What are we doing at VGC to empower people to be their best selves at work?
As VGC’s chief operating officer, my role is to align our strategy, people and processes across the business. With my background in HR I can make sure that people remain at the forefront of what we do.
In early 2018, we started a project of cultural change across VGC.
We looked at our values, developed associated behavioural frameworks and invested in bespoke development programmes.
First, we identified what clients need from us. Our customers want us to help find solutions to their problems. They also need us to support them as they drive innovation, collaboration, diversity and efficiencies.
Then we reviewed our company values to ensure they were aligned with our customers’ needs. We wanted to move away from industry buzz words, and create values that reflect how we operate as a business.
We undertook several workshops. There were sticky notes, mind maps and a bit of healthy conflict. Following a bit of wordsmithing, we agreed on the following key overarching values:
These align well with our ‘go beyond’ programme to drive continuous improvement and enhance performance across the business.
Over the next several months we shared these values with staff in posters, newsletters, on the website and the VGC Go Beyond awards.
Having clarified and communicated our values, the next stage was to look at how we could embed these.
During more workshops, sticky note exercises, interviews and focus groups we tried to define what success looked like at VGC. We distilled over 1,600 statements into 12 behavioural competencies, which were mapped back to our company values.
These 12 behavioural competencies include client focus, innovation, adaptability and teamwork. Each role at VGC, from the caretaker to the CEO, has a competency profile, which is used to benchmark existing performance against their potential to develop. The competency framework supports our recruitment, development and promotion decisions.
We worked with a specialist training provider to create a bespoke programme to develop the behaviours in our people.
In 2019 we launched the VGC Academy.
It groups all our training under one banner, including our behaviour development programme.
We were delighted in 2020 to receive a leadership and management grant from the CITB. It is helping us expand it further and faster than we could have done otherwise.
There are several reasons we have gone on this journey of cultural change
- Values and behaviours support our brand.
As a people-focused company, our values, behaviours and culture are essential in defining our brand and making us an employer of choice. It’s a competitive recruitment market, and we need to attract, develop and retain the best talent. By recruiting based on behaviours, we can identify people with the potential to develop. We look at transferable skills, not just technical skills, which in many cases can be developed over time.
- Empowering our people enables our expansion.
The competency framework and the VGC Academy development programme bring our brand to life, by driving empowerment and celebrating authenticity. By applying the principles, our people don’t have to ask permission to do things – they use the framework to guide their behaviour. We don’t micro-manage. Instead, we provide the skills for everyone to self-manage and be accountable.
As we continue to expand our delivery teams, we need to ensure that our people represent the VGC vision and values in the best way possible. By focusing on values and behaviours we are ensuring a scalable service offering to our clients.
- The competency development programme complements our behaviour-based safety scheme, Be Safe by Choice.
By combining behavioural competencies and our safety culture we are creating a better quality of supervisor. This will lead to increased productivity, safety and efficiency – and make working life happier for everyone.
In practice: how our values supported us during 2020.
The 2020 pandemic demonstrated our values in action.
With London and the south-east at a standstill, and many of our projects temporarily closed, we had to respond swiftly to the unprecedented circumstances.
We furloughed over 600 people pretty much overnight. We supported our clients with their demobilisation and business continuity plans, and later helped find solutions to remobilise. And all the while, we communicated with our 1,200 strong workforce every day. This included creating an online community to share stories and experiences, and celebrate their personal and professional successes.
We did not just push our values to one side when the tough times arrived, but used them to support our decision-making processes.
After we identified that some of our teams were feeling isolated while working from home, or were struggling to adapt to the new way of working, we ran team-building workshops.
Our team of labour managers undertook behavioural profiling, and were supported to discuss the results with each other – ultimately building trust amongst the team. Everyone got a better understanding of what makes them tick, how to improve communications, and how to get the best from one another.
The team went on to create their own charter about how they want to behave to help everyone to succeed. It was great to see them taking our values as a foundation to raise the bar even higher.
During this period, VGC’s people demonstrated resilience, client focus, problem solving and adaptability. Seeing these behaviours in action made me incredibly proud to be part of such a forward-looking and cohesive team.
We have received so many letters of thanks from our workforce and clients for the support we provided to them throughout this time.
The way our team reacted to these stressful times turned a crisis into a brand loyalty affirming moment.
Our people represent us every day. They are at the core of every business decision we make.
By continuing to live by our values, achieving everyone’s potential, delivering on our promises, and looking after each other, we know we will create a sustainable future for our people, our business, our clients, and our wider communities.