How to Create an Inclusive Corporate Culture, With Stuart Anderson

Episode 58 Stuart Anderson, a Clientelling and Service Consultant at Selfridges, advises on how to help your employees adapt to your culture, implement a cultural change, and what to do if your team is resistant to change. He also shares his views on hustle culture within younger generations, and how it impacts employees.

Episode 58

Episode Summary

Building corporate culture.

According to Stuart Anderson, it is crucial to start building corporate culture from the beginning, looking at the company’s ethos, values, mission statements, and what they are there to deliver. The aim is to be clear with employees and find ways to engage them so that they resonate with the culture and become ambassadors for the company.

Dealing with resistance.

However, sometimes it is inevitable to encounter resistance from individuals since different departments have different needs and interests, and some people might need more time to process change and understand the reasons behind it. Stuart’s suggestion is to have empathy and support those employees who might be more resistant, by providing the extra development they need and creating a safe space for conversation. This allows different ideas and different perspectives that you would never have known to be explored, and sometimes it is where the answers lie. Everything goes back to communication, and it is essential to understand what the resistance is about and provide extra development, working together with the learning and development teams, to make sure no one is left behind.

Hustle culture.

Stuart also touched on the topic of hustle culture and its impact on younger generations. He believes that whilst it remains important for companies to encourage their employees to follow their dreams and career aspirations, they also need to recognize that not everyone wants to be the hustler and that some people just want to do a great job and are not motivated by aspirational goals, and instead, they might even feel alienated.

Getting to know the team, what motivates them, and learning how to support them throughout the journey, are crucial steps for creating an inclusive corporate culture.


This article summarises podcast episode 58 ” How to Create an Inclusive Corporate Culture" recorded by CX Insider. For more information, listen to the episode or contact Stuart on his LinkedIn profile.

Written by Alessia Trabucco



Full episode transcript

Stuart: Well, let me just start with that word 'fit', because it makes me uncomfortable, and it does not feel inclusive whatsoever. You know, and I think the businesses that I like to work on are all about being inclusive and there's a sense of family and celebrating individualism, and that is super important. So, I think when it comes to, you know, those sorts of comments 'oh I didn't get the job because I wasn't a culture fit, that just makes me feel really uneasy and it makes me feel like, well, as a business, it goes back to that, so I always say. If you're happy to serve somebody, you should be happy to employ them. That's my true belief. If you're happy to take somebody's money, you should be happy to employ them, assuming that they've got the relevant skill for that role that you're advertising for. Of course, but regardless of their background or where they come from. That, to me, should be the main standpoint.

Valentina: Hello, everybody, and welcome to another CX Insider podcast episode. In this episode, we talked to Stuart Anderson, a clientelling and service consultant at Selfridges. Stewart gives advice on how to help your employees adapt to your company culture. How to implement cultural change. And what to do if your team is resistant to change. Enjoy listening to this episode, and don't forget to let us know what you think and our LinkedIn page.

Valentina: Stuart discovered his passion for understanding consumer behavior when he started working in retail and hospitality during his teenage years. Since then, he has been mainly focusing on delivering exceptional customer experiences. Last year, Stuart shifted to HR and started working on the implementation of learning programs to support their customer strategy. And today we talk about his perspectives on building and sustaining a powerful company culture. I started this topic from the bottom of it and asked Stuart how company culture should be prioritized in a company where no culture has been established yet. Should the process of creating one be natural or monitored?

Stuart: So you definitely should pay attention to it from the beginning. If you don't, it will evolve naturally, but you're not going to get the culture that you maybe set out that you thought you were going to the thought that you were going to get. You want it. So absolutely, you should start from the very beginning. And I think it's just about being really clear on what your ethos is, what your value is, what is your aim? What is your mission statement? What are you there to actually deliver and then walk back from that point of view? And interestingly, I was thinking earlier today around a well-known company within the world of beverage that had a lot of bad press because team members then came out and said, actually, the culture that they portray in the marketing is completely the opposite of what is actually happening behind the scenes. And that is that's another consideration, you can't just sort of like put a big marketing campaign out there and say, 'This is who we are and this is what we're about if it's not actually happening in the business, so I think the first offers is absolutely super clear with everyone, what are we what we're aiming for here? How do we want our team to feel? You know, it's the whole thing that can feel part, but how do we really want them to feel? How do we want them to connect? Do we want our team to be ambassadors of the business? It's not just a place to work. You know, how do we want them to socialize and interact with each other? How do we want people to communicate and speak to each other? And there are so many different considerations, but you should definitely make it super clear from the beginning. Otherwise, it will go into territories that you'll just be then trying to pull back from, and then that makes it just that little bit harder. There's no alignment.

Valentina: It is crucial to have a value proposition that is presented to the public and is aligned with the company culture. But in large-sized companies, different people create different subcultures, and the management of these should not be overlooked.

Stuart: Especially in really large organizations where the needs of team members can be very different. I think you still have to make sure that you're aligned to the overall. So whatever your company's values are, you're threading them through, and it might be OK to say that we want to be really respectful towards each other, but then how does that look and each team because it might be slightly different. So I think you've got to really unpack the ways of working and how do you make it work for a smaller department? But I would definitely empower people to then break that down further because our teams are unique. An IT team is going to be very different from a front-of-house customer-facing team, how you communicate to them is going to be completely different, the type of communication might be completely different, their needs are going to be very different. And I would disseminate the overall strategy and look to see how you can action it in a small area. Definitely. And that has always worked for me when I've been working with smaller teams. You know, you can still keep the bigger picture and focus and not lose sight of that.

Valentina: People form teams and partnerships with people who are in some sense similar to them. It's not true, and it's been like this forever. You all do it, and you all have also experienced what it's like to be excluded from a group because you don't fit in. Whether that was in kindergarten or high school, and hopefully not many of you experienced it in your workplace, some employers turn down potential employees because, according to them, those candidates are not a culture fit. Let's focus on why this may not be OK.

Stuart: Well, let me just start with that word 'fit' because it makes me uncomfortable, and it does not feel inclusive whatsoever. And I think the businesses I like to work on are all about being inclusive and there's a sense of family and celebrating individualism, and that is super important. So I think when it comes to. You know, those sorts of comments 'oh I didn't get the job because I wasn't a culture fit' that just makes me feel really uneasy and it makes me feel like, well as a business. And it goes back to this, I always say if you're happy to serve somebody, you should be happy to employ them. That's my true belief. If you're happy to take somebody's money, you should be happy to employ them, assuming that they've got the relevant skill for that role that you're advertising for, of course. But regardless of their background and where they come from, that, to me, should be the main domain standpoint. So your question around, you know, how would I advise managers to support team members with a struggling? You know, it goes back again to communication being super clear on what is it that we're actually trying to achieve? And you've got to take everybody on that journey. And we're all really familiar with change curves and the emotional cycle of change and those sorts of aspects and tools that we can use to help guide us. But if you've got a team of 10 or a team of a thousand, the team is going to be in different places on that change curve. And so you really need to work with them individually. Small teams really understand where is everybody at, not exactly why they're where they are at, and then support them to move through that change. We don't want to leave people behind. Know you've got a team of people who have got great skills. Uh, change can be difficult, some people embrace it immediately and run with it, and other people need a lot more of the why. Why are we doing this? What does it mean to me? How is it going to impact me? Those are real things, and we're dealing with people and real emotions. And so we need to have some empathy, and here, as well as a business, we need to maybe move quickly, especially in the last couple of years all business is about to move quite rapidly, at a much more agile pace and probably would be used to it. But it's important that we take people on that journey. What is? And you can get people through the other side. But it does start with being super clear in your vision, then why we're doing it, and then looking at how you support the team members. Do they need extra development? You know, what can you layer for each using your learning and development department since H.R. and your frontline managers and bringing them all on board? You know, you can't just sort of put a statement out there and then hope that everybody is going to connect with it and sees your vision for what is in your head, and then just be like, right, OK, this is what they want, we're going to be going through. You're going to get resistance and that is absolutely OK. But sometimes when you get that resistance, that's where some amazing stuff can also happen and some different ideas and different perspectives and different ways of thinking that you would never have known until you put something into practice. So we should also use it as an opportunity to open up and create some space for conversation. And that creates a space for conversation, you can keep that in mind and it will be a much easier transition.

Valentina: 46% of job seekers say that company culture is very important when choosing to apply for a job. So what can one do after they start working in the company they applied to and find out the culture doesn't go with their values?

Stuart: It's really difficult, and I think it is super important when you are on the brink of maybe applying for a role and moving into a new business that you can try your best to do some research around their values and find reviews. Obviously, there are websites like Glassdoor, which will give you that perspective of people who have worked in the business for quite a while, and here's the truth of the matter. However, sometimes that's not always the case, and maybe be everything from the outside looks great until you get in there, and actually, the culture is very, very different. And just touching on that hustle culture, I mean, that's fantastic that some generations, millennials, I feel like I'm also a millennial, apparently. I think it depends on what report you read. I definitely don't feel like one. I just think if people who are maybe 20 year old and younger are millennials, I might not. But that whole idea of hustle, you know, it's brilliant to encourage people to meet their aspirations and follow their dreams and work hard if that's what they want to do, but you've got to be careful that it doesn't then become toxic. And that's where some of these team members may then feel alienated because it's like, 'Well, I don't want to be the hustle, I just want to do a good job. I want to come in and deliver for you, and I want to do a good job for myself, and I want to do a good job for you.

Stuart: But I don't necessarily feel like I need to work 80 hours, and we shouldn't really be asking anybody to work if something's got a side hustle saying, knock yourself out, that's out of my control or it doesn't impact what you do and the time that you're in the business, that is absolutely fine. But I think, the reason I think that people stay in business is a long time as well as because the values are soil into their own personal values, so it goes back to. I would look at be looking at your turnover and things and the reasons why people are leaving and do you need to make an adjustment? You know, we should be doing things like exit interviews if we've got a team member who is feeling alienated, how do we respond to that? But a little bit of research before you go into that world, our new role massively helps. And if it's really not aligning with you, the sort of like two options off the top of my head, you can absolutely find a business that is going to align to your values better where you feel more appreciated. And then the other one is. Are you in a position to help improve the culture? And when I think back to some of even my very junior roles working on the front line, what customers and team members in common and maybe cultures or microenvironments that didn't suit me, I used to think, 'Well, how can I, how can I influence us to move in a better way that is going to make me feel happier?' But actually, just bring more joy for everybody and that we celebrate each other. And I remember working. I won't say where, but I was selling formal wear way back, and there was very much a hustle culture within that environment, and there was a lot of it felt like people begrudge each other, if you had a good day's sales, they almost begrudge you. And so I don't want to be in that environment. I want to change that. So I always celebrated everybody, somebody they're really great sale, I get the exact opposite. I didn't begrudge it. I feel like 'that is amazing, well done, tell me how you did it, you know, and just have a little bit of fun and you can still be competitive, but it can be done in a really nice way. So, I mean, there are a few bits in there, but it starts with you being brave. Can I influence the culture if I can? Is this the right place for me with my skill to be better somewhere else?

Valentina: Looking at it from the other perspective, how should managers and team leaders engage their employees and encourage them to adapt to their culture?

Stuart: Yes, I think if you're going to, I think if you're you find yourself in charge of a team or you've got a team of people that you know, need to influence. I mean, first off, remember, put yourself in the position of, OK, I'm the leader. And another way to look at it as I'm the role model. So when you think about your own role models, you know, maybe somebody famous, but it's more around why what makes them a good role model? How do they lead people? How do they engage with people? How do they excite people? So come at it. From that point of view, I think it's about really getting in there, to begin with, and really understanding the team. First off, and how you do that is up to yourself, but definitely one to one for me and really knowing what the passion is, I love asking the question 'what you're passionate about?' Because it doesn't need to be about the role, and you can get a real sense for somebody outside of work what really makes them tick. So when you when you've got a good idea of your team, you'll learn loads just from that question around how to motivate them, understanding the strengths and weaknesses along with that, so that you're ready and primed because there's no point in common and whether they plan and then everybody is just going to get their backs up, you have not actually won them over yet. So people say all the time 'you win hearts and minds, but it's all true. It's a cliché, but it's really, really important. Otherwise, you're just going to face even more resistance. And I think just when you've done include them, when where you can include them in the plan and include them and we're going to be going through some change, how can I bring you guys on this from the start? If there is an opportunity to do that, then do it. Sometimes it's not always possible, depending on the size of the business, the type of change that you're going through. It might be something that needs to happen, but where you can, there's probably always an opportunity to bring people in and create discussion and keep it fun as well. Find a way to make it fun. You don't need to be going to the pub every other day after Friday drinks don't need to happen, that's not necessarily what makes a good culture. You might have a team of people who don't like going to the pub. You know, again, it's about knowing your team and knowing what makes them tick. You know, if they like donuts, then buy them donuts every week, you know, just something fun. Create incentives that are fun, create engagement normally channels that you want to do that through as well. So I think as you build your plan, you'll have your team in front of you but you also need to think about who's your team behind you and that's your stakeholders. So you're learning and development teams, your internal teams, senior managers, sponsors. Once you've got all those people on board as well, that will help you then move forward, but don't forget to be the role model. And sometimes that can be quite monotonous for you if you've got a message that you need to keep repeating. But that eventually will get you the return that you need the team member keep hearing the same message 'Oh, this is super important. It's not going to go away. That's something I need to get involved in. I think got on board with' So I think that's a bit of how I would call it

Valentina: The last topic Greg and I discussed with Stuart was a cultural change. Everyone finds disruption difficult to tackle to a certain extent. Implementing a cultural change doesn't happen overnight, and the period from coming up with a strategy and proposition to actually seeing the change in its physical form can take a couple of years.

Stuart: Yeah. So yeah, you're right. Cultural change as much as we would like it to happen very quickly just doesn't. And I think you can have a lot of theatre at the start especially, and that can really help get off the ground. So projects that I've been involved in the past where we're wanted to change our service proposition, the strategy, and the way forward for something as simple as how do we want people to interact with each other? You know, we started out with a three-hour workshop and put every single person in the business through the three-hour workshop. So that wasn't going to create the change that we wanted. It just starts the conversation. And there's a lot of work because until that workshop getting it over the line, organizing hundreds and thousands of people, if you like to attend. How do you get people on board, how do you move that forward just to get to that point? And that might happen quite quickly, within a couple of months to get a lot, a lot of team members through that initial phase. But the bet that came after which was the embedding of the culture is far greater. And that's a that's two or three years to see some real momentum. And again, you know, if you put yourself two or three years down the line and you think, right, OK, where are we are? That is again a reflection of what you've done in the first place. So if you've not done the engagement that you should have or you've not done it the right way, you've not utilized all your channels, you've not created the fun that you maybe wanted to create around this big change, there are so many different reasons why or determine how far you are down that path. But you can't rush it either. You can't think if I do these 10 things, 'I'm going to have this change that I want and x amount of time', it doesn't work that you're dealing with people. And if you go back to my earlier thought around, we're all on this change curve, but we're all in different places, and that's why you can't just move one group over a certain time period, it's not fixed. And some people can drop back. Initially, they were never super engaged, and then things happen where they're not engaged, but I think that that is the main thing.

Valentina: Stewart's last advice was on what to do if you encounter employee resistance to change.

Stuart: Well, yeah, I think it's understanding that what is the resistance? You know, you will experience resistance, whether that's just from one individual team member who's really having a hard time to grasp the change or whether it's a whole department is in a similar boat and they're just finding it hard to turn the direction that you want to get them to go. I think you just really need to go back to have missed something? Have we done something approach this? Maybe in a way that is not working? We've done some wrong. Question yourself, you know, bring people back from the table. Create again, create space for conversation, because that's where the answers will lie. Now, if you get to the point where it's less. You know, an individual is absolutely refusing, then, you know, that's a very, very different world that you're in here and you have a whole host of support behind you from a business with HR and ER. And, you know, but really, we don't want to ever get to that point. We want to bring people on the journey and there's so much you can do to support somebody in bringing them with you. You don't need to leave people behind, that's also a choice. You know, again, it goes back to how much effort you put to an end and there's no right or wrong to that. You know, if you find yourself in a place where the resistance is not going away, then these formal processes can support a business through that. But we would never want to go there. I think, you know, if your plan is really good, you can minimize that massively.

Valentina: I hope you enjoy this episode. And if you did, please don't forget to like, share and comment or subscribe to the podcast on your favorite channel. And don't forget to join the conversation on our LinkedIn page if you're interested in connecting with Stuart you can visit his profile provided in the episode description below. By the way, we also started a new Instagram account, CX Insider podcast so you can follow us there if you are an Instagram user, and I will see you in two weeks.