Connecting brand & culture

‘Brand and culture: two sides of the same coin’. I first heard this statement from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, the online shoe retailer acclaimed for building a business with people and culture as the DNA of its customer offering. Since then, it has often been used to show the correlation between the two forces and how, once connected, they can drive the success of an organisation and its customer experience.
We often speak of vision and values in connection with the brand, however when we explore culture we discuss this in relation to beliefs and behaviours. The brand lives in a virtual world and is driven by promise, while the other is humanistic and is driven by the actions of its people.
Is it that there are two sides of the same coin or the fact that once correctly fused together they seamlessly make-up the coin itself? With this in mind, each must bring an equal amount of influence and weight to the coin so that it stays perfectly balanced and has a 50-50 chance of landing on either side.
Like a coin, both sides are completely independent of each other, and much like yin and yang, they require each other for completion. Likewise, one is no more or less important than the other, and one cannot function correctly without the other. By first exploring what makes them different, we come one step closer to understanding just how they can live in harmony and create lasting positive outcomes.

Unleashing the power of your people

The brand is vertical with tiers of hierarchy and levels to give it the structure that is required to support its ever-reaching goals. It requires various levels of management, processes and procedures that allow it to function in an ever-changing and dynamic environment. Of the two sides, it adds consistency and direction to the union and acts as a guide for the business.

Culture is driven by the individuals within a structure; a collective of the power that each person brings with them. It requires freedom to be at its best, as we ask it among other things, to be innovative, empathetic and creative. Pure culture exists in a flat structure where one person is no more important than another. We may all have different jobs to do, but each stands independent and is equally required for the success of the collective.

Look through a microscope at a biological culture; it is a defined area with lots of moving parts moving within it. A culture is a culture no matter how you view it: dynamic and in constant flux. In organisational culture, however, it gets more complex as we request that the culture live the values of the brand. In some cases, this demand is on the company’s terms and does not take into account the voice of the culture and how its people see the world.

5 top tips: building your brand & culture

So how can we take opposing outward facing influences, and fuse them together to make one coin? I have looked to some of our recent clients for the answers and they have come up with these five top tips to ensure that brand and culture develop a mutual respect for each other and keep the coin spinning. Without this, it will be next to impossible to create harmony for these two powerful forces to exist in the same space.

  1. Walk the shop floor: Management needs to get out of their offices and spend more time engaging and talking to employees in their space. This is not a formal meeting; it is an opportunity to informally chat about the business in real time. To take this one step further, spend a day in an employee’s life and have the management team venture out and pick up the tools of the trade and work alongside them.
  2. Really listen to your people: If communication and active listening is key to our external customers’ experience, then it too must be the foundation of relationship building with our internal employees. By all means, continue with all the usual sources such as employee surveys, but be more creative with the questions that you ask. This needs to be complemented with live focus and working groups that allow opportunities for employees to give feedback and play a part in the solution-making process.
  3. Build an employee brand: The culture too needs to have structure and guidance to drive it forward. Create an internal brand that best reflects the employees as a personality and unites them as one team, one vision with one clear direction to the business. This need not be costly but can be creative, as this branded campaign will form the backdrop to all future development, internal communications and reflect the voice of the culture. It will become the bridge between the brand and culture, allowing the values of the brand to come alive in the actions of the culture.
  4. Give power to your people: Give employees more responsibility for the development of the culture and how best they would like to communicate with each other. Create a culture committee with representatives from all parts of the business. Give them the directive to create opportunities for employees to share time together; whether it’s fun, educational, supportive or just free time. Ensure that the business supports this with allocated time and even put a small budget aside for them to access.
  5. Create a brand story that gives rise to the culture: Allow your people to become part of your brand story. The brand journey must not only be understood by the people but also driven by them. Look at the story from both a historical and futuristic vantage point, pulling out great examples of how the people and the culture of the organisation have allowed it to overcome diversity and market challenges. Celebrate small successes and let the team bask in the success of the big stuff.

Final thought: creating your USP

As a final thought, invest in including your people in the brand journey and make them an integral part of your USP and customer offering.
The brand comes with a promise and sets the expectations for those who engage with it, however, it is the people and culture that delivers on that promise, with both their projected personality and the connection that they have to the brand, its values and the future vision.

“‘Innovation’ is not just a value word – it is a spirit and driving force that fuses two opposing forces together – making them two sides of the same coin.”


Dale Smith , Creative Director, Bridge


Faking it – the negative impact of masking resilience

Resilience is often defined as the ability or process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy or threats of significant sources of stress. This does not mean the person does not experience difficulty or distress, it simply means they have developed and practiced techniques with a mindset that allows them to create a more balanced approach to challenging times.

What if the challenge to overcome is not as obvious as a direct trauma or tragedy, one that does not happen in an instant? What if this adversity cannot clearly be seen by others in order to know that this individual requires support? What if this stressor is a constant and slowly eroding the individual’s confidence and ability to manage the increasing demands on both their personal and work lives?

The reality of many business leaders is that this adversity goes undetected, as they have found a different form of resilience in the art of masking. They are sending core messages to their community that ‘I got this and I am Ok’. At the heart of all resilience sits mechanisms for protection against the experiences, which could be overwhelming. These could either be positive, allowing the leader a more sustainable outcome, or a company mask that eventually becomes too heavy to maintain.

Let’s be real for a minute and just stop and look at all the pressure that is put on us by external and internal forces. The pace of business and technology, the needs of both stakeholders and the team and this is not even touching on all that is happening in our personal lives. It is so important to acknowledge, understand and manage the factors that cause us to feel so overwhelmed and stressed at work. We need to stop and be honest as truly resilient people are aware of the impact that situations, their emotional reaction and the behaviours others have on them.

In my research, for our upcoming Resilience workshop, I found countless similar definitions and lists of character traits on the topic time and time again. I struggle to find anything on what I call resilience masking traits – where a leader appears to be busy, active and connected, but when you look closely and with empathy, you can begin to see that they are secretly manifesting signs of a need for assistance and support.

If unmanaged these can have extremely negative effects on the individual, the team that they manage and also the overall success of the company and culture that they represent. It often stems from an inherent lack of confidence or ability to perform in the role, and in this their inability to ask for help. Here are three negative factors that will increasingly become more evident as a leader’s ability to cope with the hidden pressures unravels.


Work-related stress is what you feel when you have demands at work that exceed your ability to cope. A little stress can also be exhilarating if it is in your sphere of ability to overcome and you are practicing healthy resilience techniques. In the case of leaders that are outside this sphere and masking that ‘they are ok’, then stress levels increase exponentially. This will not only have a negative impact on their mental health but also begin to manifest into physical signs. Either way, the individual will show early warning signs that they are struggling in silence.

Masking is exhausting and hence begins to break down the body’s immune system and ability to reach a healthy state of relaxation. The physical implications of negative or undetected stress from being overwhelmed are staggering and can slowly erode a leader’s ability to perform effectively. Mood changes such as irritability, overt negativity about others or situations or a false sense of positivity can all be signs that the leader is struggling to be their authentic self.

This can lead to lack of sleep, poor diet, increased alcohol consumption which then, in turn, leads to more of the same as the mask becomes heavier and harder to maintain. This lack of balance and sense of freedom to be in flow means that they are always on the move and what I call ‘busy being busy’, showing their team evidence that they are ‘on it’. Maintaining this false sense of power and status adds to more continued stress and hence further health problems.

Risk Taking:

Following on from a breakdown in a healthy mind and body comes a leader’s inability to make key decisions. This kind of risk-taking is not to be confused with being risky or taking unnecessary chances, as to be a great leader one must be prepared to take risks and make decisions that do not yet have a proven outcome. Leaders are ultimately judged on the results that they deliver and when masking resilience these leaders often get stuck in a state of just treading water and always remaining in planning mode.

Risk taking can be defined simply as undertaking a task in which there is a lack of certainty. The problem at the core of risk-taking is fear; fear of failure, fear of standing out and being noticed and fear that they will show a lack of knowledge. A resilient leader’s success is about finding different solutions to long-standing issues that are getting in the way of results. For many leaders, the lack of risk-taking means that they try to keep things the same even if it is not to the advantage of the team or the organisation.

In their inability to transform, one of the keys signs of leaders masking resilience is to always be in a meeting. It is in these meetings where they often forge relationships with other leaders who share a similar lack of confidence masked as resilience. Hence, together they develop their own support network that further supports their own belief that they are being resilient and working effectively. If you are seen to always be busy then that is what hard work looks like, and the need to make a decision becomes lessened. However, this creates a knock-on effect as the culture around them begins to erode and the demands on them to perform increases. The ultimate catch 22…


Factors that lead to healthy resilience at work include the ability to stay balanced, focusing on positivity, managing difficult emotions, forward thinking and the building of a strong and supportive community. It is with these factors that a resilient leader manages their environment in a manner that decreases the actual stressor. It is here that resilience becomes a way of working not only by the leader but also within the team that they support.

In the case of a leader that is masking resilience, they increasingly find difficulty in building relationships built on trust and integrity. It is here that the law of attraction applies, as they tend to surround themselves with others who lack the ability to take risks and they find solace in the negativity of others. Together they can support each other’s belief that their inability to perform must be based on external factors and therefore there is no need to take personal responsibility. This can give some comfort in the short term; however, it does mean that they begin to neglect their core duty as a leader and with this increases the poor performance of others.

As the pressure begins to increase often leaders masking resilience will begin to extradite themselves from their core duties and direct relationships with their successful peers and team. The unconscious fear of being a fraud builds up as more pressure is added and the mental and physical signs of stress further manifest. It is like a house of cards ready to fall and the individual struggles to ask for help, as in their mind, this will be a sign of weakness. To balance this they often put additional stress on the team to perform and this further demonstrates what they believe leadership looks like.

In summary, the first step to any recovery is admitting that you need help and ‘so what?’ – We all need help from time to time. It is that fact that makes us human and in the art of humility sits greatness. This ability fuels not only our own resilience but also the foundation for healthy and honest relationships that surround us. The role of a leader is complex and can be very stressful as our workplace demands increase. Hence, that is why resilience is a key component that must be addressed if organisations are to build healthy and supportive workplace cultures.

Someone recently asked me if resilience is considered a personal value and after some deep consideration, I believe it is. Resilience can be learned, acquired and deeply honed through conscious decision-making and observation hence it requires an individual to be present and with a purpose to strive forward. This is why I believe that resilience is the foundation of great leaders – not for self-preservation but so that they can be strong during times of challenge for others.

The role of great leaders is a delicate balance between protecting the team from adversity and letting them experience their own challenges and in so developing their own resilience.


Dale Smith
Creative Director


There is still some space on Bridge’s Resilience open workshop on Tuesday 9th October; see more here and contact Bridge to book on!


Building the Business Case for Culture: What business transformation leaders can learn from painters and decorators.

Building a Business Case for Culture

What business transformation leaders can learn from painters and decorators.

Life and business are always running in parallel and, if recognised, the learning in one world can define the level of success in the other. Following the premise that businesses behave like humans simply because they are driven by humans, I am always on the hunt for new and compelling examples. I had this put to the test with my most recent project of painting my entire flat in less than one week.

I thought this was the perfect opportunity to immerse myself in a different kind of transformation and to look at what learning I would discover over this week. It became apparent early on that these two worlds would be clearly linked and life had thrown me yet another opportunity to better define company culture transformation through a unique lens. It has also given me a heightened respect for individuals that master such tasks as a profession.

To help better put this article into context, I believe that it requires a small amount of personal narrative. I decided last year that I needed a change and put a fresh perspective on life and, as part of my quest for personal transformation, I uprooted and rented out my flat of 12 years. I have become a firm believer that change is required to keep us fresh-minded and a little shake-up is needed to challenge and energise that habitual soul that sits inside us all.

As the tenancy lease came to an end and it was time for me to move back into my property, I was faced with a mix of excitement and trepidation. As with any form of change or transformation, the thought of the unknown and the ‘what might be’ can weigh heavy on our minds and perception of how we view what comes next. In the case of my flat, I needed to put in place the next right move in order that I would re-enter this stage with a fresh and forward-thinking mindset.

Hence, the answer to this was giving it a transformation of its own and as project lead, labour and owner I was prepared to take on the challenge myself. To follow is 10 key learnings that I discovered during my week that directly relate to any leader that is building a business case for culture and seeking internal investment.   Once you embark on any people or business transformation programme it is imperative that you are in it for the long haul.


One: Best Laid Plans

As with any transformation project, preparation is key and ensuring that you have all the tools in place to hit the ground running on Day One. This will take the form of communication, people and assets that will be utilised throughout your campaign. I am a firm believer in having a launch day and celebrating the changes that are coming and to be open and transparent in the vision of the organisation going forward; however, one needs to be agile at the start of any transformation initiative, as even with the best-laid plans things do not always go quite as expected.

In the case of my decorating week, this was very evident in the fact that I had made my list of all the painting accessories that would be required – from brushes to drop sheets. Being a fan of Amazon Prime, I ordered all I needed and more to be delivered the day before the start date. Of course, this was cutting it fine however Amazon had never let me down before so was not expecting any issues now. I take full responsibility for the outcome as the card I used on file had expired and hence meant the Friday delivery would not come. This is the point that your stress levels will be put to the test so just relax and calmly think what is the next right move.

As leaders, we can get stuck here in the continuous circular mindset of what should have happened and therefore struggle to remain positive and focused on the future pathway. So the painting stuff did not arrive and if that was going to be my directive then I would never get past this first hurdle and get moving. In my case, I had to go old school and actually go to the paint store on the high street and physically pick it up. In doing this, it also reminded me of the value that we get from coming face-to-face with experts in their field and, therefore, it was actually a blessing in disguise as I got some firsthand great advice and cost savings to boot.


Two: Plan for the Unexpected

Following on from best-laid plans, it is important to continue this agile way of thinking going forward and remember we are people dealing with people. Hence, there will always be a degree of volatility in these relationships and at the beginning of any transformation project be prepared to have a difference of opinion. In the case of my flat, this came at the checkout of the existing tenants in which their view and my view of what was required differed greatly.

It was agreed that the flat would be cleaned and ready for sign off; however, this was not what I discovered. The flat was not cleaned to the expected standard and was not fully cleared and ready for me to start work. As leaders, we often need to deal with the unexpected as even with the best planning we must build in contingency for the things that are outside of our control and learn to deal in real time.  Often, we believe that we have been clear in outlining our expectations only to be met with a very different interpretation by others of what was communicated.


Three: Painting Party

To help lighten the load I had the Idea to dedicate the first weekend to have a painting party. In theory, this would have brought several friends together enticed by pizza, beer and the community spirit to pick up a brush and get to work. As I said, “in theory” as it did not really happen according to my desired vision as I never communicated this concept until the very last minute. As of which time, diaries were full and other commitments made and what would have accelerated the transformation process was lost due to my poor communication.

This brings rise to the importance of clear and timely internal dialogue leaders must have with their team. In most client projects that I have worked on over the past 20 years, poor internal communication by senior leaders is sighted as one of the key contributors to front-line disengagement. It is key that we communicate our vision through all potential mediums available and not just email.  Leaders need to be visibly present and active throughout the entire culture transformation programme. They need to be in constant communication with all the team, not just the other stakeholders that share a seat at the table.


Four: Bigger Job than Expected

As the weekend passed and I was moving into Day Three and Four of the flat transformation, I came to the realisation that the job was much larger and more time-consuming than I ever expected. What I estimated would take 30 minutes took 3 hours and on and on and on. This really enlightened me to just how unrealistic I could be with respect to time and the input required to reach most desired outcomes. Hence, in this, the project was falling behind schedule simply because I did not set the appropriate timeline from the onset or apply the appropriate people power to the work.

As a leader, when embarking on any transformation programme, be assured that it will require your full attention and if done well will take much more time than originally expected. So often I have seen leaders take on additional responsibilities that really could be delegated to others simply because they either do not trust their team or they misjudge the amount of additional work that goes into the various task required. It is key to build a great and supportive community around you and allow others to fail in order that they can be empowered to learn. Trust in others and communicate the vision in a way that they will assist in spreading the responsibility for many people.


Five: Balance between Roles

Having misjudged the amount of dedicated time that was needed to complete the entire flat, this then began to impact my responsibilities at Bridge. It suddenly became the domino effect and a clear balancing act between the two commitments was needed. Thankfully, I had the support required that meant I could just step away from most of my daily work commitments and focus on the painting task at hand. Without this, I would have been pushed and pulled between the two and only been half present in each.

If this becomes the case then both worlds will be impacted with a degree of mediocrity and momentum is lost. In respect to any form of business transformation, I call this “programme fatigue” and it is the point that key stakeholders and leaders begin to lose the drive and focus on the transformation programme. The day job comes first and, also, it becomes a great hiding ground from those leaders that are a little unsure what is really expected of them with regards to the people and culture piece. It is important to recognise this stage as normal and one that needs to be utilised to check on progress, refocus and re-engage everyone back into the vision.


Six: Wellness and Resilience

This would not be a review of business transformation without a consideration for the importance of wellness in both ourselves and for others. It was not until after the flat had been completed that I began to look back at the week through this lens and realised just how low a consideration I gave this during the process. I was so focused on completing the task that I stopped to look at the impact that working in this way had on my health and wellbeing. I mistook my bullish nature for resilience and gave no consideration to the impact that this had on my health.

Clearly, working this way for one week had no long-term effects and after a few down days I was back fit and fighting; however, it does shed light on the importance of managing a good work-life balance and the need that we have to step away in order to step up to the many commitments that leaders face in today’s demanding work environment. Resilience is not about just toughening up and getting on with it, as it is much more complex than that. It is about having the emotional and social intelligence to create an environment that brings out the best in you, your team and one that allows all the ability to deliver at their best.


Seven: Budget and Investment

The balancing act between cost and quality will always be on the agenda with every transformation programme and, hence, with respect to my flat, this was no exception. It is important to create a clear budget for all projects and cost must be a factor when determining the purchase of any goods or services. It is important to know where to save money and where to invest, as in many cases cheaper does not always equate to a cost-saving in the long run. For anyone that has ever painted with a cheap paintbrush, they will know the difference in the number of bristles that it sheds when using it.

Often organisations attempt to cut cost on staff engagement and development during a transformation initiative. It is believed by many stakeholders that this is the soft agenda and can be simply managed by the in-house leadership team.   In no way is engagement simple – and investment in third-party assistance is often required as people are the greatest asset of any business. Human behaviour and engagement is a science and sits outside most leaders’ remit and true skillset. To ensure long-term sustainable engagement of a workforce that delivers on the brand promise and offers an outstanding customer experience should never be taken lightly. Just because the brush put paint on the wall did not mean the brush would deliver the best result or last to complete the entire job.


Eight: Attention to Detail

I believe that ATD is one of the areas in which true professionals excel, as not only does it require a keen eye and passion for the task but is developed from a vast amount of experience. As my week of painting and decorating unfolded, I seemed to go on a ride of ups and downs on how I felt and delivered on this crucial quality factor. Having worked on the transformation of a 5-star branded hotel to that of a 5-star boutique property, I determined that one of the key differentiators in the 5-star hotel market is the attention to detail that is applied. It was this level of quality that I wanted to see in the finished flat and hence was faced with an even greater challenge.

At the start of the painting project, I was still learning how best to ensure that the quality was delivered in enough detail to guarantee that it was completed to a high standard but once my resilience dropped and fatigue set in, I began to notice that this was the first thing to be impacted. I simply just wanted to get the job done! Once I started to see the transformation take shape in the final days, my desire to ensure that the proper detail was taken returned and ATD became much more important. It is crucial that leaders track the engagement of their people against this crucial factor, as this will give sight to the sustainability of the care and standard of work to be done in the future.


Nine: Take Time to Appreciate

Celebrating success is a must to ensure that engagement and hard work is recognised and seen as a true accomplishment. I was so pleased to have finished the journey that I almost forgot to sit back and appreciate the transformation that had taken place. Not only in the look and feel of the flat but also in myself. I took on the challenge and even though it was much harder than I ever expected – I did it. I had the support of some great friends who joined me on my journey and this definitely contributed to the successful outcome.

However, it is important to recognise the journey in real time and not wait until the end to see the success. Every day of a transformation programme brings with it both challenges and exciting success. The role of leadership and internal communication is to find active mediums to share the stories of their employees. The difference that I see between change and transformation is that the first is needed to take a totally new direction whereas the latter is about laying new and exciting opportunities on an already stable core. It is within this essence that we find the true passion of our people and take notice of the hard work and commitment that they deliver daily.


Ten: Continuous Improvement

It will not stop with paint as this project has now inspired me to make some additional improvements to both the flat and also in the way I view transformation. It is not something that can be seen as just a tick-in-the-box exercise and one that, once completed, means that it can just sit untouched or it will slowly fade back into the existence that it once was.   This project was more challenging as it was left untouched for a few years and hence needed lots of attention. It has also given rise to additional areas that with a little work can truly make all the difference to the overall transformation. It is important to ensure that once the journey of transformation has begun it is seen as a continuous commitment.

Once the main planned strategy has been completed, I often advise clients that they then need to ring-fence areas of their business that will require very specific influences to perfect the performance of that area. The first stage of any transformation is to ensure that the culture is engaged and committed to the long-term vision and strategy of the business. Once this fresh new outlook has been assured then the team is open to the concepts and development to truly make a difference in the success. Then this is their opportunity to take ownership of the part they play; however, it is important to recognise that people and great customer experience need constant attention and the commitment of senior leadership.   It is not a fad or a phase – it is a long-term continuous journey that, once started, should never end.


In conclusion: this weeklong experience has given me a new respect for professional painters and decorators. Before I started this project I went to the market and got three quotes all of which I thought were too high and hence I made the choice to do it myself. On reflection, it was my lack of true knowledge of what went into the entirety of such a project from end to end and the skills that they offered that I truly lacked. All three quotes were well within reason.

What may look easy on the surface comes from both a wealth of inherent skill and learning experience which, when brought together, can make all the difference to both the journey and the final outcome. My advice to any leader that is looking to embark on culture or business transformation initiatives is to invest in the advice of either internal or external individuals that have experience in such a project. Also build a great team of people around you, as their support will be invaluable as the programme rolls out across the business.


Meet the Speaker

Helen Watson is a Senior Strategist for Ogilvy Healthworld, and specialist in customer experience and learning. She will be joining us in chairing a segment on wellness & performance at our conference on October 16th, “Building the Business Case for Culture”. In preparation for our conference, we have asked Helen for a bit of insight into Ogilvy Healthworld, the usefulness of journey mapping, and the importance of wellness programs.

You have mentioned that customer journey-mapping has become a very important tool in your line of work. Can this work be translated into an employee journey-map, and if so, what insights can you share with companies to benefit their employees?

As a customer experience expert, I have many tools available to help me understand what customers are going through, and their needs, challenges, goals and barriers. These help me design services and communications tailored to meet their needs and the needs of the business. Often these tools are used purely for marketing or sales to a specific customer base. This doesn’t mean that companies can’t turn the tables and use the same tools and skills on their internal audience.

Creating empathy with your employees and seeing the world through their eyes enables you to create and build initiatives that are truly valuable and will actually deliver a return on investment.

The employee journey within an organisation starts before recruitment, and even up to and beyond an employee’s last days of employment with the organisation. It’s quite a long journey to map out in its entirety.

At Ogilvy Healthworld we take a goal-driven approach to our customer journeys as we do with our personas. This chunks up larger journeys and helps us focus on the ‘Moments of Truth’ where employees are engaging with the brand or services. Here we can identify what is happening and if there is an opportunity for the brand to improve that experience. It also helps the brand to understand if the processes and procedures that they have in place as an organisation are effective. Everything Ogilvy does is data driven not opinion based. This helps us ground our journeys in what is actually happening, rather than what a brand or business thinks.

An example of a goal could be a new employee’s first week at work. What is the actual experience they go through? You map the stages of that process out and work out what the employee is ‘Thinking, Feeling and Doing’ at those stages, and does that reflect the values of your brand.

For example, if on day one the new employee arrives keen and eager to start work, but their new laptop hasn’t arrived and no one in the team knows they are starting, then this could create a negative experience and impression of the brand for that employee. However, if this same employee had the experience of being provided with a working laptop and taken through an onboarding process, they are likely to be left with a much more positive impression of the brand.

For customer journey maps to be successful and create positive change, they have to be data-driven and reflect what is actually happening. If not, they are just the ‘program du jour’ and will be abandoned as quickly as they are created.

I have heard Ogilvy have relocated offices. We were wondering, in the new space, what has been implemented and dedicated to employee wellness?

Yes, Ogilvy Healthworld has relocated to The City/Shoreditch borders, a move away from our previous home on the South Bank in Sea Containers, but it is a move to be with our WPP Health & Wellness colleagues, GHG and Sudler & Hennessey.

Being in the hustle and bustle of the City is obviously a completely different environment compared to the relative calm of the South Bank and our new office environment is definitely a calming antidote to that.

The first thing that hits you is how natural the space is. The WPP Health & Wellness logo, along with our ethos, “Be Well, Do Well”, are mounted on a living moss wall in the reception area. It was this ethos and company culture that has shaped David Davenport-Firth’s (Managing Partner of Brain Sciences at Ogilvy Healthworld and engineer of the new office space) vision. In his words, ‘we should really practice what we preach to our clients.’

The theme of nature runs through everything within the shared space and nothing has been left to chance. Every decision from soft furnishing to the colour of the paint is evidence-based design and reflects the natural environment as many hours, weeks and months of research have gone into the thinking behind all the different elements.

David uses language such as ‘visual pace’ and ‘in harmony with all the different elements’ when talking about the space, and when you see it all in action you immediately understand what he has achieved. Just to give you some idea, he spent nine hours with the lighting company to programme the lights across the two floors, making sure it’s exactly right to create this ‘visual pace’.

From the purely functional and practical perspective, we have two clear zones: one for work and one for play. The home spaces for each agency are clearly workspaces with desks, monitors and break out meeting spaces etc. However, wherever you sit you can still see plants!

Then there is ‘The Den’. This is a large break out area where you can escape, eat your lunch, have a meeting, socialise, work, or whatever you want to do. Even the main reception area is designed to inspire creativity.

Beyond these areas, we have a meditation room, which may be considered to be one of the more unusual elements that was included, but again there is a science behind this and the space is in line with the behaviour we are trying to foster. You can’t help but be more relaxed in this room.

It doesn’t just finish with office space; there are a number of initiatives that are to start in the near future. Remember, we are only week three in the new space. There will be activities, following themes such as mental health, activity, sleep, nutrition etc., run in conjunction with experts in the field.

There’s loads more to come which I have not mentioned. David is truly passionate about this project and he definitely has some tricks up his sleeve. For me, it’s a very exciting time to be working at Ogilvy Healthworld and, being on the receiving end of these initiatives, I’m pretty excited to see what lies ahead!

What advice would you have for our delegates about creating and delivering a successful wellbeing initiative within their organisation? Do you have any experience you could share with them?

As a participant in this wellbeing initiative, I can speak to what works and what doesn’t work from an employee’s perspective. Wellbeing shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise. It’s all too easy to give your employees free coffee and fruit and tick that box as done. You won’t see any real results from this.

WPP Health and Wellness agencies are in a unique position. We are a group of progressive healthcare communications agencies and this gives us the opportunity to be more playful with the way we execute initiatives.

David’s advice is to work with what fits into your culture. The culture of your organisation is important, and your wellbeing should be in line with those values; it doesn’t have to be dry!

How we’ve translated and implemented the science behind health and wellness may not be in keeping with the values of other organisations. What’s important is interpreting the evidence in a way which is culturally appropriate for your organisation.

How will we know that this has been worth it? Well, we won’t know for a while. We have set a benchmark by running a survey at the beginning of week two; so we have a good idea of where we currently stand. We also know that some things will fail, but that is sort of the point; we need to know what does and what doesn’t work. The plan is to gain feedback from employees at regular intervals, look at the uptake of different activities, gain an understanding of what motivates people to get involved, and how we can improve in future.

Hear more from Helen and other specialists and experts speaking at our upcoming conference “Building the Business Case for Culture”.


Here’s a Thought: The Human Element

We often interchange the words company, business and organisation to all have similar meaning as this gives flexibility when trying to avoid the same word being used multiple times in a paragraph.

So – is there a difference between these words and if so when is it better to use one over the other?

I see it as

A company is the active, present and structured state, which sits at the core and gives it a sense of strength and stability. It has clear logic however truly finds its own life when it is connected to the more human element of belief and values.
Simply said: What we stand for

A business is driven by personality and the professional manner in which it engages with the economy and customers. Once mature it develops its own code of conduct for both commerce and employees and further connects the culture with commonality of behaviours.
Simply said: Our ways of working

An organisation is an overarching collective and future state as it is always in flux and in constant development. It requires the strength of the first two in order to have the resilience and pride of its people to be part of a positive transformation. Without the human desire to grow and develop it will stagnate and begin to lose its collective energy.
Simply said: Together we make a difference

The secret to building a business case for culture is to respect all three and how each plays a very large role in creating a powerful and dynamic culture for both today and in the future. Respect and nurture all three entities as together they make up your brand narrative and connect your employees to the higher purpose.

Dale Smith, Creative Director for Bridge

2019 Conference Speakers Announced!



Dale Smith

Creative Director, Bridge

Dale Smith is well-versed in Emotional Intelligence and neuroscience and leads the development of new theories and programmes on behalf of Bridge. He is a master practitioner of NLP with degrees in Psychology/Sociology and Business Marketing as well as an accomplished international speaker and facilitator and has presented at several industry conferences and events. He has worked extensively with clients in both the UK and abroad in Employee Engagement, business transformation and building organisational cultures that best reflect the brand promise.

Liz Pannaman

Organisational Development Specialist - People Transformation, TfL

Learning and development specialist and corporate performance coach and trainer, specialising in leadership and personal effectiveness. Industry recognised for her skills in performance management, success planning, strategy, and HR transformation.

Chieu Cao

Co-founder & CMO, Perkbox

Before co-founding Perkbox, the UK’s fastest-growing employee engagement platform, Chieu established himself as a tech marketing force to be reckoned with, leading initiatives for brands including Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo. A consultant turned CMO, Chieu's repertoire spans both B2C and B2B, from SEO to social strategy.


Tim Pointer

HR Director, Dixons Carphone

Tim is not only a Global HR Director but also an organisational consultant, executive coach, speaker, CIPD award winner and business culture expert. He has a broad-based global experience across both FTSE 100 and large-scale private family businesses, specifically in the European, North American and Asia-Pacific markets. A comprehensive understanding of branded business, with a background covering the FMCG, performance goods, fashion, technology, retail & e-commerce, and liquor sectors.

Ben Gateley

Founder, CharlieHR

Ben is a co-founder and COO of CharlieHR: a free, cloud-based HR toolbox used by thousands of small businesses worldwide. Having started and grown a number of successful companies since his teenage years - including BORN SOCIAL, one of the largest social media agencies for challenger brands in the world. An outspoken champion of positive workplace culture, frequent volunteer and engaging public speaker, Ben is a passionate advocate for all things “people”.

Elizabeth Hampson

Director, Health Strategy Consulting, Deloitte

Elizabeth leads health policy and commercial strategy projects for central government, industry and leading health charities across Europe. Over the last decade her clients have included all types of organisations across the health economy: European central governments, major industry players (pharma, med tech and private providers), healthcare providers and leading charities. Health policy and strategy experience across EMEA has given her a breadth of perspectives on whole-system challenges in health and those faced by the individual participant organisations. Elizabeth is committed to delivering exceptional service to clients and developing the skills of her team. She has practical skills, backed with strong academics, which include an MSc in Health Economics and Policy from London School of Economics, the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification and recently a PG Cert in Coaching.

Philip Luce

Hospital Director, Bupa Cromwell

Philip Luce is Bupa Cromwell Hospital’s Director. Philip started his career at the Cromwell in 2011 as the Cardiology & Medical Directorate Manager, before becoming Operations Director a couple of years later – heading up the refurbishment of all wards, and overseeing the clinical teams in the day to day running of the hospital. In 2015, Philip took on the role of Director of Bupa's nationwide network of Health and Dental Centres, during which time Bupa acquired the Oasis chain of dental centres, making it one of the biggest providers of dental services in the UK.
His extensive career in private healthcare began as a Cardiac Physiologist before taking on the Cardiology Manager role at HCA, working across a number of hospitals including the Lister and London Bridge.

Christina Liciaga

Head of Customer Service, HSBC

Entrepreneur turned international finance executive with experience in emerging and mature markets across Asia, Europe, Latin and North America. High Net Worth business development influencer, advising large corporates on people-first post-merger integration opportunities, developing client segmentation strategies, and building and leading the global award-winning wealth proposition, Jade by HSBC Premier. Passionate leader who builds and transforms teams through authenticity and curiosity to embrace innovation, embed change, and deliver commercial growth; translating strategy into reality.

Jonny Gifford

Senior Advisor for Organisational Behaviour, CIPD

Jonny Gifford is Senior Advisor for Organisational Behaviour at the CIPD. He has extensive experience conducting applied research into employment and people management, including in previous roles at the Institute for Employment Studies and Roffey Park Institute. Current interests include job quality or ‘good work’ and behavioural science insights into aspects of HR such as performance management. Jonny runs the CIPD Applied Research Conference and actively promotes evidence-based practice, including through systematic reviewing and running randomised trials. He is an Academic Member of the CIPD and a Fellow of CEBMa, the Center for Evidence-Based Management.

Maggie Tambe

Head of Customer Relations, Peabody

A strategic leader who works hard to provide a sense of direction as well as building ownership and alignment within workgroups to successfully implement change. Judge for the 2017 UK Complaint Handling Awards and nominee for the WOW! awards 2017 recognising customer service excellence. Has worked with Family Mosaic since 2011, and played a key role in their merger with Peabody Trust.

Simon Lewis

Owner, Eau Palm Beach

Simon’s area of expertise is in global hospitality for LFH, the private family business behind River Island and a global real estate portfolio. Regularly challenging employees and colleagues beyond their comfort zones, Simon uses his relaxed manner to constantly stretch their knowledge, understanding and skills to boost performance and achievements. He combines 25 years experience in brand values, destination marketing and sales strategies associated with the travel, tourism and hospitality industries to develop creative solutions which achieve consistently measurable often award-winning results. In 2007 Simon conceived, developed and opened a multi-award winning luxury Spa business in the US. In 2013 he was instrumental in creating and implementing a new cultural identity for the 5 star Eau Palm Beach Resort in Florida. Here his work encompasses the complete values set, which underpins the core identity of the business from guest touch point to employee engagement. 

Chloë Marsh

Head of Engagement, RHP

With experience in Communications, L&D and HR, Chloë’s passionate about the link between highly engaged employees and better business results. Her expertise has helped RHP to be named as the most innovative housing provider in the UK three years in a row, gain Investors in People Platinum and place number 7 in the 2018 Great Place to Work list. Over the past two years, her team has been integral in getting both customers and employees ready for the launch of RHPi, the UK’s first digital-only housing service. They’ve continued to build engagement across all digital channels and today 70% of interactions are made online.

Becky Thoseby

Group Head of Wellbeing, Department for Transport

Becky owns the wellbeing offer for employees of the Department for Transport and its agencies. Her primary focus is on creating a culture of wellbeing at DfT. Recent work includes;

- running DfT’s first employee wellbeing survey, a diagnostic tool to target interventions where they are most needed
 - designing and delivering training for senior leaders focused on developing self-awareness and behaviour change,
- changing the picture we paint of a high performer to recognise that colleagues with wellbeing issues can still be high performers if the issue is managed well
- providing coaching to individual senior managers to address wellbeing issues arising in their areas.

Becky also practices as a well-being coach, both privately and as part of her role, and delivers mindfulness sessions within DfT.

Myra Cooke

Head of Performance Talent & Development, Virgin Atlantic Airways

Myra is a business-focused OD leader with more than 15 years’ experience in a global remit within complex global and domestic industries providing expertise to link development initiatives to strategic business objectives and achievements. Currently Head of Talent and Performance at Virgin Atlantic Airways & Virgin Holidays;  she is responsible for the Talent, Performance, Leadership Development and Diversity and Inclusion strategy across Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays. Myra has previously held senior HR and Talent and development roles within organisations including, Veolia, Royal Mail, Priory Group and Dimension Data.

Helen Watson

Senior Strategist, Ogilvy Healthworld

A digital professional with over 15-years experience of delivering communication strategy and user centred solutions for clients. Helen designs engaging, customer-focused omnichannel experiences that meet both the customer and business needs. With experience across a broad range of technologies and channels, uses this knowledge to deliver multi-technology, creative and engaging user experiences for the Healthcare space. 

About the conference

Linking Employee Engagement and the Customer Experience as One.

Hear from top speakers and well-known brands on case studies and best practice in various industries. We have gathered speakers from organisations well known for their culture and employee experience, and asked them how they did it.




Central London
+44 (0)207-720-9933

Building the Business Case for Culture

It is often said that Brand and Culture are two sides of the same coin and coexist as one. The brand makes the customer promise and sets the bar on the projected personality and expectation of the emotional connection. On the other side of this coin sits the culture and the real-time delivery and support of this customer experience, trust and loyalty. Hence, if these two entities require the balance of the other to remain healthy and prosperous in the marketplace then why do so many organisations still refrain from investing at an equal level between the brand that wins the business and the culture that both wins and maintains.

Calling For Conversation

A company culture is a living breathing entity all on its own and in this life force, it requires key elements to be at its best. It is more unpredictable but clearly stated it requires constant emotional nourishment, structure and a visionary purpose for existing – to name a few.

It is not a scientific formula that always behaves as it did in the past or a replication equation that can be mastered and left on a shelf to never change. Businesses behave like humans because they are driven by humans and therefore are always in a constant state of flux, shaping and changing with the tides of time. It – as with people, is always at risk of harm and behaves irrationally when felt to be under threat. To flourish it must be supported by a connected community that lives with equality and passion. Individuals driving the culture must add value to the greater good and be given opportunities to execute this power.

I believe that it is time that we take a more serious look at businesses and change, the lens that many put on culture. Every brand and company culture is different, just as every human on the planet is unique and hence investment will fluctuate based on many circumstances. The secret sits within the DNA that both the Brand and Culture share and how the behaviour of one can have a dramatic impact on the performance of the other. Just with this information alone, it makes sense that a supported and connected culture is more likely to offer a higher degree of allegiance and protection to the brand it is part of.

The key sits in developing a visible and active employee campaign that celebrates the culture through various mediums and is unique to them. Yes, there will be a great deal of commonality that can be applied to all businesses in terms of structure and engagement techniques of staff. However, to truly stand out and have an internal community that is self-driving and healthy then it must be openly supported by the senior leadership team. They must be more active and present in bringing the brand to life through the culture. They must be seen to be investing both time and money in ensuring that the community has opportunities to succeed outside the daily tasks of their role.

This does not mean paying lip service to its development and ticking the box on engagement as if it was just another matrix or spreadsheet that can calculate return on investment in a given quarter. While many people feel the benefits of having a healthy culture, it can be hard to translate those feelings into a language that an executive team understands or can quantify in the monthly reports. In order to make a compelling case to invest in a company culture, we have to move culture from the realm of “fluffy people stuff” to the land of long-term investment and business strategy. However, we really must start taking the data more seriously as it will show the connection to the ROI of the business if proactive in its collection.

The Future of Investment in Culture

In building the business case for culture we have to be prepared to be more innovative and challenge the status quo. With these early days of discovery, we need to take risks and with each opportunity invest additional support to gather the real-time insights into the challenges and positive outcomes of the transformation. This Intel will be invaluable when building a future case for culture, as it will need higher-level support.   Many organisations have made some incredible inroads into putting culture as the top priority in business performance however, I still see the continuation of the ideal that the business requires only structure to maintain order, whether that is departments, hierarchy, process or policies. This stuff just keeps it moving day-to-day, month-by-month and if done well, profitable.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the value that this structure brings to a business and its place in maintaining order. But let’s also be real and see the darker power that can come from too much structure as it creates divides, complications for those without full access to information and a place for non-effective leaders to hide. As long as key individuals are only focusing on structure and its tangible and measured outcomes, the investment in the perceived risky success of ›4›‘culture stuff’ is left to the side. More and more data is coming to the forefront to show that investing in building a great culture means that you can also flip the coin on some of the structure and the team becomes empowered and self-governing.

Putting in place a culture plan that brings people together with an opportunity to be recognised, sharing key information openly, honest emotions, vision, and being seen and listened to as valued citizens just makes sense. The big question that needs to be addressed is how to measure this and best convince those within the senior team that it has true value and offers long-term strategic growth prospects to the business. Culture is often dismissed as a “soft” topic that doesn’t offer a tangible business impact. Luckily, research studies and internal data is making it easier to start telling a compelling, data-driven story that will inspire executives to invest in their employees and company’s culture more.

Companies with satisfied employees have a higher percentage of satisfied customers, contributing to higher gross margins, higher repeat business, and reduced acquisition costs! Gallup’s periodic meta-analyses of employee satisfaction studies consistently find that: Business units with more satisfied employees tend to have higher productivity and profitability and lower incidents of safety violations and shrinkage. We now know the impact it can have but we also have to detail the innovative way that this culture will best respond – making the investment worthwhile.

In my 20 years experience in working with organisations on people solutions, I have found a high number of top-level executives that have an overly optimistic view of their own employees’ level of engagement.  In hosting frontline focus groups discussing their daily lives within the business it is clear that this picture is not reality. Hence it is important to build on the antipodal information with some hard data that can be found in various sources. In building your case for more investment in the culture, ensure that you can both paint an accurate picture of the current culture and one of its future.

Gather specific numbers around employee engagement and satisfaction through surveys but also delve deeper into things like retention metrics, participation in optional employee activities, personal development requests, real-time captured employee feedback, customer experience feedback and glass door reviews. Behind this insight also sits a great deal of information about some of the required solutions that will ignite the culture. It is always important to listen to what the culture finds most valuable in building a stronger more connected community.

One last tip: Keep your findings up-to-date in an easily digestible format and continuously get them in front of your leadership team. Share real employee success stories as part of this data as it also needs to have a face to represent it. If your project is having an impact, you and your executives will want to know about it in real-time. If it is less than expected you have the opportunity to make changes in the ‘now’ as remember there is no guarantee we will always hit the mark the first time out. Culture is a journey that will shift direction during your organisation’s natural lifecycle as your employees and priorities change, hence it requires constant attention and influence.

Success Stories: Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa

For keeping it real and fun, we wanted to share a little insight into one of our most fun projects – one that was Eau-mazingly successful, because of its realness and authenticity.

In recent years, there has been a shift toward luxury 5 star boutique hotels and the UK-based Lewis Family Trust (known for their global property portfolio and owners of River Island) wanted to move into this market with their property in Palm Beach, Florida.

For 10 years, the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa property was managed by Ritz Carlton with an established market position, returning guests and high employee loyalty. In mid-2013, the Lewis Family Trust took on the management of the property with the directive to create a unique, new-fashioned luxury experience.

In moving to this new name with its own style of luxury, (oft described as ‘whimsical’) the Eau Hotelier population were worried  – how could they bring this new and unfamiliar brand to life, whilst still achieving the 5-star, 5-diamond ratings they had previously scored?

We started with the launch of the new values: Hoteliers, Integrity, Authentic, Intuitive and Goosebumps and an Eau-mazing staff event – think infused water, colourful cupcakes, team activities and the celebrity treatment for all staff.

After this, we explored the values, one at a time, across the entire population. ‘Hoteliers’ looked at empowerment and personal responsibility. ‘Integrity’ was about delivering on promises. ‘Authentic’ connected the Forbes standards to their greater purpose; infusing that Eau new-fashioned-luxury touch in achieving the rating. ‘Intuitive’ looked at how asking the right questions and being attentive (in the right kind of way) could help guests feel at home and offer a seamless experience. Culminating in ‘Goosebumps’; Bridge worked with the team to put all the values into action to create unique, personalised ‘goosebump’ moments for each guest experience, leaving a long-lasting impression and leading to guest loyalty.

Why was this project so fun? By tapping into the stories, talents, hobbies and uniqueness of each and every Hotelier, we were able to bring their individual authenticity to the table as part of the guest experience. And Eau-mazing characters they were – see our video below!

In 2016 Bridge Training & Events won silver at the UK Employee Experience Awards for Business Change or Transformation for their work at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa.

The hotel’s short-term goal was achieved within the first full year of operation, when they received the coveted #1 ranking on the Condé Nast Top 25 Resorts in Florida Readers’ Choice Awards.

Contact me on for a copy of the case study.

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