HRDs cannot 'dictate' company culture

Mandy Bromley, global OE director for Unilever, discusses flexibility in workplace culture

HR directors should be aware that they cannot “dictate” their organisations' company culture, according to Mandy Bromley, global OE director for Unilever.

Speaking at the Strategic HR Taskforce event 'Creating Great Cultures, Developing Great Teams', Bromley said diversity is “not just about culture or gender, but also across different working styles".

“You need the ability to be flexible,” she explained. “We don’t have a problem with presenteeism, we don’t need to know where everybody is all the time.”

She added that Unilever's focus on flexibility had retained staff who may otherwise have left. “This has had a huge impact on some of the women working for us,” she said. “A lot of women’s careers have been saved by our use of flexible working.

“We live in a world that is VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous,” she said. ”For many people that is the current reality. Part of how we have shifted the culture is looking at how staff can have the ability to work in that state of flux.”

Also speaking at the event, Rob Crowley, head of people and talent for wealth management firm Nutmeg, discussed the benefits of working in a company with a start-up mentality, and the importance of recruiting those with common values.

“We recruit with purpose in mind,” he said. “If people are attracted to our values then the other drivers will not be as important. If someone joins us for the money then they are likely to join another company for the same reason sooner or later. We know they won’t be the one for us.

“On day one we give new starters a branded hoodie and a branded t-shirt. They may feel odd about it at first but they get used to it. They can wear suits if they’d like, but it isn’t enforced. We try to turn engagement to our competitive advantage.”

Crowley added that a new hire in a start-up or smaller firm immediately has a greater effect than someone starting at a larger or more well-established organisation. “A small disruption has an immediate impact,” he said. “Anything anyone says is of huge importance [in a smaller workforce]. There’s no dilution of your message.”