Our retail client needed to deliver better customer service to help it to regain market share. The head office was becoming increasingly disconnected from the stores and therefore, from customers. We were asked to help transform the working practices and culture of the head office ‘hub’ team.
We adapted an approach we’d already been implementing across our client’s store and regional teams: creating a collaborative, problem-solving culture of motivated staff. The working style, mindset and attitudes between stores and the supporting head office hub team had diverged to a point where, without speedy intervention, the gulf would become obstructive.
We couldn’t simply apply the same approach we’d used in stores; we needed to make it fit with the culture of the support centre, and we needed them to understand and want to make the changes needed. Our focus: to put customers at the heart of everything.
Our diagnostics with around 200 people revealed a culture of ‘tell-do’, ineffective time management and meetings, blurry links to the customer and unclear career paths. Using the results of diagnostics and anecdotal feedback, we identified seven priority problems to solve, and supported the team to own the solutions and their long-term development.
To engage the wider team, we used social media, videos and posters to tell the story of what needed to change and why. Team members from different regions came into the support centre to create open and connected conversation around the changes, as well as to teach and share learnings. This was about involving everyone in the changes and transferring ownership rather than applying a top-down directive.
A series of workshops with the top level leaders and next level down helped us to dig deeper into the culture of the support centre. Together we designed and implemented an approach to give staff a voice, to challenge the ‘tell-do’ culture and to equip people with the tools and skills to improve their efficiency and effectiveness, with a more collaborative approach to problem solving.
Thanks to the positive reception of these skills, a programme was developed with the internal training team to rollout a core skills training set across the company. These courses now form the basis for accredited training, and have been ‘sold out’ on more than one occasion.
By holding open discussions through drop-in sessions, and training and inviting team members of all levels into the leadership workshops to facilitate honest discussions around future plans, we were able to leave the team with sustainable relationships and ways of working.
Changing a culture that’s been ‘tell-do’ for decades is hard. By involving staff at every step of the programme and by sharing best practice examples and stories from elsewhere in the business, we gave people the confidence to speak up and start to think and act differently. We helped them to try out solutions in a safe environment, with training in the skills that would help them succeed. It’s not all about the training; visibility and ownership of the issues, debate, discussion and workshops across functions and hierarchies help to make a deeper, lasting impact and provide the context for any training.
By sharing the results from regional work, and connecting the teams, we sparked a movement, led by our empowered team, that generated its own momentum. During the course of the programme, we had to be flexible to changing external and internal conditions which meant revising the scope and the approach to create the best outcome for our client, and we found that a creative and alternative communications approach helped mobilise the team behind our shared goal.
This head office piece was key to the overall business transformation, which has helped to create a collaborative climate of continuous improvement. Spearheaded by the leadership work which was infused into every interaction we had, local teams are solving problems, silos have been broken down and staff turnover has dramatically reduced.
The financial results are huge. We can’t share the confidential data here, but we can say that the overall benefits case numbers many millions.