Leadership Culture to Drive Change #CIPD15

How do you develop a leadership culture that can support organisational change?  Some might say this is the million dollar question for most organisations; change is part of the everyday for work and workers.

Here is what Inji Duducu of beneden health and William Hague (not that one) from HMRC have got to say on the subject, based on their own experiences.

William is Chief People Officer at HMRC.  First of all, great HR is an enabler of creating the right leadership culture for successful change.  I’m not going to argue with that.  At HMRC they have had big challenges.  A need to reduce  costs, be more efficient, transform service delivery, and at the same time, increase capability and use of digital services.  They needed leaders up for the challenge, with the ability to reach out last their traditional boundaries and collaborate.  Their starting point – what does good leadership in this context actually look like? Obvious, but important. For them it was three things: inspiring, confident, empowering.  ICE.  Easy to remember but also queues up a Vanilla Ice joke (one for the Gen Xers).

How did they tackle this? They had a leadership change model – building our future.  Went out to every leader face to face.  One narrative about the future to over 100,000 people. Significant investment in upskilling leaders.  A leadership academy is planned with five years of interventions, including virtual learning. Taking a long term approach.  Extensive engagement with their people.  Expected their managers to live this change.  Have used surveys regularly to see where they are.  They are not there yet, but are focused on continuous improvement in everything they do.  They have had many learnings.  Mainly – there is no silver bullet to tackle this stuff.  And finally, be ambitious.

Now over to Inji for her story.  Beneden started life as a mutual society, focused around public sector workers who bad contracted TB. Today, they provide healthcare solutions to enable people to access treatments faster than the NHS might be able to provide.  They were losing members.  It was a difficult product to explain and not enough people had heard of them or what they do.  A new CEO launched a ten year plan. The average length of service at Beneden is 20 years; many employees had simply never experienced any change at all.

Inji’s plan? It is a special place to work with a special culture.  Her aim is that at the end of the ten year plan, this has not changed even if it other things have.  One important focus – leadership visibility. People see where leaders spend their time.  It sends a message about what is considered important by the organisation.  Another quick win was celebration.  Celebrating what is going well, and organisational achievements.  Find stuff to celebrate – what gets recognised gets repeated.  They launched an online appreciation hub for people to send ecards to each other.  It has gone down a storm.  Provided a cultural boost but it is digital, which is the sort of business they want to be.

Inji also saw their values as generic.  They could have applied to anyone.  Needed to discover what their real values are.  Looked at the future and heritage to talk about what is their core – what makes them special.  They distilled down the feedback into four values that really summed up who they are.  They needed to tell a story about their future.  They took their behavioural framework and turned it into a programme for their leaders ‘leading the Beneden way’.  Challenging programme beginning with self awareness and self mastery.

Right now, the organisation is not only coping with that change but thriving. Her learnings – fundamental importance of communication.  Find the good news – give people reasons to be cheerful.  This will give you more capacity for change.

Inji’s story proves that change doesn’t have to be a scary thing that we liken to the emotions more usually prompted by bereavement.  It can be a positive experience for the people within it, if you manage and lead it well, as well reminding us of the fundamental role that HR can play in making it so.

Props to the speakers.

This is a live blog so please excuse any typos!