Shifting the culture of a company is no easy feat. But accepting it will be a long process and using the changemaker mindset you are trying to cascade down through your firm can help overcome challenges and increase early adoption.
After just a few years of groundwork, food safety company Kersia is showing how it can be done and proving a wonderful example of how an equity fund owned company taking a leap of faith and making a difference will provide returns.
Thanks to a CEO who could see having a company with a changemaker mindset and the spirit to dare would be beneficial, Kersia began working with the leading global network of social innovators, Ashoka, to create an innovative program for its employees to access. It wanted staff to lead the change from the inside and help create a common culture and sense of belonging, which was of particular importance as the firm was going through a period of rapid growth.
One person can create change
Isabelle Demoment, CSR, Product Stewardship and Regulatory Director, was the link between the company and Ashoka and soon discovered she would need to work on herself and her own mindset before she could start the work with her colleagues.
“It was daunting and working with an NGO was new for me,” Isabelle tells The CEO Magazine. “I was worried at first as I wasn’t sure I was the right person to lead, I felt I needed to be incredibly committed through all aspects of my life. I had to work on myself before I could work with anyone else on their mindset.”
“I had to work on myself before I could work with anyone else on their mindset.”
But not long after working on her outlook with Ashoka, Isabelle was enthused by the process instead of frightened of it.
“Quickly I liked the idea of promoting changemakers and collective intelligence within a group as it aligned with my way of working naturally,” she says. “I am someone who needs to act and I love team spirit. I also am committed to the concept of corporate social responsibility and had already built a program with no green washing.”
Integration to create new culture
Ongoing, Isabelle has had to work out how the changemaker way of thinking can be integrated into current ways of doing business and lead to positive impact. Working with Ashoka’s experts, she was able to identify how the process should take shape and be implemented throughout the company.
Taking an ambassador approach, Kersia made the course available to every member of staff from all departments. This is something the partners at Ashoka say shows commitment to the program and a deep understanding of the fact that changing the culture of a company is not done just with the top tier management, it has to be a focus and commitment through every level of the business. And Isabelle believes this was an important step for the company.
“Having the course open to all answers the expectation of who should be ready to change and act in the company – everyone.”
“Having the course open to all answers the expectation of who should be ready to change and act in the company – everyone,” she says.
“It’s important that it has been made a voluntary course to sign up for though as it then allows those who are ready and willing to change to do so and pass on their experience to those who are perhaps more nervous about change. They help make the concept more accessible to those they work with.”
Seeing is believing and this softer approach seems to have worked as hoped, with the numbers of employees signing up to take the course building.
“The number of people who subscribe to be trained to become ambassadors is increasing year on year and the numbers are above our expectations,” Isabelle shares. “This is an indicator to us that the culture change we were hoping to create is happening and the course is working.”
Employees have fed back how they feel listened to, are more likely to contribute and have started to look at their role and how they do business differently immediately with a ESG focus. They felt empowered and enthused, something any CEO would love to see in their staff.
Another indicator that the company is on the road to changemaker success and an enhanced ESG focus has been the caliber of candidate applying for vacancies at Kersia. “This program gives those applying for positions a sense of their future mission within the company. We are getting a different type of candidate which is positive and a sign we are, three years on, seeing a shift within the company.”
“People need to be ready to make a change in the way they think and sometimes need to know what it entails from others or see it in action to feel confident they too can rise to the challenge.”
Changing the perception and outlook of a company in a couple of years shows, with full buy-in from top leadership and the right tools, a huge shift is possible.
Isabelle will be sharing her experience of co-ordinating the changes and training needed to alter the outlook of employees across all parts of a business at the Ashoka Changemaker Summit from 29–30 November in Brussels, where she hopes to allay some of the common concerns about how possible it is to change a work place culture.
From her point of view it can be done, but is not an overnight process by any means and will be a journey with hurdles to overcome.
“My advice to anyone wishing to embark on this process is to make the decision but don’t try and convince everyone around you to immediately subscribe to the change,” she says. “Deploy the program, invite them to take part and wait for their commitment to it. People need to be ready to make a change in the way they think and sometimes need to know what it entails from others or see it in action to feel confident they too can rise to the challenge.”
Kersia is showing you can do well in business while also changing the mindset of your company so it grows and has a positive impact in the future too – all while acting as a role model for others contemplating taking that leap of faith.
To find out more about the Ashoka Changemaker Summit or to book a ticket, click here.