How to cultivate culture

Written by
Sarah Clark

10 May 2016

10 May 2016 • by Sarah Clark

Following the success of our July event where we scrutinised the DNA of employer brand, our second Future Talent Workshop debated organisational culture, in partnership with recruitment communications business SMRS.

 On 15 October 2015, Changeboard welcomed business leaders to a morning of collaboration, to discuss issues, share insights and explore the steps needed to win the hearts and minds of our people. Changeboard’s CEO, Jim Carrick-Birtwell, opened the event, sharing his vision about ‘Future Talent’ becoming a mechanism to explore central business themes of our time. “Culture is often raised as a tricky and elusive management challenge,” he said, “which is why it’s so important to get a range of perspectives.”

Event facilitator, Toby Windsor, managing partner of SMRS, explained his hope that the workshop might provide insights about unravelling culture. “We’ll be asking big questions about practical elements relevant to HR, learning how to embed a great culture,” he pledged.

Carla Cringle and Imogen Pudduck: Building culture

Googling the word ‘culture’ conjures up 1.4 billion results, so it’s a challenging concept to unpick. Brand employee engagement consultants Carla Cringle and Imogen Pudduck, co-founders of FizzPopBANG, agree that “people no longer want to do a job and go home; as work and home life blur, they want to work somewhere with a culture that reflects their personal values.”

They believe the golden rule for creating company culture is authenticity: “Understand what’s authentic to you, the reason you exist as an organisation and feed that through everything you do,” they urged. It’s also critical for HR to become ‘besties’ with the marketing team, in order to build brand values. “Work together,” urged Pudduck. “Let your people create culture, build it, own it,” added Cringle. “Don’t try to establish culture and values from the top, involve your people, they’ll share it and evolve for you.” They believe it’s the first follower, not the leader, who creates a movement, and that is what will allow your culture to live beyond the boardroom table. 

Founders of FizzPopBANG - Carla and Imogen founded brand employee engagement consultancy FizzPopBANG after meeting at former employer Red Bull, where Cringle was head of HR and Pudduck headed the brand team. They are passionate about linking people with businesses and advise companies across all industries.

Sarah Jepson-Jones: The culture journey at Cancer Research UK

Overseeing 2,000 employees and the largest research agenda in the UK, Cancer Research UK’s head of organisational development and employee engagement, Sarah Jepson-Jones, has a big task on her hands. She shared the reality of refreshing and rebuilding culture from within an organisation, including the power of rebranding internally, dealing with non-believers and ensuring your new culture doesn’t go stale.

“What does brand mean to you?” was the first question she asked the organisation, and from there, her mission was to build role models, brand advocates, and develop the company’s ‘personality’, introducing its ‘brand beliefs’. Instead of drafting a values framework, Cancer Research UK introduced ‘behavioural prompts’, such as “our stories change the world”. The charity championed creative initiatives to engage its workforce – for example, tickets were sold to all employees for the board to serve afternoon tea – as well as holding quizzes, cake sales and dressup days. This created so much buzz, they raised more than £60,000 for the charity. However, the real cultural breakthrough came when HR sat down with brand and internal communications.

Echoing FizzPopBang’s assertion about working with marketing, Jepson-Jones said: “We need to understand our brand and they need to understand how people work every day.” 

Sarah Jepson-Jones, head of organisational development and employee engagement, Cancer Research UK -Sarah’s team focuses on improving how the charity works through its people, by providing end-to-end support to enhance effectiveness, culture and capability.

Dr Alan Watkins: The psychology of group dynamics

“If people are an organisation’s greatest asset, why do CEOs spend most of their time with financial directors rather than HR directors?” pondered Dr Alan Watkins, CEO of Complete Coherence.

As a neuroscientist and expert on leadership and human performance, he believes creating culture centres on understanding where people are coming from and finding common ground. He argues that we experience three dimensions in every moment of our lives (the “it, I and we” dimensions, also known as “doing, being and relating”) but rarely think about them. Most of the workforce has collapsed into one-dimensional “human doings”, overwhelmed by a never-ending “to do” list. “How often do you consider the commercial performance of HR?” he asked the audience. “What will it take to build a future in HR? Where will we be in five years? What relationships do we need to develop? What’s the culture within HR itself and what energy do I bring?” You might discover you’re one-dimensional yourself, he warned delegates. When focusing on culture, he advises working beyond the one-dimensional. “You need to find your concept and work with it,” he said. “Culture isn’t behaviours, it’s about establishing your organisation’s identity and reputation.” 

Dr Alan Watkins, CEO of Complete Coherence - With three degrees and a background in neuroscience, Alan has coached many of Europe’s top business people in leadership and performance, and supported the Great Britain Olympic squad