Creative culture to inspire your people: Interview with Marian Connolly, head of Talent for Europe a

Written by
Changeboard Team

10 Jul 2013

10 Jul 2013 • by Changeboard Team

The impact of employer brand

In all our people (HR) services and communications, we work hard to project our brand in an engaging and straightforward way. We’re consistently listed as one of Britain’s top employers and we’re proud of the approach our ‘people team’ – our HR function – takes. We are very connected to the business and sit alongside our consultants in an open plan office. Our focus is simply making sure that people are happy, productive, and stimulated. If our people are happy, they will do their best work. We don’t use HR language, jargon, complex ratings or scoring systems – just a simple, down to earth way of working with people to make sure we fully support them to be at their best holistically and have development plans that stretch them. Investing in our employer brand and having a good, deep relationship with employees ensures that our values are truly reflected in all that we do – both internally and to our clients.

Brand to build appeal and engagement

We invest a lot of energy in selecting and briefing our recruitment partners – even bringing them into our business to experience some of our consulting work first hand. Candidates are introduced to a wide range of colleagues, not just managers, to ensure they really understand the brand and where they could add value – and that we have a real sense of what would make them happy and productive. 

We actively involve people in recruitment and the rate of referrals for new people – for which we give a £2,500 talent bonus – is very high, at around 60% annually. Candidate feedback suggests that they immediately ‘feel’ our culture from the moment they start that journey with us; our reception team, which we’ve named ‘Heart of House’, make sure everyone has a great visitor experience, and we work hard to ensure people feel as relaxed as possible so they can be their best.  

We receive a large number of applications for all roles and don’t tend to use social media or the web to advertise vacancies. Depending on the team, would-be consultants are asked to either submit a video or facilitate a short session for us. This helps us get a really clear idea of who they are and their communication style, which is very important for our work with clients. After a four-stage interview process, all our new joiners receive a ‘Love Box’ which contains a contract of employment and our handbook, ‘The Little Book of Nurture’, as well as books on innovation written by our people: ‘Science of Serendipity’ and ‘Sticky Wisdom’. There’s also a selection of products and services we have invented and updates on what’s been happening in the business. All of this gives some great insights into the company and there are some fun goodies inside to help make the pre-joining process feel exciting and special. In the ‘Love Box’ you’ll also find ?What If! branded pads, pens, USB sticks and backpacks as well as tasty snacks and treats from clients we’ve worked with, for example, Dorset Cereals, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range and Millicano coffee. Our contract of employment is distinctive and promotes our values, as they appear right up front before we get into the essentials and the small print. 

Living the brand and values

When working with clients on a talent-related brief, we always conduct employee and stakeholder interviews and deconstruct them in a facilitated workshop to identify the big themes. Recently we’ve also taken clients on what we call ‘Top Dog’ tours within other industries to get a deep understanding of best practice. During these, we have met with other HR teams to generate new ideas that keep their own brand fresh and exciting. 

We encourage our employees to act on ideas that they feel can enrich the lives of the people who work here. Two years ago, we launched Pecha Kucha (PK) evenings, where participants talk for 20 slides or 20 seconds about something personal that they are passionate about. This helps build presenting and communication skills in an unpressured environment, stimulates people creatively and provides an opportunity for all teams to get to know each other better and share ideas.

Twice a year we run our Dreamcatcher Award. This is a Dragon’s Den-style event in which people present their ‘dream’ or a personal ambition that demonstrates our five values – impact, action, passion, love, and audacity – and agree to share their experience at a PK night. Winners receive an extra five days’ paid holiday and a prize of £1,000 to help them make that personal ambition a reality. Each month, employees nominate colleagues who they feel have demonstrated our values. These nominations go up on the walls. Then at the birthday breakfast held monthly for everyone whose birthday it is that month, the team votes for the winner of the Values Award, which comes with a cash prize. All of this reminds us to celebrate, live and breathe our values and use them to produce our best work. 

Our people are incredibly motivated by our social innovation work through our ?What If! Foundation. Through the foundation we support a different social entrepreneur or charity each year, offering them the use of office space and our innovation expertise. This way they have the opportunity to work on social innovation during their paid work time and really help these projects to be successful. Meanwhile, our Seriously Exciting Club exists to drive inspiration and the regular sharing of information about the work that is going on in the business. This encompasses spreading knowledge and expertise internally, bringing together thinking, questions and new themes, getting us out and getting people in to talk to us, communicating trends from around the world and, feeding our brains with information about innovation.