The really exciting news that our legal entity became Quilter Plc at the end of March and in just a few short weeks, we will have uncoupled ourselves from Old Mutual Plc and be listed on the London & Johannesburg Stock exchanges as an independent company. I feel privileged to have been involved, and I'm sure you'll all agree a rarity for many of us in our professional HR careers.
We’ve got a great opportunity here to become something else here and it’s really exciting. It’s also really full on. As you’d expect, there’s an awful lot that has to happen when you unhook yourself from a big beast of an organisation, as we have done. Technically, we’re demerging and we are in the midst of disposals and acquisitions. Our challenge is ten unique brands across, four different financial services sectors. That’s quite a challenge.
Basically, we have been undergoing a cultural evolution. I wouldn’t call it a revolution – this is financial services, after all. In the financial services space, people give you their money and they have to trust you and it’s a highly regulated industry – so no revolutions. Start ups and some of the new world businesses can be revolutionary, but not a company like us. That doesn’t mean that we can’t use revolutionary techniques or be revolutionary in some of the things we do, but it does mean that processes have to be slow, methodical and very considered. It’s more of a slow and steady simmer than a revolution.
So, evolution not revolution. To help me during this evolutionary process I’ve made good use of a number of theories and books. This has really enabled me to properly reflect and shape my thoughts. The culture piece is so important when doing something like this and you have to put the time in to get it right.
Let’s talk about some of those books and influences that I have found so useful. Firstly, Bruce Tuckman, famous for the forming-storming-norming-performing approach . When thinking about disposals and acquisitions, Tuckman’s approach is really important. Why? Because every time you make a new acquisition, you need to help everybody understand what's the new now. Most of our acquisitions are quite different from our existing business so we need to find the commonalities. Finding the commonalities is really important.
It’s a case of there's been a change, we need to reform and we need to go through those processes and make sure everyone gets it. For us, we are now in four very separate sectors of the financial services industry (financial advice, financial products, investments and discretionary asset management). They are unique and very different, but intrinsically linked and going through the forming-storming-norming-performing process has been very interesting.
At the same time we’ve made some disposals – bits of the business that didn’t fit with what we’re trying to do – and we’ve had to allow people to mourn those who have left. That’s also important.
Something else that I have really drawn on a lot is the book A Peacock in the Land of Penguins. This book is all about being different and how it’s okay to be different. When I think about all of these people trying to form together across advice, products, investments and discretionary asset management, I think sometimes they're probably going to feel like a peacock in a land of penguins. We need to be cognizant of that. We need to allow people to be themselves.
Another book that has been really helpful is Fish Can’t See Water. It’s all about how the national culture can make or break a corporate strategy. Our CEO has been really great here – very clever in terms of helping us talk about what’s important to the nation, who we are and in defining our place in the market. Because of him we have clearly defined our place in the market. He is very good, very clever at telling the story of who we are.
Our challenge then in L&D is to take that vision, as created by the CEO, and create an internal culture that enables it to happen. Our culture and values need to align to what we're trying to achieve. The culture needs to guide our actions, the way that we work and how we connect with each other. But, going back to the first book, we don't want everyone in our businesses to be the same - otherwise we just have penguins and it would be wrong for anyone to be a peacock.
What you need to achieve is commonality, while still allowing for differences. Commonality has to be the starting point. Think about Kurt Lewin’s Change Model, when he talks about having to first unfreeze and then freeze again. Commonality is the unfreeze part. We had to unfreeze around social currency, getting a dialogue going and ensuring everyone was a part of the journey. Some of the things we’ve done are not rocket science or revolutionary, but they work. For example, we’ve had business leaders from different organisations come in and discuss their world and their customer. This has identified some of the commonalities. We’ve run webinars on how we make money, so that everyone understands how the business works. We’ve allowed people to have conversations and kept communications flowing. We’ve had culture champions in teams that get together and share information. All this stuff really makes a difference and is a crucial part of the process.
Another good book here is Jonah Berger’s Contagious: Why Things Catch On. One of the things that this book talks about is creating an emotional connection to things. You have to think about the things that make a difference to people’s lives. So with our champions, our webinars, our culture sessions and our internal communications, we realised we needed to talk about the difference that we as an organisation make to people’s lives. It needed to be real stories, such as how many funerals we’ve paid for, how many kids’ educations, how many first time mortgages…These stories are real and people get them. It’s tangible stuff.
Dialogue is so so important and it has to go both ways. We started an online conversation through a process called online jamming. It’s just brilliant. It’s like a radio show and we had business leaders on there talking about stuff – where we’re trying to get to, the role that we play in society… People logged onto an online portal and voted on stuff in terms of how they felt. We got lots of comments in and got a huge amount of data in terms of how much people understood where we are today and where we’re looking to go. They even helped us define our values set – our people said what our values should be and we put it to the vote. Values are a bridge really, a bridge from our current reality to our aspirational future, so that was key. We took all the rich data that we got from the online jamming and developed behavioural frameworks from it.
It helped us be more specific in our performance reviews about what people need to do and how they do it, but we are still very fluid about it –we don’t want people to be penguins, remember. We want them to be themselves. So we’ve kept it quite generic. But soon we will get to the stage where we need to be more solid and robust in how we approach things. Soon we will be at the stage where we start that freeze again of who we are.
There’s so much more stuff I could say about what we’ve been doing, such as intercompany transfers, our talent processes, any anytime feedback tool and so on, but I think it’s time to stop for now.
All that’s left to say is that we’ve already seen a stronger engagement score with our people and a greater alignment to our value set. Over the last nine months of measuring our culture, we’ve seen a shift from -24 on our eNPS (employee Net Promoter Score) score to zero. A 24 point shift in nine months is phenomenal and deserves a celebration.