Dan Look: The Culture Club: how to create a culture that works

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Everyone has their part to play in creating the right culture.  Leadership teams need to commit to creating and embedding values and then making sure that they live up to them on a day-to-day basis.

Engagement is also needed with the grass roots of an organisation; leaders should be actively listening, probing issues, looking for good ideas and getting feedback on what is working and what is not. There is considerable focus on this at Baringa and it has helped us create a strong culture; in our annual anonymous survey, we recorded 96 percent employee satisfaction and 92 percent employee retention.

Our ‘Culture Club’ is one of our key mechanisms for this colleague engagement, ensuring that we are continuously debating, monitoring and improving our culture.

It meets once a quarter to propose and discuss a wide range of initiatives, all aimed at making Baringa a more enjoyable and interesting place to work. It provides an opportunity for colleagues to give their honest feedback about what we are like to work for and then suggest and implement solutions to keep us on the right track. These sessions are not simply talking shops; they are always full of ideas (many of which get implemented) and they have been instrumental in helping to engage and motivate colleagues, as well as in furthering our reputation as a fun and interesting place to work.

One of the benefits that the Culture Club brings is giving colleagues a sense of belonging and shared ownership.  We use the club to consult colleagues about policy changes which impact them, for example the recent decision to improve maternity allowance. When changes were made to the policy for those who worked out of the office, the club was used as a forum to test and refine it, to ensure that it reflected colleague concerns.

A thriving business needs the constant sharing and discussion of ideas – to help make this happen we have set up ‘graffiti walls’ where our colleagues can scribble their thoughts and suggestions. This approach has helped us create an engaged ‘family’ who have a real stake in the company; colleagues who join us from larger organisations are often amazed at the positive atmosphere in our office and passion for the organisation.

We always aim to create a non-hierarchical ethos and the Culture Club has been instrumental in doing this; meetings feature a cross section of different work levels and all views are treated equally. Baringa sets out to create a flat structure with a strong culture of mentoring and support. Colleagues are encouraged to attend breakfasts with partners and all new starters are assigned a ‘buddy’ and a mentor to help them with the process of settling in.

This spirit of togetherness can also be reflected in the little gestures that you can see here every day, such as surprising colleagues with ad hoc gifts, handwritten cards from the managing partner and other acts of recognition. The club facilitates brilliant feedback about social trips, especially about how we make a concerted effort to include the partners and families of colleagues.

The Culture Club is a fantastic way to get open feedback from colleagues about what matters to them. This approach is replicated across all of our communications; the leadership team always aim to be frank and open and lean in to any difficult subjects rather than shirking them. We are a client-facing business and our colleagues are often out of the office. As a result, making sure that everyone is well informed and feels comfortable expressing their views is critically important to us.

Openness is an important value at Baringa and that applies to sharing each other’s knowledge as well. Developing our colleagues is very important to the company and so we encourage knowledge sharing sessions so all colleagues can learn from each other and from others outside Baringa.

The Culture Club provides the perfect forum to discuss and shape our culture and it has proved to be an effective way of embedding key principles, such as an ethos of shared ownership, openness and collaboration.

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About Dan Look

Dan LookDan joined the Baringa Partner'€™s management team in 2002 to support the growth in the Energy consulting practice. Dan currently leads Baringa'€™s Markets and Trading practice of 90 consultants and partners, and successfully navigated the group to claim Energy Risk'€™s '€˜Advisory House of the Year'€™ award in 2009 and 'Consultancy of the Year' in 2012.

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