Insider story: The war on talent – Dr. Marten’s impressive cultural transformation

Dr. Marten’s impressive cultural transformation
Dr. Marten’s impressive cultural transformation

For this instalment of ‘Insiders Story’ Helen Verwoert – Global HR Director of Dr. Martens kindly spared a couple of hours of her time to talk to me about the Dr. Martens journey.

Dr. Martens is an iconic British brand founded in 1960 in Northamptonshire. Originally produced for workers looking for tough, durable boots, the brand was quickly adopted by diverse youth subcultures and associated with musical movements. Dr. Martens have since transcended their working-class roots, while still celebrating their proud heritage and, nearly six decades later, “Docs” or “DMs” are worn by people around the world who use them as a symbol of empowerment and their own individual attitude. Dr. Martens currently trades in 58 countries worldwide.

Now based in Camden, arguably the hippest area of London, Dr. Martens is a globally dominant household name – with a brand and identity to make the edgiest of retailers jealous. However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing. After threats of bankruptcy in the early noughties Dr. Martens were acquired by a business in 2013.

Dr. Martens firm set out ambitious plans to generate £400million revenue in four years, doubling headcount and increasing stores globally from 15 to over 100 – no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination. With the company being so fiercely independent in their approach, their brand and identity were at risk of being diluted.

Helen joined the brand in 2013, shortly before the sale, so she had the opportunity to work with the family first hand.  Speaking of why she joined Dr. Martens, Helen said, ‘I loved the brand. There’s something different about us, we do it our way.’

And she isn’t wrong. Whilst the fundamentals of employee engagement and cultural development are similar from company to company, what Dr. Martens have done is create something that is very unique to themselves and it really sets them apart from the rest.

 

Rebellious self expression

Helen and the team knew what made Dr. Martens special, but it was crucial for them to define this more formally.

‘It became key for us to define who we are and what our expectations are. What do we love, what do we preserve and equally what do we evolve? There is a lot of superficial shit around culture. What is different about us is, whether you are a consumer or an employee, you get the same experience from us.’

Focus groups were held over a period of 6 months that involved employees from different areas and levels of seniority across the business and from this, the essence of the business was extracted. ‘Rebellious Self Expression’ – a simple, powerful and memorable phrase which was at the heart of everything they do.

After the focus groups and much thought and discussion, Dr. Martens went ‘On The Record’, quite literally, by printing their ambitions, purpose and fundamental beliefs on 7 inch vinyl, complete with artwork and sleeve.

 

Culture vultures and a revelation in social networking

As we all know, developing and maintaining a great culture isn’t just about sticking some values on a fancy disc and sending it to your employees. Culture isn’t a gimmick.

Helen went out to the business to ask for volunteers to be culture ambassadors – and was amazed to get over 40 responses – the ‘Culture Vultures’ was born.

The responsibility of ‘Culture Vultures’ was to live and breathe ‘doing things the DM way’ looking at mental health & wellbeing, how they could make meaningful connections, as well as collaborating internally and connecting with key charities and local communities to create opportunities to be able to give something back.

The Vultures learnt that nurturing a culture wasn’t about quick wins – sure the free food and office parties were nice, but that’s wasn’t what made Dr. Martens the business it is.

‘The Culture Vultures have really been getting traction from the business, they have got buy in from senior leadership and it has empowered them to see how we work as a business’.

They have developed and embedded some amazing initiatives including ‘CultureAmp’, an intuitive online employee engagement platform, which provides real-time results and feedback.

A real game changer is – LifeWorks. LifeWorks is an internal social networking platform for all Dr. Martens employees, implemented to help keep people connected, rewarded, recognised and supported. It combines a live newsfeed, employee benefits, an EAP service and a colleague directory, with people being able to post live updates from their sites and give each other recognition.

Helen admits ‘In the past our comms wasn’t great – but with Lifeworks everyone around the world can see what we are up to – from HQ, to the stores and the factory teams, everyone has really embraced it’.

The war on talent

Of course, the key to any great culture is getting the right people. Helen admits they haven’t always got it right. ‘We have to hire people who understand the journey we have been on and where we are going.’

‘We tend to find that when we do interview people, they have an affinity in the brand. We have had people tell us that they were never allowed a pair of Docs as a child, or that they remember their first pair of boots – where, when and why they bought them.’

With DM still on such a huge trajectory, they need agility and adaptability in their employees, as well as having the right leaders to embody the vision of the business. And sometimes this means not hiring the obvious choice.

As a business, they have a flat structure, there is a lack of hierarchy, they don’t take themselves too seriously, but boy do they know how to get shit done!

Now at 103 stores globally, a new CEO and seeing exceptional sales globally, Dr. Martens haven’t lost who they are. Their leaders know what’s going on in their business.

Everyone you meet, from the receptionist to the senior management team are warm, friendly and take the time to understand you as an individual. It is rare in a business you can be unashamedly true to yourself and have that welcomed with open arms.

So…what next?

‘More of the same!’ is Helen’s answer. And who can blame her?

What she and the rest of the business have achieved in the last 5 years is nothing short of remarkable.

 

For all things interim management, change & transformation, get in touch with us via the info form below, and if you would like to feature in our ‘Insiders Story’ blog, email me on kate@refind.co.uk.

 

You can view more about Kate Wass our executive interim specialist here.

Insider Story – Resourcing Transformation at Gowling WLG

For August’s instalment of Insider’s Story, I met up with not only one of my favourite HR professionals, but one of my favourite people in general, to talk about ‘resourcing transformation’.

The wonderful Jo Franklin, Head of Resourcing for Gowling WLG, agreed to sit down with me and have a chat about the huge ‘resourcing transformation’ journey they have been on.

She explains how they have transformed their resourcing strategy and well and truly stepped out of the ‘Wragge & Co shadow’.

Gowling WLG has been on quite a ride over the past few years…

What was once Wragge & Co, then Wragge, Lawrence Graham & Co, (before joining forces with top Canadian law firm Gowlings) and finally Gowling WLG was born.

Jo joined the business post-merger in the early part of 2016. They had gone from being in the Top 25 to overnight becoming a part of a major international law firm. As a result of this, their resourcing and talent strategies needed some serious development and she was in responsible for resourcing transformation.

“ It was a testing period”, Jo admits “as I joined, three of my most experienced team members were going on maternity leave. All of that knowledge and experience leaving at a time of considerable change!”

The Transformation

The vision was clear; to make Gowling WLG a recognised brand in the marketplace, to compete against the top law firms and to secure the best talent across lateral, business services and early talent.

The perception that the resourcing team was very much an administrative support function was something that Jo wanted to change. As around 60% of the team’s time had been spent on recruitment admin, they wanted to adopt a business partnering approach and get more stakeholder facetime.

Jo says, “We wanted to have a position in the market where we could source directly, because of our reputation.”

To put this into perspective in the legal sector, agency hire rates sits at around 60-70%. Jo had set herself a target of direct sourcing at 60%.

In order to achieve this, the team needed to look at a number of things including Employer Brand, EVP and Internal Engagement.

How did you do it?

One of the key pieces to landing any big transformation is to engage with your people and to take them along on the journey. They wanted to focus on their people, rather than the work they do.

Gowling decided to undertake 360-degree feedback to determine their true employer values.

This consisted of 12 workshops with people across the brand, from trainee to partner level. It also involved leadership interviews and market research to understand what made working at Gowling WLG different and unique.

From this developed an employer value proposition (EVP)framework upon which the new careers site would be based.

Headed up by the team members returning from maternity leave, they employed the service of two specialist agencies to convert their EVP into attraction messaging and built their careers site around this.

In order to meet their own challenging direct sourcing targets (60% of all offers), their social media and direct hiring activity needed to be supported by a creative, informative and content-rich careers website.

This is Gowling WLG’s first full careers site. For several years, the firm has had an early talent website, but the offering for fee earners and business service professionals was limited, and the team was keen to promote their new enhanced apprenticeship programme. Now they have detailed information on the firm, its culture and all the different job families in one place, which is presented in a creative and engaging way.

‘You can’t just tell people what your values are’

A common mistake that many organisations make is just announcing what their Values and EVP are, rather than engaging with people, which can alienate people and leave them feeling unsure of their identity.

Rather than just announcing firm values, it is far more effective to live and breathe them, and they slowly infiltrate into the business as usual.”

There must be a mindset change for any transformation to be implemented successfully.

Jo and her team did this through empowering the people around them.. Rather than focussing on what was wrong with the current approach, they demonstrated how great things really could be by sharing knowledge and helping people to understand that there are other ways of attracting great candidates…

Jo says, “Don’t tell people, let them experience it”

Developing a ‘Dream Team’

Jo recognised that in order to truly provide a value-add service to the business, developing her team’s offering was key.

At the time of joining, their agency spend was substantial…

Due to previously having a limited view of forthcoming requirements, the firm had become used to a reactive approach to recruitment and this was going to be a huge change for them.

Proving the model worked and providing tangible results in the first few months was vital, both in the quality of candidates introduced and time to hire.

One of the key hires to the team was Chris Lake, who had an exceptional track record in direct resourcing, having worked for a legal agency for 6 years prior to joining Gowling WLG.

Jo empowered the team to start taking a more forward-thinking approach. They began to identify and map the key markets within the firm’s key sector areas, understanding the active candidate market but more importantly building a picture of passive candidates that could be developed into a talent audience for the future.

The resourcing advisors started to build trust with key stakeholders and taking time to understand their business objectives and working with managers to plan for skills gaps and provide competitor insight and analysis to build credibility.

‘This wasn’t an original solution’

Now Jo, whilst undeniably fantastic, isn’t a part of some kind of secret recruitment magic circle!

The direct sourcing model isn’t an original solution, however, it’s usage within the legal sector is limited within the Top 100 law firms. In addition to this, varied results and methods are evident across the sector – i.e. direct sourcing limited to business services/non-fee earner roles or paralegal level recruitment in some firms.

What is clear, however, is that Jo has opened her stakeholders’ eyes to ‘what could be’ if they trusted in her and her team.

By really engaging with your people, being armed with knowledge and taking a genuine interest in your stakeholders, you can build fantastic relationships.

This doesn’t necessarily happen over-night. Jo herself will admit it has been in huge part down to her teams’ sheer persistence, determination and energy to truly add value that this transformation has been such a huge success

Where are they now?

12 months after Jo and Chris joined the business, Gowling WLG had succeeded in reducing its cost per hire by 41%. The time to hire for the new direct talent strategy 30% lower than for previous hires through recruitment agencies.

The success has continued with the team meeting their direct hire targets year on year, producing real and credible savings on agency spend, whilst still focusing time on building relationships with their key agencies to help with niche roles. By April 2018, they had exceeded their initial 60% goal.

The team were also delighted to receive a prestigious HR in Law award in May for their careers site, which they are now extending out to their international offices, the first being Dubai.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Jo Franklin for taking part in my Insiders Story series! To find out more about life at Gowling WLG, visit their careers page at: https://gowlingwlg.com/en/careers

For all things interim management, change & transformation, get in touch with us via the info form below, and if you would like to feature in our ‘Insiders Story’ blog, email me on kate@refind.co.uk

You can view more about Kate Wass our executive interim specialist here

Shared Services, want to attract the best talent to join your business?

Shared services
Credit: The Office, NBC

I recently published an eBook called “Why Top Performing Shared Services Talent Won’t Join Your Business & What To Do About It”. In this eBook, I explain why it is that big reputable brands (which have world-class shared services centres) still find it difficult to recruit and retain the best talent. Even though these brands may believe that “everyone loves our brand and it’s a nice place to work…” this isn’t necessarily the truth.

Is that the message you are giving off to a passive candidate market?

With over 75% of shared services professionals passively looking (and not actively seeking) a new role, then it’s no wonder that it’s difficult to attract and retain the best talent!

Delivering the right message to shared services professionals

Candidates are being increasingly selective over their future employer, and considering that Monarch Airlines, Carillion, Toys R us, House of Fraser, and Maplin (just to name a few!) have gone into administration during the past year, why would you want to leave your cushy job where you’ve worked for years, and where Betty knows how to make the perfect cup of tea, for somewhere that isn’t as secure and may be at risk of joining all of the companies mentioned in the previous sentence?

It’s important that shared services give off the right message, follow the right process and keep up with their competitors when it comes to recruiting.

The most desired Shared Services assignments in the past 12 months that I’ve managed have been within newly created roles. But why is this?

Is it because there isn’t an expectation there, or because they feel the company are performing well by creating these new roles?

Newly created positions offer a chance for candidates to put their stamp on a role and make it their own. As these positions are created due to demand for a certain skillset within a business, they also provide candidates with a sense of feeling wanted and allows them to see these roles as a challenge and the chance to pursue something new.

It’s all about how you deliver the message, and how this message is perceived by your potential future employees!

So the big question is, how do you excite people to work for your shared service centre if the role is replacing someone who lacked motivation, was bored and didn’t enjoy coming into work….

It’s all in your message.

How you get this right in your Shared Services team!

And I have just the thing that can help you with this… In my free eBook, I examine the steps you can take to stay ahead in the field.

If you would like your free copy, email me at sam@refind.co.uk

You can view more about Sam Perry our Shared Services Executive Search expert here

HR consultants – how do you beat stress?

HR consultants - how do you beat stress?
Beverly Hills 90210, Fox Broadcasting Company

Ahh, stress. It’s something that unites us all regardless of occupation or lifestyle. For HR consultants, life can be very busy and things happen which totally change your plan for the day.

 

One bad email can be all that it takes to set it off, and then next thing you know you’re awake at 3AM unable to sleep. We can’t always avoid stress, but we can work on improving how we respond to it. The good news here is that just as we have a stress response; we also have useful relaxation responses that we can call to action at any sign of trouble – perfect for all busy HR consultants.

 

Go for a walk

Getting away from your desk and moving around can help clear your head, and thanks to something called ‘involuntary attention’, walking around a green open space can actually put your body into a state of meditation. Meaning that when you return back to work, you’ve been able to reflect on your day and see everything with a fresh pair of eyes.

 

Eat a snack

Stress eating isn’t all bad – it just depends on what you reach for in the fridge! Pick something that will fill you up and not just give you a sugar rush for an hour, as feeling like you’ve run out of nourishment can actually contribute to a feeling of stress. Whilst it’s tempting to reach for Redbull and a Mars Bar, these foods can be counter-productive! Foods great for concentration include avocados, nuts, complex carbs such as brown rice and sweet potato and dark chocolate are great options

 

Put a record on

Or a Spotify playlist, depending on what’s available to you in your office. Classical music may seem like the most obvious option for destressing, however, any music that you love will have the same effect and flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals. My personal favourites are Kisstory or an 80’s playlist.

 

Chew some gum

Not only does this ensure minty-fresh breath, but studies have also shown that chewing gum can actually relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress when multitasking – a win-win for anyone that loves gum as much as I do.

 

Have a nap

Another technique that is popular with companies such as Google and Nike is the power nap. Research has shown that when people are able to take a power nap at work, they encounter fewer feelings of stress, have better cognitive response rates and improved memory.

 

As a HR consultant, do you have any tips on how to relieve stress? Let me know in the comments below.

For all things interim management, change & transformation, get in touch with us via the info form below, and if you would like to feature in our ‘Insiders Story’ blog, email me on kate@refind.co.uk

You can view more about Kate Wass our executive interim specialist here.

Ten tips for transformation go-live success

Business transformation success

In this installment of In:site we speak to Simon Brown.

Simon is a veteran of six end-to-end Transformation and Shared Services Programmes (since 1996). Simon often gets asked: what works best, what advice would you give?

There is no single “cut and paste” solution since each company has its own culture, its own spend budget and change readiness agility. There are certainly some common factors if applied with the correct level of dedication and follow-through, which can make a great difference to the speed of implementation and effectiveness of your transformation.

However, Go-Live is that high profile moment when you turn all the thinking, planning, blood, sweat and tears of knowledge transfer, including the processes which you lift and shift or lift and transform, into a new operational model. A model which the customers can see, feel, touch and truly experience. It’s similar to opening a store or restaurant and suddenly your customers are ready to consume your products and services and give you feedback on what they did or didn’t like.

So here are my 10 top tips for Transformation Go-Live Success:

1. Begin with the end in mind

Establish a visual blueprint of your future organisation, your Target Operating Model. Be clear on the deliverables and desired outcomes. As well as the measures of success in terms of operational effectiveness, customer satisfaction and cost efficiency. Define and agree these upfront with your key stakeholders. Plan ahead and get answers to these points before you get sucked into the doing mode.

2. Create a compelling vision to move forward

By working together on the design team and actually articulating the vision by physically drawing a tableau to describe your future state, you are creating something which you can show and share with others to get them involved and engaged. A picture is worth a thousand words: it draws people in, starts a conversation, creates meaning and a dialogue for change. Hopefully, it also provokes a response and creates an emotional reaction. So to gain momentum to move forward we need to create a compelling vision, a good story, something to believe in, to follow and to become part of.

3. Engage your key stakeholders early and enlist business “change champions”
Before you start to implement your new ways of working, be sure to get real supporters from the business on your side. Change champions are leaders and role models. They are well respected by other managers and thus engender + enable peer and cascade credibility to the transformation story. Identify and enlist “change champions” who can talk positively about the benefits of self-service, portal and system technology. This will allow HR business partners to actually spend more time supporting the business agenda and less time as a pair of hands on administration.

4. Align Systems with Processes
Generally, alignment is the key word. Alignment of activities, sub-projects and work-streams are key to the successful implementation + end user digestion of the transformation and changes to the ways of working. Having a clearly coordinated and well-structured Project Management Office with a well-bundled communications plan can really help to present the transformation as one initiative, not a thousand unrelated busy tasks. Just like the air traffic controller the role is to ensure that planes take off and lands safely at the right time in the right place.

Align Process + System
System design and implementation and process design and implementation need to happen in parallel, to be aligned. You can’t implement a system without a clear and consistent set of global processes, and global processes will only work if the system enables the necessary transactions.
Roles and workflows must be defined and aligned. One without the other = an unholy and costly mess and lots of re-work.

Align Portal with People
Think about what is relevant for the end user when designing your intranet portal. Ensure navigation and access to information is simple and easy. Use a search engine with keyword enquiry. The most frequently asked questions that employees normally ask are the ones to ensure you have written good content answers for on the portal. Keep these answers up to date, relevant and fresh and you will save everyone time.

5. Hire an HR Shared Services Team Director and Team Leader EARLY

Sadly, all too often companies make the mistake of leaving it until their new HR Service Centre is up and running before hiring the HR Service Director, and team leaders. It is a mistaken belief that it is costly to hire these roles early. Particularly if they are an additional cost to a headcount not yet saved elsewhere in the organisation.

My counter proposal is to hire these pivotal roles early. Select those who are change agents, good at stakeholder engagement + employee relations, and particularly strong on the delivery of customer service satisfaction: the most important metric there is! Make them part of your pre Go-Live project team, conducting knowledge transfer, engaging early with key stakeholders and hiring the team. If they are involved in this it will build a stronger psychological contract and a vested interest to build the best team, the best processes, lay the best foundations for the new house right from the start. That’s actually cost effective!

6. Be clear on HR roles for the new HR Model

The HR Community will have one question on their mind as you announce your HR Transformation program: What’s in it for me? Behind that question lies their hierarchy of needs: What happens to me, when, what are the opportunities/options for me, and what if there are no opportunities for me? Don’t pretend that these questions can remain unanswered. Don’t leave the elephant in the room unannounced. Don’t lose trust. Acknowledge that their questions are relevant and real. Be honest.

You may not have all the answers yet but do your best to outline the road-map and the 3 routes to be taken:
a – you can be selected for a role in the new model,
b – you can grow your CV in change and project management,
c – there is no clear role yet defined that we can see for you.

However, if you stay and help with knowledge transfer, a fair and respectful package and support will be there for you if ultimately no suitable roles match for you.

7. Change Management is Key

Don’t underestimate change management or the time it takes. Give quality time to this. Behaviours don’t change on paper or after a single slide deck presentation. You are promoting a new concept and at first, it seems just a concept, a rather uncomfortable concept. Until people see how it works for them. There is a change for line managers to become more empowered and empowering as People Managers.

Have the courage to spend time with HR to help them through their personal transition. They need to accept that the change must come from them.

8. Rule of 8: communicate, communicate, communicate

In turbulent change, you can never over communicate.

When the game is changing, the old rules and framework will not be the same anymore, this is where you have to help the team to take it all in and to adjust to the changing environment. People often don’t hear, and sometimes don’t want to hear, the first message of change. They just don’t take it in. So say it again and again and again but with the same core message. Repeat it 8 times or more, nearly everyone will hear it, internalises it and recognises it as their new terms of reference.

9. Think of knowledge transfer as a joint project team

Create a project management team mindset with a clear charter and purpose. It’s about collaboration, it’s not about wanting to let employees in that country down. This approach sets up conditions for success.
Spend time and money doing as much face-to-face/voice-to-voice knowledge transfer and training as you can. It’s about giving and receiving the gift of knowledge and it can actually be a reward for an employee to get the opportunity go to another country to do this.

Steer clear of any connotations of “taking over”, “raiding their brains”, “us and them”. They set an unhealthy atmosphere for the project and must be confronted early if they arise.

10. Go-Live is just the start!

Check that the new roles, systems and processes are working, especially beneath the surface. Ensure that people are trained for their new roles and that they have actually made the behavioural transition from old state model to new state new model and new actions.

Actions are everything. Read verbal and non-verbal signs. Praise adoption and good examples of the new ways of working. Encourage customer feedback on the service and be quick to improve the service where needed. Nip the bad habits in the bud and the signs of old ways of working via firm, constructive feedback with SMART examples.

Take time to positively celebrate Go-Live day with a drink and a cake as a milestone achieved. It marks the end of the beginning; the start of a new life-cycle of continuous operational excellence.

Simon Brown Associates

Simon@simonbrownassociates.com
www.simonbrownassociates.com

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.