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Becky Norman


Managing Editor

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How HRZone’s Culture Pioneers spearheaded progressive change

Find out how our Culture Pioneers have spearheaded positive change in response to the pandemic.

To say we have been impressed and inspired by the stories we received would be a huge understatement. We started the Culture Pioneers initiative in an attempt to inject some positivity back into our sector and I am proud to say that we have achieved that, and more. 

Thank you so much to everyone who supported the campaign – the individuals and teams who sent in their stories, the Ambassadors who gave their time to evaluate the submissions, and our partners and supporters who have followed the campaign throughout and helped us to spread the word. 

Here is a small taster of what our 11 inaugural Culture Pioneers have achieved during the Covid crisis (so far). Don’t forget to let us know which stories inspired you, or which reflect your own initiatives or future plans on our social media feeds using the hashtag #CulturePioneers.

1. Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing was unsurprisingly a key priority for most businesses during the pandemic, but three of our Culture Pioneers stood out as going above and beyond to support their people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing during the crisis.

While Emma Govus of Aveva worked hard to create local solutions across a global business, Linda Mountford’s team at John West focused not only on wellbeing support but also awareness and education on particularly taboo issues. We must also applaud Natasha Wallace and Clear Review’s ‘Guardians’ for taking a holistic approach to wellbeing – offering coaching, a virtual GP service, wellbeing allowances, self-care packages and more. 

2. Flexibility

Two of our Culture Pioneers transformed their organisational structure to offer greater flexibility and steer away from the traditional command and control approach still dominating the business world.

Gemma Shambler, Head of People at the Happiness Index adopted a flatter structure built around the company’s vision of ‘freedom to be human’. Similarly, driven to give people the freedom to choose the ‘how, when and where’ of working, Gareth Jones, CEO of Headstart,  made the decision to stop measuring inputs and start focusing on what matters most – outcomes.

3. Inclusion

With many organisations quickly transitioning to home working in the wake of the crisis, cultivating a culture of togetherness and belonging was vital. Cheryl Allen and her team at Atos worked tirelessly to ensure their organisation’s tagline ‘We Are Atos, We Are Together’ rang true when hard times hit, launching a virtual family summer camp and an internal ‘We Are Allies’ programme. 

Marie Krebs at Learnably also helped to strengthen an inclusive culture by building many alternative means of socialisation for employees, encouraging cross-team collaboration and ensuring the onboarding process was fit for a virtual world.

4. Creativity

Proving you don’t need a big budget to strengthen your culture in times of crises was Laura Smith and her Team at the Brain Tumour Charity.

Driven by a ‘We Can’ culture, the team used creative flair, enthusiasm and a sense of humour to provide their people with a host of support groups, communication channels and virtual activities to help get them through tough times.

5. Communication

For two of our Culture Pioneers, the impact of the pandemic wasn’t the only hurdle to overcome – they also had cultural challenges which they now had to address across an unprepared and highly stressed remote workforce.

Kevin Hollingworth and his team at household goods retailer PerfectHome achieved organisational transformation through a tightly controlled strategy of internal communications and measures designed to improve the employee experience.

For Elizabeth Hardwick-Smith and her team at construction consultancy Pick Everard, a five year plan to transform the business, ‘Plan 25’, was paused when the pandemic hit. By designing new methods of listening, communication and engagement, the HR team not only helped support employees through the crisis, but also cultivated a collective culture that enabled the business to launch Plan 25 despite the challenges of the pandemic.    

6. Learning

The pandemic has caused a steep learning curve for all organisations, but for the hospitality industry in particular, the need to flex in response to changing restrictions has been vital.

By serving up a new information-sharing platform, Adam Harwood from restaurant business D&D London created a space where employees could connect, share knowledge and develop themselves while facing extreme uncertainty.

This is only the beginning…

This is just the start of the Culture Pioneers movement. We want to keep the momentum going and continue to celebrate the amazing and inspirational work being done in our sector. If your business has a story to tell or if you are a Culture Pioneer yourself, please sign up to our newsletter for updates on our 2021 plans.

The solutions you’ve discovered could inspire and motivate others to make the changes they need to be resilient in this new world. It will also give you a well-deserved opportunity to celebrate your achievements and promote your company’s great workplace culture. 

Follow the hashtag #CulturePioneers on Twitter and LinkedIn for more news on our plans and the latest Culture Pioneer stories. 

Let’s all be part of a positive change in 2021 and beyond. Join us in our mission today. 

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Becky Norman

Managing Editor

Read more from Becky Norman

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