Creating an inclusive culture for growth

Date Published

In the week we marked International Women’s Day, our latest Growth Series event for portfolio companies focused on ‘creating an inclusive culture for growth’. We were delighted to welcome Adrian Moorhouse, Partner of EY Lane4, Mary Beighton, People and Culture Director at Zuto and Pat Caldwell, Chief Operating Officer at FundApps (a certified B-Corp) to our panel alongside Tony Robison and Andrew Davidson of SEP. Here we share some highlights from the discussion.

We all have a history and draw from that

Adrian’s success as a gold winning Olympic athlete was not immediately synonymous with being a successful business leader. As a highly driven and goal orientated individual he had a clear proposition for Lane 4 but found it challenging to take other people with him. He realised that to be an inspirational leader he needed to be more like his coach on the side of the pool. So, he shifted from being a goal centred individual to the creator of a high-performance culture, fostering an environment where every employee could thrive and share the best experience possible.

Organisational mission, goals and processes were clear and individual contributions were valued. There was a shared sense of purpose and personal growth and it proved to be a recipe for success, with Lane 4 quickly growing from 3 to 220 people and twice doubling turnover and headcount year on year.

So what are the key attributes of a high performing environment?

• Personalisation – it needs to be appropriate for your business
• Inclusion – do the team know and feel that what they do aligns with the company’s purpose and values
• Achievement – measuring like for like
• Process – are you easy to do business with
• Innovation – are you securing new markets, products and retaining customers
• Wellbeing and capability – are the right people in the right jobs and do they care about what they are doing

It’s a long term sustainable thriving organisation that gets the balance right across all these areas.

To succeed in sport, you create a high-level vision, and you break that down by day and hour into effective head and heart goals. The same can apply to business: Why are we doing this; What do we need to achieve; How can we get there? Sharing these goals can help motivate your team.

How to retain talent in a highly competitive market

Consider how it feels for people within your organisation and what you can control. As Mary pointed out, attrition is a challenge but there are some big-ticket issues for retention:

• Regular benchmarking of pay and reward – recognise that competition for talent is global not local and make sure you are aligned with movements in the market
• Wellbeing and balance – do the right thing by your people and offer tools to support health and wellness such as hybrid working, family friendly policies and healthcare benefits
• Career development – offer clear paths for progression with structured commitments and access to positive role models within the organisation
• Celebrate success – it is particularly important in a fast-growing, high-performance environment to stop and recognise achievements together
• Corporate culture – don’t underestimate the importance of being part of a force for good. Zuto’s team of over 300 Zutonites work autonomously within an energising and inspiring environment, free from rigid hierarchy and structures and are focused on delivering a world class customer journey

Pat also reiterated that a clear sense of corporate purpose is fundamental, and consideration needs to be given as to how this connects with individual purpose. He continued:

• Consider the stickiness of social capital within your teams – how do staff and managers relate to each other
• Treat leavers fairly and learn from them – hold up a mirror and examine what was missing for that individual at organisational level
• Understand the motivations and drivers for why people want to join your company or stay with your company

Integrating new joiners quickly and effectively

In fast growing organisations, managing the integration of lots of new staff can be a real challenge. Zuto has made hundreds of new hires over the last few years and the team have focused their efforts on building a great experience from a candidate’s first interaction with the talent team through day 1 and onboarding. Recruits are immersed in the corporate culture from the top down, with CEO Jim Wilkinson leading by example and joining new induction groups each Monday to tell the company’s story and take questions. Transparency is critical in building trust with the workforce. Mary highlighted how little things can make a big difference to a new member of staff – inviting them to company events as part of their ‘pre-boarding’, supplying them with their favorite coffee on day 1 or covering them in corporate swag can all heighten their sense of belonging.

Pat stressed that onboarding starts at the first interaction with a candidate and consistent messaging throughout the recruitment process is imperative. People paint a picture from their experience with your brand and every interviewer, team leader, supervisor and colleague need to be vested in new people joining the corporate family. Make use of deliberate in person interactions, giving people the space and time to ask questions and listen to their feedback.

Consider individual drivers for each team member: what motivates and frustrates them. If you don’t have that you are flying blind and just hoping that the big corporate themes resonate. A tailored and intuitive approach should form the backbone of a successful people strategy.

Beware of cascading information

For companies scaling at pace, Adrian advised adopting a waterwheel not a waterfall approach to information flow. Sharing doesn’t come naturally to all and some need time to make sense of what’s being imparted. For a fully inclusive culture and engaged workforce, you need to continuously check in, listen, reinforce and sometimes recalibrate.

Engagement or pulse surveys can be a useful way of assessing sentiment within an organisation and work best when complemented by one-to-one interactions. However, do not embark on surveying staff if you have no intention of changing corporate practice in response to criticism or comment.

Live feedback sessions can be a great way of enabling staff to challenge management in an open forum and work well in high trust organisations. Icelandic travel tech business Dohop is working with a psychological safety coach to encourage people to share information and equipping them with the skills to express themselves without fear of adverse reaction.

Maintaining corporate DNA

The businesses that succeed in creating a successful, inclusive culture are those where individual goals are connected into a clear corporate vision and purpose; where careers are progressed and leaders developed. As Adrian concluded: “Build a strong framework and let people play”.

Further Growth Series events are planned for later this year and topic ideas are always welcome.

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