etc.venues. We see this as a selling process – we promote the business and the candidates promote themselves to us. It’s the beginning of a relationship! There’s an art to this. Especially when you’re speaking to people over the phone. Smiling is so important. Even though they can’t see your smile they can hear it in your voice, in your demeanour. We use icebreakers to get the conversation started and to create a positive impression. Whether the candidate is a good fit or not, I think it’s important that every interaction is positive – we want them to have a pleasant experience. If they get off the phone and think “that was a nice conversation, I enjoyed that” then we’ve achieved one of the aims as an ambassador of the brand.

At etc.venues, interpersonal skills are essential. Being personable, positive, hardworking and having a good attitude is vital. We’re event professionals, an established business and credibility needs to shine through in all that we do – at every touchpoint within the business.

What kind of training do you deliver for teams?

Learning is pivotal to our Company; in an ever-changing industry we prioritise training to ensure everyone is aligned towards the same goal.  Our clients use multiple venues throughout the year and knowing that they can expect consistent brand standard service no matter which venue they choose is a key part of our training program.  In line with the company’s ambitions, we like our people to be empowered and know that they have the right tools and knowledge to deliver.  We have a robust induction training programme for all departments, with refresher training, mentoring and leadership programs to help our leaders of today and the future. 

etc.venues staff having a team meeting at our birmingham venue

Why do you think people stay at etc.venues?

People have a connection to the business and I think this has a lot to do with the sense of ownership that’s positively encouraged. No one waits to be told what to do and they certainly aren’t restricted by things like job descriptions or titles. We have a flat management structure and people don’t need to go through layers of bureaucracy. They’re empowered and encouraged to stretch themselves. That encourages loyalty. So many of our people have been part of our journey for ten years or more. In fact, some have helped to shape the business for over 20 years; seriously talented people like Franck Rosello and Nathan Milner. 

New recruits can start in junior positions, such as casuals in food and beverage, and there’s the potential and the opportunity for them to progress through the ranks to become venue managers. This actually happens because we recognise talent and love promoting from within. It’s the people and their passion that makes this business so special. When we come to work, we think it’s our business; an entrepreneurial spirit runs through each department.

etc.venues team outside prospero house

What’s your policy on Diversity and Inclusion?

I’m proud to say that we were a genuinely diverse and inclusive company years before Diversity and Inclusion became a serious topic. Spend time here and you’ll see that for yourself. Our amazing talent comes in all nationalities, colours, gender and outlook and I believe that’s been the case from the moment we opened our doors, thirty years ago.



If you’ve been inspired by this article, you can read more about our people and how they’ve helped shape our brand over the past 30 years here.