HomeEmployee ExperienceCultureHow can People Leaders put empowerment into their cultural DNA?

How can People Leaders put empowerment into their cultural DNA?

  • 12 Min Read

How People Leaders use transformation and technology create a culture that has both the business and the invidiual written into its DNA? Ahead of her appearance at the HRD Summit UK, February 4th-5th 2020, Jo Davis, Group HR Director, Mitie, explores the construction of great workplace culture.

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Culture isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The right culture not only speaks for the many – the values and goals of a business – but also for every individual that comprises that business.

As a recent Deloitte survey revealed, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. With this in mind, how can People Leaders create a workplace culture that has empowerment, both of the business and the individual, written into its DNA?

Ahead of her appearance at the HRD Summit UK, February 4th-5th 2020, Jo Davis, Group HR Director, Mitie, explores the construction of great workplace culture.

How can organisations create cultures that allow for individuality in their employees?

At Mitie, we now have five generations in the workplace and there are some natural differences in the way that each generation thinks and what is valued by them, just because of their stage of life. So, seeking to understand these differences and respond to them is critical for successful organisations. In addition to this, regardless of generation, everyone is an individual, with their own personalities, challenges, hopes and fears, so creating a culture where employees can also be the individual that they are, is also essential. In HR, we call it diversity and inclusion – making everyone feel that they can be the real them. That they can talk openly about how they feel and that their voices are heard and considered. But there is a difference between allowing for individuality and really encouraging it.

The best ideas come when people work together, therefore the more people with different perspectives, experiences and preferences we have working on something, the better the result.  At Mitie, one of our core values is “Our diversity makes us stronger” and this is something we passionately champion and celebrate. It’s why we were named number 17 in the UK’s most inclusive companies last year.

And so how do you encourage individuality? You have to provide an inclusive culture – one that is supported by working practices which are flexible and provide lots of choice, because one size doesn’t fit all. This can be something organisations find difficult, frequently finding lots of reasons why both flexibility and choice can’t be offered. However, it isn’t enough just to make a statement of inclusivity and diversity. Without flexibility and choices, inclusivity and, therefore, diversity will never be achieved.

How can digitisation help to shape career development for employees?

Digitisation is the key to both choice and flexibility and from a career perspective, the digital revolution is enabling career development options to be far more visible and achievable than ever before. Digital tools allow us to access a whole world of learning material online which was never available before. If you want to watch something, read something, listen to something, play a game to learn a new skill, test your current knowledge etc. it’s easy, quick and accessible; and of course, you can go off piste to whatever subject matter you like and build skills in areas outside of your current role or profession.

Digitisation also allows greater visibility and accessibility to job opportunities, allowing employees to contact influencers and decision makers directly, at the touch of a button.

For example, when I applied for my first job, I found the position in the paper, sent in a letter and waited to be called. Today, however, you can find a role online, watch a video that shows a day in the life, find out about the culture, company values and backgrounds of other employees. You can message the recruiter and other influencers directly through LinkedIn, have a look on Glassdoor to see what other candidates were asked, how they rated the interview process and how positive the employment experience is once inside. We live in a hyperconnected world and career development opportunities are now far more visible than they have ever been.

At Mitie, our cultural transformation to become ‘One Mitie’, rather than a group of disparate companies, is underpinned by inspiring our people to stop seeing their roles in silos and share talent and knowledge across the business. Embedding technology which encourages everyone to broaden their skill-set, view opportunities across the group, build their internal network and create development plans will enable this change to take place.

How has cloud-based technology benefited Mitie’s people strategy?

Until just a couple of years ago, we had no central HR systems at Mitie – and with over 50,000 employees working across eight different businesses, this caused a variety of challenges, as you might imagine. We had to make a significant investment in order to land ourselves in the correct decade.

Over the last 12 months, we have implemented four state-of-the-art, cloud-based, intuitive technology platforms that are redefining how we put our employees in the driving seat of their careers at Mitie.

Our ‘People Hub’ is a one-stop-shop for all things related to the employee lifecycle. For the first time, our organisational hierarchies are visible, a digital who’s who. It also provides our employees with 24/7 access to their personal information, allowing them to manage their personal data, view payslips, request and approve leave. As the majority of our workforce are based at client sites, remote working is not always conducive to Managers and their teams being in the same place at the same time. So, it speeds up and simplifies basic HR transactions.

At the core of our Learning and Development transformation is our ‘Learning Hub’, a digital LMS platform. Our employees can access online development material relevant to their role. This includes mandatory compliance related training material, our induction, and a wealth of self-selected development and health and wellbeing modules. The ‘Learning Hub’ can be accessed on any device, allowing colleagues to learn whatever, wherever and whenever; enabling choice.

We have also embedded a cloud-based platform to manage our end to end supply of contingent labour. Our Managers can now book a temp at the touch of a button. It takes 52 seconds to create a role, 64 seconds to book a fully-compliant candidate and 18 seconds to approve a timesheet. That’s a vast improvement in terms of time and ease.

And finally, our fourth cloud-based technology is fondly referred to as the ‘Talent Hub’. We think we have chosen one of the best pieces of recruitment tech in the market to ensure that our Managers can recruit quickly and easily and from the best and diverse talent pools. Potential candidates can search for vacancies based on hours, tasks and locations to enable choice and flexibility. Interviews can be booked online, and Line Managers can offer feedback verbally, which is turned into a formal written response to candidates. We can build talent pools and create campaigns at the touch of a button. Given we hire almost 20,000 people a year, it’s revolutionised how we recruit.

How can organisations more effectively use and measure engagement surveys?

A lot of companies don’t ask their colleagues what they think. And if they do, they don’t listen. When your workforce is dispersed, on their feet all day and without digital connectivity, it’s a tough challenge to get them share how they really feel. But it’s not about the response rate, it’s about what a survey tells you. How do your employees feel about working for you? If they could find another job tomorrow, would they jump ship without hesitation? Do they aspire for long careers? Do they find their work fulfilling, their managers inspiring, their rewards and recognition motivating?

At Mitie, our annual engagement survey is called ‘Upload’. Last year we saw an unprecedented 12% increase in engagement in one year. I’ve never seen such a seismic shift in my career and I’m proud of our team for the focus we gave last year on listening, analysing and responding to the feedback our teams gave us. We worked hard to gather these responses – we issued versions digitally, on paper and in multiple languages. We shared the link on posters and payslips, through manager ‘Team Talks’ and our network of line managers and business champions to raise awareness for the whole month that the survey was open.

But the key is to translate this feedback into effective action. We did this by breaking it down into five key priority areas, with each theme sponsored by a member of our Executive Leadership Team. These priority areas were:

  • Senior Leadership
  • Empowerment & Autonomy
  • Reward & Recognition
  • Employee Brand
  • Enabling Infrastructure

The Executive team then led a working group, made up of Senior Leaders from across the business to focus on their issue. Each team reported progress to a Steering Committee made up of the CEO, one of our non-Executive Directors and some of our front-line employees, to ensure that our employees’ voices were represented too. The result was a “You Said, We Did” campaign that saw us put all this feedback into real, tangible actions and create new initiatives within our business.

Communicating progress is also critical. We’ve done this through every medium we can think of… companywide videos to spread the word, national roadshows, Yammer posts, newsletters, intranet articles and even posters on the back of toilet doors! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s that if you want to land a message, you need to share it through multiple channels, multiple times before it’s noticed, so we had to work really hard to ensure that the key messages got out. You Said. We did.

It has taken a lot of work, but I think that’s why we saw such great results.

How can employer brand provide internal and external benefit for talent?

Companies spend millions of pounds each year building their consumer brands. Their products, their marketing, their adverts, their customer promise etc. But what about their brand as an employer? This gets nowhere near the same kind of budget or attention. Should employees and potential employees instinctively know what it would feel like to work there? And can we presume that all current employees would talk about the company in the same way to potential recruits?

Some organisations get this right. But it has taken years of effort. John Lewis, McDonalds, Timpson’s and Google have all got well established employee brands, that shout about why you should want to work for them. But for most companies, the ‘employer brand’ needs some work.

But why is it important? Because it’s the employee promise. It’s how you can expect to feel working here if you were an employee. It’s about the things that are going to make you feel proud about being an employee and the words you should want to use to describe working here to another person. Internally, the employee brand promise drives the culture and behaviours of the management team and the workforce. It creates a moral code, both actions and words; and if it turns out not to be the reality, the employee feels disengaged. So, it’s critical that this is articulated clearly and consistently for both current and future employees.

Last year at Mitie, we redefined our vision ‘The exceptional, every day’ and rolled out five new organisational values. Our Diversity makes us stronger, We are one Mitie, Our Customers’ business is our business, We go the extra mile and We are built on integrity and trust. 12 months in and they’ve landed pretty well, people can name them, they like them, they feel proud of them and have started to challenge behaviours and processes that are contrary to our values. We have to keep them alive, in people’s consciousness and find ways in which to knit them into our DNA. They’re not our employee brand – not yet at least. Hopefully with a bit of time and a relentless focus on keeping our values alive, our employee brand will take care of itself.

 Do you think there are long term internal benefits to doing social good outside your organisation?

The impact that we have as an organisation on both the communities in which we work, and the environment has become a very real focus for both our current and future employees.

Over the last 12 months we’ve made several big commitments as a business – transferring 100% of our fleet to electric vehicles by 2030 is just one example. Our social value initiatives have received positive feedback and reinforced what we already knew. Working for a socially responsible employer is becoming increasingly important.

At Mitie we have a team dedicated to identifying new opportunities to create real social value in every partnership we create with our clients. We organise our efforts into five key themes: Employment, Responsibility, Community, Environment and Innovation. Our projects make our people, our communities and our planet happier. But they also make our balance sheet stronger – recycling waste and reducing energy consumption not only helps the planet, but helps save money too. Investors and shareholders are becoming increasingly interested in the organisations that are making a difference to the environment and the FTSE 4Good is a great indicator of who is taking this seriously. There is no doubt that focussing on sustainable projects and creating great social value, will lead to greater cost savings which can be reinvested in other ways, so even more reason to get behind these initiatives.

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