If you’re a regular follower of Virgin on social media you may have noticed the hashtag #VirginFamily. It’s a tool we use to highlight people who live life to the fullest and embrace the Virgin values.
After speaking to Natasha Grice last week – the people executive director at Virgin Trains – it struck me that Natasha may in fact be the perfect embodiment of the #VirginFamily values.
Natasha has worked with Virgin for over 20 years and her experience highlights how deep the family values run across the Virgin businesses.
Natasha started her career with Virgin in 1999 as a member of the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew – a role she reflects on as both amazing and life changing. “I interacted with so many customers and cultures, all varied and all with different needs. It was during that time that I realised how helping customers didn’t only make them feel special, but that it also made me feel special. I felt inspired every day when I turned up for work.”
Natasha worked with Virgin Atlantic for three years, loved the experience, and felt incredibly well-rewarded for her hard work. This time played a key role in developing her passion for how people are treated and valued in the workplace.
Natasha’s first foray into the world of ‘reward and recognition’ schemes was at Virgin Atlantic. There, employees were assessed during each flight and invited for promotion based on their results. The clear connection between recognition and reward impressed Natasha. The acknowledgement that bringing your best self to work was truly valued triggered something in her which remains to this day.
In 2002 Natasha felt it was time to make a career change. The September 11 attacks impacted the airline industry and brought on a personal desire to pursue a more family-friendly career. While she didn’t want to leave Virgin, the travel requirements with Virgin Atlantic were too great and when a position at Virgin Trains became available, it was the perfect time and the perfect step.
Natasha took on a variety of roles at Virgin Trains – including frontline position, on board manager, station manager, head of brand, head of talent to her current executive position.
“I have had so many opportunities over the last 20 years. During this time I have had two maternity leaves. Not once have I felt the need to apologise for being a working mum. Family always comes first,” she says. “Many people hear Richard Branson say that family should always come first, but I’m not sure how many of them understand how much this value runs deep across the Virgin businesses.”
Currently the Executive People Director, Natasha is excited about the ways her position can positively influence what it feels like to work at Virgin Trains. A key focus for her is ensuring all Virgin Trains’ employees know that their effort and performance matter.
Natasha’s own career story highlights how important and empowering it is when employees know they’re in control of their own destinies. It also highlights the benefits of having an employer that is willing to offer help when it’s needed.
Natasha genuinely believes that within the Virgin organisation – if you’re passionate – you can get recognised and get results. This belief has motivated her and is now motivating the Virgin Trains’ team.
“My role here, and the values I promote, are important for the success of the company and the people who work here. I care about this business and the people in it and would want it to be somewhere where my children would want to work.”