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… Interim change management

Insider Story... Interim change management
Insider Story… Interim change management

Insider Story… Interim change management. This was my first ‘Insiders Story’ blog of 2018,  discussing two of my favourite things – change management and how great interims are!

 

For this blog, I met with Michelle Wenham, Head of HR, and Feona Veys, Senior Manager – Talent Sourcing. Both fabulous women work for The Gambling Commission and started their journey as contractors. They have been instrumental in leading and delivering truly innovative change, which has transformed the people and culture within the organisation.

The Gambling Commission is no ordinary organisation. Over the next five years, they have five priority areas: empowering and protecting consumers; raising standards across all gambling sectors; building partnerships and understanding; ensuring fair play on the National Lottery and improving regulation.

Both Michelle and Feona joined the Gambling Commission in an interim capacity to oversee change management.  They became so immersed in the business and culture, that they subsequently felt empowered by the organisation’s mission and took on permanent roles.

 

The Transformation

After joining the Gambling Commission in 2015, Michelle was shortly followed by a new CEO which naturally brought about some change.

There was a lot of discussion around the employee engagement survey – the 2015 results could have been better, so areas to be improved were identified which could have a real positive impact.

In 2012, the Commission had embarked upon a similar change programme, however, after previously struggling to demonstrate the burning platform for the change, they decided to use the employee engagement survey as the catalyst.

Michelle explained, ‘from a change perspective, the outcome we wanted to achieve was similar to the previous change programme. Sometimes it isn’t the right time to deliver the change.  It was like the stars aligned and with the right communication and the right people involved, we knew it could be a success.’

From this, they developed a new people strategy and discussed the kind of organisation they wanted to be – one that takes care of its employees and exceeds expectations in delivery.

 

How have you done it?

Previous change programmes had at times been a little ‘parent and child’ and hadn’t always successfully maintained engagement or momentum.

The new CEO really transformed the feel of change within the Commission, she took people with her on the journey. One of the key things that she did was made herself visible. She role-modelled, to the business and the senior leadership team, how visibility should look at a senior level.

They also implemented a change champion network across the business. This was a cross-functional network of employees, which meant that they were able to reach out to and engage with employees who otherwise may have got lost along the way.

Unlike many businesses, the Gambling Commission also have a Board of Commissioners alongside their leaders who have been a great support with the change management.

Michelle says, ‘the Commissioners are so engaged with us, they challenge us and have been really involved in how we use our investment and resources to get the best out of our people.’

 

Engagement is everything…

The culture within the Commission is really transforming into a truly engaging and inclusive one, which has already had a positive impact on performance and personal development.

HR has a seat at the table. Historically, L&D was always seen as an add-on but is now included as part of all functions resource planning. A day every month is allocated to every employees’ personal development.

‘L&D Week’ was also a big win. Employees had 50% of their working hours dedicated to their own personal development and they also held department roadshows.

The Gambling Commission is a programme led business, which at times can leave functions at risk of becoming very insular. Department roadshows allowed employees to understand other functions and their importance within the business.

Michelle and Feona both believe that small things make a big statement. Basic things like providing staff with fresh fruit and a wide variety of refreshments, alongside communal kitchens and break-out areas, has enabled them to further develop cross-functional relationships.

They also held their employee conference in their offices instead of off-site. Michelle said, ‘we wanted to show that you don’t go somewhere else to talk about change then come back and forget about it – the real change happens right here.’

 

It isn’t all about HR…

And the people strategy is a perfect example of this. The HR team constantly keep it under review to ensure they are delivering what has been promised. When they successfully meet those promises, they make sure that this is shared across the business, developing a feeling of trust and raised the profile of the function.

The team also launched 24 new policies across 2015 and 2016. They rebranded these as people policies to demonstrate that the organisation should be owning these policies, rather than HR. This resulted in them gaining constructive feedback from employees around their policies, enabling them to be more inclusive.

 

‘Ideas don’t have to be perfect in order to roll them out’

And I couldn’t agree more! What the Gambling Commission do really well is that they are totally honest about this and adopt the approach of ‘we are going to try this and see how it goes.’

They re-launched their spotlight recognition scheme, to recognise great behaviours on an on-going basis. Historically, this hadn’t gained much traction with employees, so they decided to make some changes in order to make it a more successful endeavour.

The Commission quadrupled the value of vouchers offered, changed the nomination process and included awards for teams as well as individuals. When re-launching they decided to review on an ongoing basis, to measure the success and take on feedback and suggestions from individuals and constantly improve the success of this scheme.

 

‘Interims have really helped to drive change’

At the Gambling Commission, they have used interims in 2 different ways. Firstly, they have brought in career interims to act as subject matter experts and be slightly more heavy hitting. Areas such as reward, communications, HRIS and PMO.

Secondly, they have brought in interims in a flexible way to fill permanent roles, before employing them, allowing the opportunity to engage with their overall offering.

Feona said ‘HR have really led the way in what good looks like when hiring an interim. We have demonstrated to the rest of the business how to effectively use interims and how flexible you can be with this approach.’

And Feona knows this first hand because, as Michelle admits, they wouldn’t have been able to secure Feona’s skillset on a permanent basis without the flexibility and proposition they have. When Feona joined as an interim, she was offered the opportunity to work 3 days per week around her previous clients, the caveat to this being that Michelle trusted her implicitly to do a great job.

In their PMO department, interims have helped them to think about ‘the art of the possible’. They have shared knowledge and brought ideas which the commission have been able to ‘borrow with pride’ and customise for their own needs.

 

‘I felt the change overnight’

Michelle and Feona both joined the Commission as interims and admit their mindsets have totally changed since taking on permanent contracts.

Feona said, ‘as an interim you definitely get less involved in the politics. You get paid to do a good job and you want to prove that you’re worth your day rate’.

Michelle also admits that she believes something is definitely different psychologically. As an interim, you simply feel different. When she signed the permanent contract, she felt the change overnight. On an interim contract, there is an end date and there are end goals, in a permanent role it isn’t so definitive.

That being said, interim isn’t for everyone, just as permanent employment isn’t, and both Michelle and Feona have gone back and forth depending on their own personal circumstances.

Michelle said, ‘I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to get the best person possible, if that means being flexible and creative then you do that. Having an interim minimises risk to the business – if it doesn’t work out, the contract ends.’

As we drew the discussion to a close, we discussed if there is such a thing as becoming ‘change-weary’.

Feona and Michelle both agree that a business can get ‘big change weary’. Big change is great, but you should always give timescales and allow time for change to settle, or employees can get change fatigue. Continuous improvement and development is part of life and change management is so important in any organisation.

 

So where has this left the Gambling Commission?

The change programme has been embedded with great success! The engagement scores have increased from 55 to 64, with leadership and change increasing by almost 30%.

They have shown that if you develop your people and culture in the right way, change becomes so natural that you don’t realise it’s happening.

They have also proved that by attracting, developing and engaging people in the right way, anything is possible.

 

A huge thank you to Michelle and Feona for their input with this blog.

If you would like to learn more about the gambling commission and what it is like to work for them, then visit their website here.

For all things interim management, change management and transformation, get in touch or if you would like to feature in our ‘Insiders Story’ blog, you can email me on kate@refind.co.uk.

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

How to lose friends and alienate people…

How to lose candidates and alienate people
How to lose candidates and alienate people

We are in the 21st Century and candidates SHOULD be at the centre of what we do. Let’s be real for a moment. Candidates are key to our success – they are the one thing that stands between success and failure as a recruiter.

But I would be bold and say 40% of recruiters treat their candidates like shit. Treating a candidate badly can destroy the reputation of you/your business. Any press isn’t always good press and trust me candidates talk. And they talk even more when they have had a bad experience.

 

So, here’s what not to do:

1.   Sell them the dream…

I get it…recruitment marketing is a hot topic right now, everyone is getting training on how to write engaging job adverts, how to be witty and get candidates attention etc. That doesn’t mean you have a to be a billy bullshitter. Don’t sell the candidate the dream – unless of course, the job is Chief wine taster at an exclusive hotel in the Bahamas – because who would turn that down?

Anyway, my point is, be honest with a candidate when talking about a role. Yes, tell them all the good things about the role, but tell them all the bad things too! Talk them through the client’s challenges and shortcomings.

Jobs aren’t all about flexible working and table tennis tournaments, sometimes companies are in a bad situation, don’t have the best brand etc. and that’s ok, in fact, some people like that about a job!

 

2.   Force a candidate into a role they aren’t sure on

Picture this. After hours of searching on LinkedIn and your job boards, you come across the holy grail of candidates. Your purple squirrel, glittery unicorn, whatever you want to call them. They are the perfect candidate for your role.

You pick up the phone, excited to tell your candidate about their dream job. But to your shock, they aren’t keen.

Newsflash. Just because they are perfect for the role, doesn’t mean the role is perfect for them. Respect their decision.

Don’t try and push them into going for an interview. Don’t even push them to apply if they aren’t keen. You look desperate and pushy.

You risk them being offered the job and turning it down, or worse, you risk them leaving in that elusive rebate period. You also risk them thinking you are a bit of an idiot and that you only care about your fee.

 

3.   Drag your candidate into an ownership war with another agency

It is the most frustrating thing in the world when you spend time qualifying, meeting and briefing a candidate on a role, send them over to your client…only to get the dreaded email response.

‘ We have already received this CV from Cowboy Recruitment, sorry’.

The candidate has not been spoken to by Cowboy Recruitment about the role (they claim!) so doesn’t know how her CV is already in the process.

There are two ways of dealing with this:

–       Politely step away from the situation and allow the candidate decide how they wish to proceed in the process.

–       Demand that the candidate calls the other recruiter immediately and tell them how terrible they are, whilst simultaneously emailing you to confirm that you have the right to represent them on the role.

I advise the first. Step away and allow the candidate to decide how they process. Naturally, there is some subtle influence you can have on this, but doing the second option makes you look like a petulant teenager.

Candidates also don’t need the reminder that they are simply just a fee to you – it makes you look greedy. Show them you are supportive and have their best interest at heart.

 

4.   Call your candidate in the morning on the day they are due to start their new job and then every day for the next 3 months

Your candidate isn’t an 18-year-old teenager who may or may not turn up to work, depending on how pissed they were the night before (apologies to any sober, reliable 18-year-olds).

You don’t need to ring them the day they start their job. A simple call the afternoon before, to check they have everything they need or the following day will suffice.

Candidates are intuitive, they will sense that the fact you are calling them every day means they are a flight risk. Also, their first few weeks are really full on. Give them some space and allow them to settle in, then check in with them.

 

5.   If your candidate doesn’t get offered the job….ignore them

In my opinion, this is the worst possible thing you could do to a candidate and it is the most damaging thing for your reputation.

Nobody really likes to tell a candidate they didn’t get the job…but it is not acceptable to ghost them. Other unacceptable ways of delivering feedback include emailing, leaving a voicemail, or getting your resourcer to give the feedback instead.

Don’t be a terrible human being. Your candidate has worked hard for you, they have understood the brief, done their research, spent 2-3 hours of their time with your client to represent you to the best of their ability. The least they deserve is some honest feedback.

 

6.   Give vague feedback

Almost as crappy as giving no feedback, is giving vague feedback. If you are giving feedback on your opinion to a candidate, don’t be afraid to tell them the truth.

Think their CV needs some work? Tell them.

Don’t think they interview well? Tell them.

They don’t have the right skills for the role? Tell them.

You get the gist.

A separate challenge is when a client gives vague feedback about a candidate. It is ok to push back on your client and ask for further detail or examples of what the candidate did.

Feedback should be constructive. Tell them what they did well, where they fell down and how they could improve.

Candidates may not always agree with the feedback, but they will be appreciative of the feedback nonetheless.

 

7.   Only communicate by email

If you are afraid to pick up the phone to speak to a candidate, you are in the wrong job. Pick up the phone and speak to them, what is the worst that could happen? It takes as much time and effort to speak to someone on the phone as it does to type out that email.

Contacting people exclusively by email is impersonal, impractical and to be totally honest, just bloody lazy! I don’t care if your candidate isn’t based in the UK and there is a time difference, or if they are travelling, or you are ‘super busy’…pick up the phone!!

Now I’m sure some of you are reading this, thinking it all seems pretty obvious. I’m also sure a lot of you reading this are guilty of doing one of the above things.

We are all guilty of letting standards slip from time to time, but let’s do our best not to become one of the clichés in those recruitment bashing posts we see on Linkedin!

 

 

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

Insider Story: International HR

In my line of work I often meet people who have lived and worked internationally and have a keen interest in the cultural differences that can be found in HR around the globe, so when Danny Kavanagh crossed my path I thought that he would be the perfect candidate for co-writing a blog with me around international HR.

 

Danny and I discussed everything from how to manage change, through to the perception that other countries have of us Brits in business. Over the last decade, Danny has worked in several countries on assignment and even lived in Scandinavia for three years.

‘The experience was educating in many ways, and included opportunities to see ourselves as others see us. In a work situation, different styles and practices are apparent. Outside of work, news and media reports on the UK and discussions with European colleagues about what was happening back home were on occasions eye-opening.‘

 

Working culture…mind the gap

Having worked across Scandinavia, Sweden, Finland and Poland, Danny has experienced a vast range of different working and social cultures and has found that whilst on one hand, it can feel somewhat bureaucratic when it comes to employment law, there is absolutely no grey area.

 

The UK can often be seen as quite direct and argumentative, where people take sides for and against certain things (e.g BREXIT) and this culture then strays into the workplace. The Scandinavians take more of a consensus approach when making decisions, as they want everyone to agree the best way forward. This method in international HR can be quite exasperating for us Brits, as we can often leave meetings wondering ‘what did we actually decide’ or ‘are we going to do anything?’

 

The culture in British business meetings, by contrast, can be broken down into either shooting down proposals or giving an overly supportive endorsement without any real examination of fact having taken place.

 

Interestingly, when Danny worked in Hungary, he found that the US parent company managers were seen as ‘brash’ and ‘disrespectful of culture’ and he found that the British acquired a ‘go-between’ role to make things work.

 

Implementing change

When implementing change in the UK, we tend to be very upfront when a decision has been made and go ahead and tell everyone what’s going to happen.

In international HR things are done differently – in Scandinavia (for cultural and legal reasons) employers are much more collaborative with their employees and talk more about their proposals, gathering opinions and seemingly seeking permission before committing to a final decision. Finland takes a consultative approach, but they always have a ‘drop dead date’ to go ahead and make the change happen.

 

In Europe, business change can affect a whole community. Companies are often heavily involved in the local community and quite often a number of members of the same family will be working there – so it can be a pretty big deal! Whilst being an interim, Danny found that he could be more direct as the expectation was that you are the ‘subject matter expert’, so your voice gets heard.

‘If I move onto a new change project and it is similar to one I have done before, I will never just re-use what I have done previously. I don’t believe in the ‘one size fits all’ or ‘off the shelf’ mantra on these things, particularly when working internationally, as organisations and cultures are so very different’

Danny believes that HR should be facilitating the balanced view in the workplace; fact-driven, un-emotional discussion searching for the best way forward whilst acknowledging the positives, challenges and sensitivities surrounding the situation.

 

There is a book which helps inform this approach by the late Hans Rosling. It is entitled ‘Factfulness – Ten reasons we are wrong about the world’ and really explores how we need to take an active approach to understand the way other cultures work and truely understand international HR.

 

A huge thank you to Danny Kavanagh for working with me to create this blog.

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.