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HGA’s Culture Evolution: Communicating Values and Redefining Who We Are

We’ve spent a big chunk of 2018 undergoing a thorough dissection and redefinition of our cultural identity at HGA. From how we communicate on work projects to how we socialise and interact with one another, we’ve redefined the values that we feel represent us as a team.

It’s been five years since we last underwent such an exercise, and our team has evolved so dramatically during this time, our previous values no longer reflected who we are today. Thanks to lots of new business wins, we’ve also had an influx of new clients and new starters this year, and it is hugely important to us to be able to clearly communicate our cultural identity as a team.

Company Culture

Company culture is so important. The truth about work is that we often spend more time with our colleagues and clients than we do with our own family and friends. In the events industry, we don’t work 9-5 either and so this becomes even more noticeable – we’ll find ourselves rigging sets on a Sunday, delivering an awards ceremony on a Friday night or filming on location at 5am in Scotland. That’s not to mention the odd late nights in the office finishing a killer proposal, fixing an app or designing a new brand identity over a takeaway pizza. So, it’s even more important for us to look at how we work, socialise and interact together. For starters – a shared work ethic and a mutual sense of humour are a must!

Employee Survey

We began the exercise of redefining our culture back in the spring. The first thing we did was test the waters – we needed to find out what our people really thought of how we operate, how we interact and what makes us, us. So we sent out an anonymous questionnaire to everyone in the company with inquisitive questions about everything from the building layout and business strategies to how we are living our mantra and how we communicate; good and bad! It can be daunting to give your employees anonymous free reign to say what they really think as it’s in our nature as humans to focus on the negatives, but we were pleasantly surprised by the results. There were really clear sections of strengths and opportunities for improvements – it seemed that everyone was on the same page and the things that needed some TLC were easy fixes if we worked together.

Staff Forum

Next up we created a staff forum all about HGA culture – recruiting volunteers from every department and ensuring we had a mix of ages, backgrounds and personalities. It was important that the team of representatives reflected everyone’s interests and a wide range of perspectives. We all got our heads together on a full day away from the office where we dissected the results of the survey and went through a series of exercises to redefine how we work and what really matters to us. We found it particularly important to get away from the day-to-day business to focus on this, and in that one dedicated day, we came away with a blueprint for a whole new culture, supported with a series of action points on how we would implement it.

Within our staff forum – affectionately named ‘The Culture Club’ – we had a mix of skill sets from copywriters, graphic designers and team leaders so we could divide and conquer the tasks at hand, setting deadlines to deliver our promises for change.

Company Values

Our old values were represented in simple words like Integrity and Passion – but looking back we found these to feel quite generic, dated and too brief. Instead, we came up with a new culture statement that summarised who we are and what we stand for.

From there we captured seven values that we identified as our HGA DNA because it wasn’t so much a code of conduct, but more innate values that we all held within us. Communicating our culture in this way was particularly useful for recruitment – we want to find people who already share this outlook and would deliver the right attitude and aptitude. Not only did we create meaningful sentences and phrases instead of simple words, we also set our design team to work creating little symbols to represent each of these values to help bring them to life. That way they were fully formed, fleshed out ideas we could all recognise within each other.

Communications

Next, we looked for ways to communicate these values within the fabric of our building. Habiting a 100-year-old ex-telephone exchange, we are blessed with a really cool space that features a large central staircase that would be seen by everyone in the team every day, plus clients, visitors and potential employees. We brought our symbols to life with 3D objects as well as imagery, and we all played a part in hand-making and painting a mural.

Results

Even within a small team, it was really important to us to undertake this activity and to use a staff forum as the method to bring together ideas and agree on action points. By getting everyone’s views through the survey and representing everyone’s needs through the staff forum we were able to quickly and succinctly identify what we needed to change and how we should define our culture. Everyone was onboard from the start and everyone has noticed the impact on the team. We are working together better than ever, people’s voices are being heard and we have a team of people that are engaged and invested in our culture and our work.

Much of this activity was inspired by our research for our new eBook, written with Internal Communications specialists from the likes of Screwfix and Shell. Download your copy for free here.

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