Katie Hryschko, from the British Business Bank, discusses how the businesses organisational values promote collaborative working within the company and improve employee engagement.
The British Business Bank is a government-owned economic development bank set up to improve access to finance for smaller businesses. Created just over two years ago, we now employ 170 people across our Sheffield and London offices.
From the outset, we felt it was important to enable our people – our greatest asset and biggest advocates – not only to create a set of core values which would underpin and support our purpose, but also to play a continuous role in positively shaping the emerging culture of our business as we grew and developed.
Our employees bring a valuable wealth and depth of experience from varied backgrounds. We recognised, however, that those often widely differing backgrounds – incorporating public and private sectors – meant they would potentially have different expectations about what it would mean to work for the British Business Bank.
Having a head office in Sheffield and a separate London office also meant thinking through how measures stemming from our organisational Values could help bridge the distance between the two offices, promote collaborative working and encourage the feeling that we are ‘One Team’.
We know from research how important it is to involve employees in building a lasting culture. Our senior team agreed to adopt a fully-inclusive process that would foster collaboration and encourage the adoption of consistent working practices/behaviours. Getting the entire organisation involved also meant every employee could have a sense of ownership – this is borne out by our survey results reporting a healthily positive view of our organisation amongst colleagues
Creating our values was an iterative process led by two champions – one in each office. The initial step was to form a ‘Values Forum’, with representatives drawn from all parts of the business. The forum produced a series of potential Values words and phrases to reflect our business activities and culture, and the entire organisation then voted to rank the chosen words. We agreed on five values: ‘Integrity’, ‘Connecting’, ‘Improving’, ‘Delivering’, ‘Commercially-minded’, supported by a core essence of ‘Enabling’.
Having agreed on our Values, the whole organisation took part in briefing sessions and workshops to develop the corresponding statements/ behaviours that reflected them. We know that the right language is of great importance to our culture. Internally, our people are referred to as ‘colleagues’ – something our CEO is keen to encourage – and recently, following feedback, we’ve dropped ‘Sheffield’ and ‘London’ as terms, preferring to use the names of our buildings to refer to each location.
The ‘Forum’ continues to be of great benefit to the business – having evolved to become a ‘Colleague Forum’ in January 2016, it is now the official channel through which we engage with and listen to our people. It provides a platform to raise issues, while also enabling discussion and, where appropriate, agreement of proposed actions to implement, communicate and sustain our Values.
‘Enabling’, our core essence, includes affording opportunities for genuine engagement and openness in communication. In addition to the Colleague Forum, we have monthly colleague updates with the senior team, where the whole organisation can have their questions answered. Business area team meetings are also open to any colleague to attend to improve their understanding, and our intranet has a healthy blogging culture, with contributions from colleagues at all levels. We also have ‘Values Awards’ at our quarterly all-colleague ‘One Team’ meetings to acknowledge those who consistently live our Values.
I am delighted by the impact we’ve had so far – our first engagement survey in April 2016, based on our Values, show that we score higher than average in most areas and higher than the Financial Services average in all areas.
Our employees feel they understand the business that they personally make a difference to the organisation’s success and 98% are proud to tell others they work here. There is also a sense that leadership team/ organisation truly cares and listens to issues that are important to colleagues with an ongoing commitment to making beneficial improvements.
We also were recently highly commended in the EE Employment engagement awards in the Public Sector category.
It’s clear that our employees feel a strong sense of purpose here and see that their work is having a positive impact on smaller businesses, and by extension, the UK economy.
For us at the Bank, engagement is not a one-off project. It has always been, and remains an integral part of our Values and strongly supports our organisational purpose.
We are continuing to work with our Colleague Forum to build a great place to work, enabling our colleagues to be proud of the British Business Bank and have a significant say in its future.