Scaling great culture alongside business growth is a worthwhile challenge that will result in better resilience and a greater chance of long-term success.
Here are 5 ways that can apply to every size company:
1. Ignore culture myths
You’ve probably heard culture myths like ‘You have to work for a small company to get a family feeling at work’ or ‘Big companies need vertical structures to be successful’.
But Best Workplaces™ are busting these and other workplace culture myths by repeatedly proving that outstanding culture can be achieved AND sustained no matter what the company size – and even as that size changes.
Baringa is one such example.
Since starting their 15-year journey with Great Place To Work in 2008, the consulting firm’s UK branch has grown from 97 to 1,535 employees – and has achieved the rare feat of earning UK’s Best Workplaces™ recognition in every size category they've been eligible for (Medium, Large, and Super Large) throughout the period!
As a result of staying laser-focused on their people throughout their rapid growth and living what they preach, Baringa has a workforce that loves where they work, is proud to tell others about their workplace, and the majority (87%) of employees say they “want to work here for a long time”.
Diana Lehane, one of Baringa’s ‘Core Value Ambassador’ internal Award winners shared, “Baringa is uniquely welcoming and open, across all levels of the business. From day 1, I felt seen as an individual and have experienced a working culture that genuinely encourages employees to develop and leverage their unique skills and grow as individuals. It’ not just ‘Bring your full self to work’, but ‘Bring your full self to work and thrive’.”
Emma Pace, Chief People Officer stated, “The genesis for our culture came from our founding partners – genuine friends who believed in their intent to make Baringa the best place to do consulting. As we grow, people ask us “how are we going to keep our great culture?”. This is guided by our People Framework which consists of 8 components: Culture, Inclusivity, Wellbeing, Growth Mindset, Recognition, Employee Engagement, Sustainability and Purpose, and Firmwide Communications. Within this framework, Baringa comes to life. We truly put people and community at the heart of everything we do.”
2. Create a people-centric vision for the future
Almost all successful organisations will have a clearly defined business strategy that gives the company the direction and focus it needs to thrive during periods of change.
Baringa has a well-established and award-winning reputation for their people-first philosophy. Their guiding principles are summed up in the mantra ‘Be Kind, Be Curious and Be Great at Work’, which guides them in all aspects of their working practices – from how they recruit and develop their people, to how they approach work with clients. And it’s remained consistent throughout the 24 years Baringa has been in business.
This people-centric framework is beneficial in 3 ways:
1. There is a clear definition of what 'great' looks like at Baringa, which can steer leaders in the right direction whenever decisions need to be made as they grow;
2. Employees get an instant understanding of exactly how their leaders are putting their people first;
3. Baringa is a listening organisation, continuously learning, improving and launching new people initiatives in response to the feedback crowdsourced regularly through multiple channels.
Every 3 years, Baringa updates their vision and strategy to ensure it stays relevant and current. In 2023, they launched Vision 2030, their most ambitious yet, aligning their mission, their strategy to their priorities going forward. Baringa engaged with their employees throughout this process.
During the year long visioning project, Baringa held workshops with over 350 employees across all levels and in their offices across the world. The output was 700+ ideas, which were collated and pressure-tested across the business, ultimately shaping the 5 core pillars of their Vision.
Collaborating on the strategy also allowed Baringa to gather the invaluable experiences and collective memory of those colleagues who hold longer tenures and have been with the firm through different growth phases.
By encouraging colleagues to embrace and engage in the evolution of the firm, Baringa supported their entire workforce to stay connected to the company’s core mission as they moved through the last 24 years.
“My colleagues are committed and enthusiastic about their work which makes it easy for me to reciprocate with the same energy – it's the team that motivates me to work here, and the support offered by Baringa through its diversity networks, especially Embrace (supporting our LGBTQ community).”
– Zoe Salonitides, Principal Product Owner, Digital Workplace; and Internal Client Service Star Award winner.
3. Ask the right questions
During 2015 to 2016, Baringa experienced major people growth in the UK – increasing its headcount by nearly 25% as the workforce grew from 405 to 501 employees over 12 months. And by 2023, had almost doubled to 1,535 employees.
“When companies grow, they can feel pressure to make decisions quickly, and often a poor decision can result in significant setbacks,” says Claire Knights, Director of Growth and Recognition at Great Place To Work UK.
“A key question Baringa’s leaders asked themselves in 2015 was: ‘How do we evolve, develop and maintain our culture as we grow?. They still ask themselves this question today. Baringa had recognised their culture would be the glue that could keep the team together and reduce the risk of leaders making mistakes that could impact employees’ experience during a time that can be as nerve-wracking as it is exciting.”
In 2018, Baringa was nearing the 600 employees mark, and decided to modify their questions to meet the changing needs of their expanding workforce.
Prioritising employee wellbeing pre-pandemic meant that Baringa was better placed to deal with the unprecedented change that Covid caused in 2020.
So even at a time of worldwide uncertainty, heightened stress, anxiety, and substantial concerns around people’s physical and mental health, Baringa still achieved an inspiring 92% overall score for their Trust Index employee survey in 2020, followed by 94% in 2021, and 91% in 2023.
Adopting a true idea meritocracy approach, Baringa involves employees in developing new ideas and better ways of doing things. This has been core to each change at the firm, and vitally contributes to their culture of ‘Putting People First’.
“We continue to do things right by our people; nurture the evolution of our culture, and empower our people by encouraging open questions and challenge,” said David Harris, Sponsoring Partner for Employee Experience.
Louise Bradshaw, Wellbeing Lead, also noted: “Wellbeing will remain a priority. It’s critical that our employees are healthy and happy. By truly investing in, championing and promoting wellbeing, we know our employees will thrive through increased resilience, greater employee engagement, reduced sickness absence, and higher performance.”
At Baringa, there’s been a consistent general sense of mutual compassion and belonging. People feel as though they are always part of the team, helping colleagues at all levels of the business succeed.
“Simple examples of emails and internal comms showcase to us the light-hearted nature of the way in which the firm’s leaders communicate with employees, where there is a great sense of human touch and genuine caring for colleagues, but also a passion for helping the wider community,” says James Bufton, Organisational Trends Analyst at Great Place To Work UK.
“Leaders are often spoken about by their people as open and friendly, and there’s a strong sense that managers give as much consideration to their teammates’ 5-to-9 as they do their 9-to-5.”
Another example of Baringa showing empathy and a clear sense of belonging is their approach to celebrating and promoting fun that is extended to employees' families – such as their 2022 trip to Disneyland! Every detail was considered, from chartering Eurostar trains, providing childcare so parents could enjoy the evening activities, through to lighting up the Disney castle in the Baringa colours.
Alex Metcalfe, Senior Manager from Baringa’s Technology practice, shared his experience:
“From joining Baringa in 2005 to the present day, the leadership team has provided unwavering support as my personal circumstances have changed, from getting married through to having kids, and putting them through the various phases of education. Individuals are trusted to deliver their work commitments in the most effective and efficient manner, without the need for micromanagement or a culture of presenteeism. Coupled with the ongoing and ever-increasing commitment to employee wellbeing, Baringa truly strives to maintain a healthy working culture, even as it continues to experience significant growth.”
Baringa’s focus on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion has continually grown alongside its growth as a business, too. The firm’s internal DE&I working group aims to improve how they support all individuals, irrespective of background, recognising and embracing all differences. This allows Baringa to bring together more creative, fun and impactful teams, striking a better balance across everything they do for their clients and themselves; creating an environment that enables everyone to be themselves and feel like they belong.
"People are at the heart of what we do at Baringa," said Liz Healey, DE&I Lead. "We strive to ensure all our colleagues find a safe space and sense of community, and have the tools they need to succeed. Our culture is richer for our differences, and our work is better. We have fun, learn, thrive."
5. Walk the talk – for all
Unfairness is one of the fastest ways to erode trust in an organisation.
Sadly, over a third (36%) of UK workers no longer feel confident in their senior leaders since the start of the Covid pandemic.1 Conversely however, only a tiny 1% of employees at Best Workplace™ companies say they have ‘very little’ or no confidence in their Executive teams’ judgement.
Baringa – currently ranked in the Top 5 UK’s Best Workplaces for 2023 – scored 9.2/10 for Fairness in their latest survey, with an incredible 96% of employees agreeing that their “Executives embody the best characteristics of the company” (nearly double the UK average (54%) for the same survey statement).
One example of fairness in practice is the firm’s points system ensuring equal development opportunities. An employee notes:
“We offer every employee 10 learning points (equivalent to £5,000 per financial year) to be spent on anything from furthering personal development, to developing skills and capabilities, and increasing knowledge. The scheme helps us ensure that training investment is allocated fairly and empowers individuals to select training opportunities (both internal and external) that best meet their individual development needs.”
By empowering all employees to grow themselves alongside the firm’s growth, Baringa futureproofs their business and improves their people’s sense of job satisfaction, engagement and fulfilment at work.
"What keeps me working at Baringa is the leadership’s attitude – always keen to learn, always looking to develop the team, and most importantly they’re all experts in what they do," says Jamie Hearne, Embrace Co-Lead (Baringa’s LGBTQ+ Network). "This means you don’t just learn how to ‘get by’ in work, you learn the right way to do things, and you can take this forward with you through your career.”
Scaling great culture alongside business growth is a challenge, but by following Baringa's example, companies can create a lasting impact that goes beyond the bottom line.
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