Creating culture to strengthen business: NSPCC, DHL and Sodexo

Written by
Changeboard Team

22 May 2014

22 May 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Siobhan Sheridan, people director, NSPCC

Since organisational culture is often blamed for performance and behavioural issues, it’s something we can’t afford to ignore. And although leaders play an important role in its development, everyone has a role to play.

Culture is a naturally occurring phenomenon whenever people come together and I love watching how it can form in a split second. Watching a group of children play is probably one of the easiest places to see this, as they have no qualms about sharing what is going on in their heads.

Their ability to set rules and norms, change them, play games and create patterns and ‘artefacts’ of their groups is a perfect example of cultural development.

The culture of the NSPCC is multi-faceted. Putting children first is at the core of our organisation and it is this that infuses everything we do on a daily basis. We are a collaborative organisation – the system that protects young people in this country and prevents abuse has many important players.

It is critically important that we work together with others, including parents, schools, local authorities, the police and corporates. We are focused, driven and won’t settle for second best – this is at the heart of our approaches to finding the most effective ways of protecting young people.

The biggest driver of change in the past 10 years has been the merging of NSPCC and ChildLine to create a single organisation. The NSPCC had existed for more than 100 years, while ChildLine was a very new, entrepreneurial start up. Bringing the two organisations together would have been challenging for those involved but our organisational culture now benefits from the best of its constituent parts.

The challenges

Our biggest cultural or leadership challenges are:

  • The scale. In recent months, cases of severe child abuse and neglect have hit the news, which has led to an increase in demand for our services. This includes young people calling ChildLine, adults calling the adult helpline to report a concern about a child and more companies requesting consultancy work to ensure they have the right culture, values and approaches to protect young people who interact with them.
  • Changes in technology. Much of our customer base is young people, so we need to keep up with the technological platforms that will reach them best. It’s also a challenge to make sure our team of volunteers have the skills they need to be able to do this.
  • Developing leaders. From policy development, government relations and social care to volunteer management and HR, there is an opportunity to capitalise on the potential of staff and volunteers and develop them as leaders.

 Our ‘can do’ culture and the diversity of our people sets us up well to meet the challenges we face. We also have groups of volunteers who support us in many ways. We are looking at new ways to involve people in using their skills to benefit young people. One particular group of volunteers goes into primary schools to talk to 9-11 year olds about issues that concern or affect them. It’s a wonderful opportunity to help develop young people’s resilience and the skills of the volunteer. Talking to an assembly of 120 young people can be a tough gig.

We also continue to build our relationships with organisations that want to use their skills to support young people. We have a wide range of corporate partners who support us with their technological skills and help leverage the work we do in other ways, too. More generally we focus on the development of leadership capability within our own staff and volunteer base. The charity sector attracts some amazing people with strong values who love to learn – being able to do that kind of development work with them is incredibly rewarding.

Almost everyone who works here is experienced in assessing, evaluating and managing risk. This is what we do every day in each phone call and interaction, whether it’s with a young person using one of our services or in our work with organisations that want to know they are safe places for young people to be. We are acutely aware of the role that organisational culture plays in this and very conscious of role modelling best practice.

Lord Victor Adewobale, chief executive at social care enterprise Turning Point, recently said that “the future is decided by the undiscussable – the stuff that you’re not talking about rather than the stuff that you are talking about”. Things are most likely to fail when there is not enough challenge or conversation – or when conversations remain under the table rather than on it.

Organisational culture requires constant maintenance and a high level of self-awareness. At NSPCC, a model of supervision ensures our colleagues remain healthy and balanced in their dealings with difficult situations by acknowledging that we are all affected by what we see and do every day. It is critical to reflect on this and understand it. Perhaps senior leaders in organisations could learn something from this.

As people progress, their impact on the culture becomes greater but their life sometimes becomes lonelier. Even basic management practices such as one-to-ones fall away and it becomes harder to find someone who will ‘speak truth to power.’

As a member of the executive board, I am conscious of my responsibility for the culture of the organisation and my role enables me to be the one who regularly gives the executive team and our trustees opportunities to talk about the overall ‘health’ of our organisation.

This might involve developing team days for the executives and trustees to talk about our purpose and the culture needed to support it, or creating leadership programmes that facilitate high quality conversations about it. Alternatively, we might intervene and start conversations about elements of our culture that we wish to focus on, enhance or change in some way.

We are looking at the next stage of development of our strategy. It is exciting and daunting to be looking at where the organisation might be in 10 years from now.

The world has seen a remarkable amount of change in a relatively short period. We aim to develop an overarching people strategy, as a partner to our organisational strategy, that will take an organisational development view of how we need to develop to measure up to the challenges of the future. Putting ourselves out of business and eradicating child abuse and exploitation is what success looks like for us. It is my greatest wish that in 10 years’ time the NSPCC is not needed at all.

Siobhan SearsSiobhan Sheridan, people director, NSPCC

Siobhan has responsibility for the NSPCC workforce of around 13,000 staff and volunteers.

Michele Martin-Taylor

VP HR transformation, Europe, DHL Supply Chain

Culture for me is a collection of shared values, beliefs, expectations and interests. It can be determined by what we think, want and do. Within a company it tends to be a way of operating and doing business but it is also a way of interacting with each other and with the outside world.

Candidates and employees are drawn to a company based on what it stands for. The type of individuals within a company and the way they interact with each other can set the tone for many years in terms of shared values and ways of working within an organisation.

DHL Supply Chain, part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, is a contract logistics specialist operating in more than 60 countries and employing over 40,000 employees in the UK and Ireland. It provides logistics and corporate information solutions for many leading companies. We strive to become the provider, employer and investment of choice and all values link to these three drivers. We want our employees to feel empowered to make a contribution to our success and be rewarded appropriately, to ensure shareholders see us as an attractive long-term investment and to give something back to the communities and the world we live in.

Organisations increasingly need to flex and respond to greater demands around growth and are constantly evaluating whether the HR model is fit for purpose.

DHL Supply Chain recently implemented a comprehensive HR transformation programme across its UK & Ireland business. A key aim of the programme was to enhance the internal customers’ (managers and employees) experience. This meant streamlining the model to deploy an industry-leading HR operational model with simplified processes and systems, while maintaining the integrity of people data.

Aligned with this, the HR vision is to ‘Transform to Perform’, underpinned by the mission statement: ‘Visible change in business partnering, expertise and service delivering efficiency, a positive employee experience and talent to support business growth’.

The culture within the new HR organisation is strongly focused on customer service and striving for a strong partnership relationship with the business, combined with collaboration, team spirit and the opportunity to learn from mistakes and celebrate success. Each team member is empowered to take the initiative, get involved in different teams and achieve high impact results that really make a difference.

Previously, the HR teams were primarily concerned with doing the job, with a high transactional focus which might not have enabled a totally customer-centric, proactive approach. However, with HR transformation this has allowed the teams to look forward and demonstrate the added value to the business.

Over the past two years, we have introduced our new HR model, transforming the customer experience and demonstrating the value HR can add to an organisation. It also delivers a consistent ‘One HR’ approach, ensuring maximum impact when working with the business.

Each HR team member has undergone a personal transformation, supported by training and coaching interventions, recognising where they add value and understanding that what they do is critical to the success of the business.

Transformation is only possible with the commitment of everyone in the organisation and delivered by the organisational culture as it introduces values that build on change programmes, methodologies and activities. A key focus for us is to change the mindset to be more accepting around self-service, recognising the benefit it can bring around the management of people while empowering HR teams to take ownership and challenge the status quo. As a global organisation, we ensure we represent diversity and engage with people from different cultural and intellectual backgrounds to create an inspiring, open-minded atmosphere.

Deutsche Post DHL is launching a One HR focus programme: Certified International Professionals. This is a cross-divisional training scheme designed to engage all employees, empower them and provide know-how and development opportunities, with a focus on collaboration, courage, focus, agility and commitment.

Within the UK & Ireland, people services are piloting a Shared Services programme, with five key elements – the customer, insights to project management and process re-engineering, pathway to quality and facilitation, team development and coaching, career planning and self-development.

We have many channels to communicate and discuss the direction of our organisation. A key part of this is the annual employee opinion survey which gives our employees the opportunity to have their voices heard. Their feedback helps us continuously improve and move forward as one company. In the past few years, a series of core questions have been asked, with some minor adjustments for cultural differences, to understand how we are progressing as a global company.

Along with our corporate strategy, we identify our top talents across all levels and have established core processes to support them. This includes career planning, mentoring and broadened training curricula to accelerate their development.

Michele Martin TaylorMichele Martin-Taylor, VP HR transformation, Europe, DHL Supply Chain

Michele is responsible for transforming how the organisation delivers HR services through the implementation of a new HR operating model, systems and tools serving 40,000 employees.

Recruiting talent for cultural fit

Culture is the mixture of norms and behaviours over time that become the ‘way we do things round here’. In three words, the culture of Sodexo is entrepreneurial, service-led and networked.

Relationships are very important. We build a diverse workforce from every angle and invest in improving performance and engagement. From a hiring perspective this means looking at more behavioural hiring, rather than pure experience, as a lot of unconscious bias can be at work in these processes.

A real focus on shortlists at a senior level and better targeting of our marketing reach will ensure we are more rigorous in searching for the best candidates. We do attempt to base some of the selection criteria on values and behaviours. We are piloting the use of situational ‘judgement tests’ and other selection tools to help us assess better. For many of our roles it is important to hire for attitude and train for skills.

This new approach involves us spending time with managers to help them understand the differences in interview technique and to establish that this means there is a benchmark for hiring. For example, we establish a measure for success rather than a comparator against other candidates. This has proved to be effective for diverse outcomes and quality. We also hope to see a reduction in management time spent on selection processes because many candidates will have been removed from the process earlier.

Recruitment is the first entry point into an organisation and we are the signposts and potential guardians of the culture. We try to shine a mirror up to hiring managers to challenge whether they are trying to take the easy option or look for a long-term fit. It’s not always easy or successful but that is the job of a modern recruitment function.

The organisation is trying to build and reinforce capability in managers to engage the business in what will be a changing landscape. There are many business opportunities in the market but it is increasingly competitive – innovation, service and delivery are key differentiators and this comes down to having the right people with the right attitudes who are committed to going the extra mile.

Jon HullJon Hull, head of resourcing, Sodexo

Jon has responsibility for resourcing and employer brand for the UK and Ireland.