Growing Purposeful Culture – Webinar replay

August 14, 2022

The latest in our Verity London webinar series focused on how to build a great workplace culture and specifically, how you can engage your teams with your strategy to become a more Responsible Business. This blog is a summary of the fascinating insights and practical advice that emerged from the session.

For this session, Debra Sobel, Founder and CEO and Joel Beckman, Director of Strategic Communication at Verity London, were joined by Kate Oliver and Hamira Riaz. Kate has 30 years’ experience as a Chartered Psychologist and Executive Coach and Hamira is VP, Strategic Leadership at Volvo Group.  

Purpose and culture are crucial components of business success. As Kate shared, employees who work at companies that spend time reflecting on the impact they make on the world are FIVE times more likely to be excited to work for the company. But getting that link between purpose and motivation right requires thought, planning and excellent delivery.  

Everything’s changed (a lot) 

We started by setting the context to the conversation around employee engagement with a company’s purpose. And although much has been written about the “post-pandemic workplace” it is worth re-iterating some of the key changes that have taken place in working life.  

We are all dealing with increased levels of uncertainty, greater ambiguity and shorter project cycles. The “always-on” culture has intensified, we’re more stretched and more fatigued. Hence so many people have re-evaluated what they want from work (and life), are considering moving jobs or leaving the world of work altogether. 

Another change is a newfound ability to talk about the “whole self” at work. People are far more likely to express personal feelings and emotions with colleagues in a way they were not before. Indeed, at the outset of the pandemic this was an essential way of coping with the effect of the unfamiliarity and strangeness we experienced.  

So, this has required us to think about how to talk about the “personal” and our individual circumstances at work, especially around the characteristics of resilience and vulnerability. But as Hamira observed, these are not short-term conversations – at Volvo it took up to a year to get momentum and engagement in these areas and for people to feel truly comfortable discussing the personal in the work environment 

In turn, these changes require a new style of leadership. We have become accustomed to “hero” leadership and all-knowing CEOs. Now we need leadership which is prepared to demonstrate its own vulnerability, to say “I don’t know” and engage its teams in the deeper conversation about why they are working there.  

So, how do we respond to these changes? 

Channel your inner psychologist 

Or at least try to. This does something of a disservice to Hamira and Kate with all of these years of experience in the field. But the point is a salient one. Both urged us to consider how the changes in the workplace over the last two years have affected our brains.  

Our brains are wired to desire certainty, clarity and goals; and since up to 70% of people now derive their own sense of worth through their job, we need to make people feel like what they do at work matters; connects with their personal motivations and makes them feel important.  

Additionally, this can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. We are all unique and this cognitive diversity means we all respond to change, risk and ambiguity differently.  

If we get this right, we know that connecting people with a greater sense of purpose will engage and energise teams, guide decision making and support long-term wellbeing.   

Turning the theory into practice 

The webinar included lots of practical advice, summarised here as three takeaways that we hope will support your work in this area: 

1. Increase understanding by consulting widely

Don’t develop your employee engagement and communications in a vacuum. Provide permission and create space for teams to discuss how they feel and ask questions. Aim to be diverse and “bottom-up”. Engage widely with as many voices in the room as possible – ages, roles, departments, length of service. The input of a range of views will improve the outcome.  

Having a set of principles behind this is valuable. Starbucks have achieved high levels of employee engagement by i) always being grass roots in employee conversations, ii) ensuring multiple departments are in the room and iii) setting the tone from the top. Additionally, applying a framework (such as Verity London’s “Four Cs”), can be helpful way to manage the delivery.  

2. Build trust with one consistence, overarching narrative

The messaging you land on for employee engagement internal needs to be 100% consistent with external communications. The internal reality must match the external promises you make, including marketing or the customer/brand promise. Misalignment damages integrity, trust, can breed resentment and has the potential to be a catalyst for staff to consider leaving the organisation.  

 3. Create connection through the power of storytelling

Yes, there are mechanical aspects to get right – the channel and frequency for the people in your organisation (a monthly email, a weekly meeting, or a combination?). Engagement can start slowly but maintaining the flow of communication will breed certainty and familiarity.  

But the real connection will come through great stories that employees can relate to – real-life studies that showcase your Responsible Business activities, as well as physical opportunities for employees across the organisation to be involved. 

If you would like to speak to Verity London about how we can support your strategy and communications to become a more Responsible Business, please email Debra Sobel. 

“Show notes” 

Some of the best practice case studies referenced in the webinar: 

Joel Beckman
Strategic Communications Director

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