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Developing a culture – our journey so far...

By James Beardmore

31 May 2022 : Industry News

Developing a great culture at DJH Mitten Clarke

Workplace culture can often be misunderstood. It’s more than core values written on a wall. And, forcing a culture on your team will have the opposite effect to what you’re trying to achieve. Instead, it needs to grow organically to enable your team to thrive. 

But how do you manage culture when you go through a merger or acquisition? Luckily, we’ve had a bit of practice in that over the last year… 

A new era at DJH Mitten Clarke

I’ve spoken previously about why culture matters to an organisation and touched on some of the ideas we’ve implemented at DJH Mitten Clarke.

In February 2021, we announced the merger of DJH and Mitten Clarke to become DJH Mitten Clarke. It was an exciting first step on our journey but we were conscious about bringing two teams together and the impact that may have to the culture of each business. 

We knew the businesses were aligned culturally but we understood that a kind of culture shock could still happen and needed to be managed efficiently. When the announcement was first made, we knew there would be a ‘honeymoon period’ with the excitement that this sort of news creates but it’s important to not expect people to stay within this stage. 

Whilst some will remain positive, others will naturally start to feel anxious, whether it be about a new environment, new colleagues or new expectations. We knew we had to manage this for the merger to be a success, for the business and for each member of the team. 

Effective communication from Day One

We ensured regular communication with teams, departments and individuals from the very beginning. We didn’t want to make a grand announcement and then the next time they hear from us is asking them to use a different letterhead or new email address! 

We hosted Question Time style sessions for both teams to ask anonymous questions, that they perhaps didn’t want to ask out loud, to members of the senior team. This was really useful as it brought up questions we had overlooked but enabled us to put them right straight away. 

We hosted social events to help put faces to new names and bring departments together. For those in the team moving to a new office, we hosted office tours so they could familiarise themselves with a new environment. 

Managing two brand new situations

Of course, this was all taking part during a period of great uncertainty. Undergoing a business merger during a global pandemic is definitely a book I’d like to write one day! 

The pandemic actually allowed us to really embrace what we wanted our culture to be about. We were, again, active in our communication with our team, which helped to stem some of the worries that were inevitable during such an uncertain time. 

We made sure that everyone was set up with the technology they needed in a short space of time to enable them to continue working with home, with as little disruption as possible. 

We ramped up the engagement with the team too, putting on virtual events such as fitness sessions, bingo and quizzes. It helped keep the team together and also gave their families something to do too. 

Next steps on our journey

As I mentioned in my article on ‘why culture matters’, culture is a journey and since the merger, we’ve done even more to continually evolve and improve the culture for our team.

Working with employee engagement specialists, Best Companies, we are performing annual engagement surveys of our team, giving us an overview of each department and providing us with valuable insight on how the company is performing. The survey, carried out shortly after we came together, gave us a better understanding of the base at which we were starting. 

The results told us a few key things. Firstly, we scored well and were proud to have achieved a 2* company status and be recognised as an ‘Outstanding’ place to work. It also allowed us to understand which managers were excelling and recognise their achievements. Most importantly, it told us where improvements could be made - either as an overall business, or at a departmental level.

Of course, it’s important to us that this annual survey isn’t the only time the team can give feedback. Quarterly ‘Team Support and Development’ sessions (TSDs) act as a valuable tool for our team too. It’s a regular opportunity for everyone to sit down with their line manager to tell them how they’re feeling, what’s going well and what areas need more focus. These sessions are key to keeping feedback constant and tackling issues before they become problematic. 

The feedback we’ve received from the Best Companies survey as well as TSD sessions have also allowed us to improve our health and wellbeing program, to ensure every member of our team feels happy, healthy and valued. Each month we run a different wellbeing focus which includes a community or charity initiative, a social event and an insightful lunch ‘n’ learn session. So far this year we’ve focused on stress awareness, nutrition & hydration and heart health. Every member of the team is also offered an annual health check-up and we recently launched our new mental health support solution, Spectrum Life to help our team through whatever challenges they’re facing.

Creating clear values 

We’ve also invested in creating core values. This investment included giving our team the chance to directly input into what our values are across the business and the behaviours that embody each of them. This was key as we didn’t want create aspirational values, we wanted them to be embedded in the way we do things here and become values that we don’t allow to become compromised. We needed the team to understand this, otherwise it wouldn’t truly reflect our business. 

Our core values are Ambition, Community, Honesty, Passion and Teamwork and we weave these into everything we do. It’s one of the first things anyone looking for a role with us will see in a job posting, we base our reviews around them and our quarterly awards are based on each one. 

What’s next?

We’re proud of the culture we’ve developed through a busy period of growth for the business, building one team that achieves great things together. But, as we continue to grow, we’ll also continue looking at new ways to improve our culture both for the team and the business’ benefit. Watch this space!

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