Culture - the future of business

The first #OyClub event of 2020 and we focused on how culture drives performance.

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Feb 12, 2020
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Scroll down for highlights video.

Commerce and culture have always been inextricably linked.

And never more so.  2020 sees PwC’s global CEO survey report that UK business leaders will be focused on “building a stronger culture within their organisations” as a growth driver over the coming year. Small surprise.

So, we were thrilled that our conversation “Culture as a growth driver” drew nearly 200 business leaders last week to tap into very honest, personal insights from our panellists– all famed for leading companies with culture at their heart.

It was our first Club evening of the new decade and held, once again, at Soho’s Ham Yard Hotel. Guests included senior leaders from Barclaycard, ASOS, Pret a Manger, TfL, Tesco, UKTV, plus agency chiefs from BBH, Carat, Leo Burnett, Pablo, Rufus Leonard, Engine and Saatchi & Saatchi. The house was full, lively, and, fizzed with energy.

Moderated by our very own Suki Thompson, the star line up of panellists included:

  • Adrian Walcott, Managing Director, Brands with Values; Co-Founder, BAME2020
  • Tom Pepper, Senior Director - Head of Marketing Solutions UK, Ireland & Israel, LinkedIn 
  • Claire Cronin, CMO, Virgin Atlantic
  • Anna Hill, SVP and General Manager, WW (formerly Weight Watchers)
    Suki dipped into the results of Brands with Values’ newly launched Creative Industries Culture Index to ignite debate – both Oystercatchers and Campaign are survey partners. As Jude Bridge, our Managing Partner shrewdly observed, “It’s greatly encouraging to see that overall the picture is very positive. I’m personally delighted to see ours as an industry where overall personal values are matched by workplace culture, but there are always areas we can improve. The Index will help us all do this”.

We have picked out our key take-aways from the Club evening.

Are we walking the talk?

As an industry, The Creative Industries Culture Index tells us yes.  Overall, agency and in-house professionals gained a "health score" of 19%. The benchmark score for a healthy culture was calculated as 20% or under, anything above was deemed unhealthy.

“There’s more that connects us, than divides us” says Adrian Walcott.

 “Results of the [creative industries] survey is encouraging. A great platform to move from good to great” said Tom Pepper.

There’s no free pass on culture says Claire

So often, performance is the holy grail in commercial organisations and culture is secondary. At Virgin Atlantic, culture is the responsibility of each and every person. Individuals go fast but teams go further” is the ethos.

Lifting the veil on Linkedin’s culture, Tom observed that this comes from the collective personality of the organisation. From the first moment of interview there’s a sense of investment in people, a strong cultural cuel from the start. Culture is self-managed and is a measure of people’s performance.


“Don’t mess with the coffee when you’re driving cultural change”
says Adrian

On merging Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic into the same building, Claire commented that “it’s the thousand micro-changes that bring the biggest cultural effects such as free tea and coffee – rather than one big workshop.”

She explained how the master Virgin brand culture “insatiable curiosity” is defined on six values so that all Virgin companies can tap into values relevant to each. “Building a value that includes both introverts and extroverts is key. Every employee builds culture”.

Our panel shared practical points for leadership

  • Claire pointed to “First Dates” at Virgin Atlantic ‘designed to encourage connections across departments. The CEO walks the building weekly and people feel comfortable talking to the senior management team.
  • At LinkedIn, a regular ‘pulse check” is taken on how people are feeling – the aim is to avoid cliff-edge moments in appraisals. “There is much to be said for recognition with specific feedback that links to the behaviour you expect from the team” said Tom. He continued, “leadership has to be visible for recognition”. Showing vulnerability and being able to story tell are critical for leaders.
  • Anna believes that leadership should articulate ideas and allow them to percolate.A real honest conversation – nothing is off limits at WW we have an open culture for conversation”. She also pointed to how WW’s belief that humility and clarity of expectation are winning factors. “Communicate culture in a way that lands for everyone on the team.”
  • And finally, one to avoid: culture statements slapped across the building.  Don’t preach - actions speak louder than words

Watch the highlights video here and see some of our key takeaways as they were said by our panellists:


A big thank you to our four panellists and all our guests for such sparkling debate, and, the honest insights from personal experiences. A cracking start to the year.

Our next Oystercatchers Club evening is on Tuesday 24th March. We’d love to see you there.  Please click here to learn more.

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