In our last blog post we discussed how delivering a consistent experience depends on cultural alignment from the inside out. In smaller firms it’s often an organic process with founding partners’ characters and ambitions shaping their firm’s culture. This isn’t always sustainable, however, particularly as a business grows or, as is more often the case in today’s world, consolidates with another.
Do culture and experience merge that easily? While there is often a meeting of minds as well as balance sheets how do you safeguard the best bits of each culture and drive a consistent client experience? How do you define a culture that is a living and breathing part of how your people interact? How do you sustain it? And how do you use it to achieve commercial advantage?
This is when a strategy or framework should move from a ‘nice to have’ on the to-do list to a business critical must have. Here are some practical examples of our approach:
1. Listen and learn from employees
A soft drinks manufacturer client of ours has a very special culture borne out of its origins as a family business. The ‘old-timers’ naturally bring new joiners up to speed with the ‘way-we-do things-round-here’ in their own personal (and personable) way. This had worked for 140 years! But this business was growing faster than Coca-Cola. It urgently needed to capture the special qualities of its unique culture, to protect and make it scalable.
We began with a business-wide employee consultation and soon identified key behaviours consistently demonstrated when employees performed at their best. Based on this, four resonant behavioural principles were articulated including all the character that makes this business so unique. These principles now form the cornerstones of all their recruitment, performance management, engagement, and change management activities. Our client is confident its culture will continue to drive future growth and success.
2. Define your shared story and promote your strengths
Almost a year ago we began working with a market-leading global real estate business. It professed (as many do!) that its people were its differentiating factor. But how could it prove that its people and their interactions really are that different? And how could it recruit more of those sorts of people to maintain its leading position in the market?
The answer was to develop a global Employee Value Proposition. An expression of the interactions and strengths shared across its employee community that truly makes the business what it is today and will be tomorrow.
Forming a working group of cross-functional roles (HR, internal comms and marketing) we began by listening. Then based on our findings we crafted a narrative with cultural themes to guide a more consistent and compelling approach to promoting and celebrating culture. This directly impacts on recruitment, engagement, performance management and shaping the client experience.
3. Bring it all to life!
So when you’ve really got under the skin of a culture and defined it don’t forget to empower everyone inside the firm. Everyone from the Managing Partner through to Support Services should feel informed, empowered and motivated.
A long-standing professional services client with an iconic external brand has grown through mergers and acquisitions to become one of the UK’s Top 20 firms. With all this change over a relatively short period of time it’s been vital to define the ingredients that make up its culture and to help all employees both understand and embrace it. Internally there are a host of templates and tools not just telling teams what the culture is but bringing it to life. Ultimately this culture drives the client experience.
Zoe Tisdall is Brand Client Director and Fiona Burnett is Brand Consultant at integrated creative consultancy Emperor. For further information, Zoe can be contacted at: email@example.com.