Putting people at the heart of transformation

Source: PSE: Oct/Nov 19

Director of people transformation at Companies House, Angela Lewis, describes how the organisation is putting people at the centre of its transformation programme as it looks to adapt to meet future challenges.

The reason why transformation programmes often fail is because organisations do not consider the people element in enough detail. At Companies House we are doing things differently and putting people at the heart of our transformation. 

As an organisation we are constantly having to adapt to change and provide a customer experience that is supported by brilliant digital systems and services. In the past when we have undertaken change, it has been driven by the introduction of new legislation or technology. The impact of changes on our people were viewed as being of secondary importance, with the focus on reducing staff numbers. Improvements to our internal processes and systems were often neglected. 

This time we have positioned transformation differently and based it around three key themes: brilliant people, using brilliant systems to deliver brilliant services. 

We have challenged the idea that change just happens to us as passive bystanders, and that we have limited control over what will happen. We have also emphasised the fact that we want brilliant systems and services for our internal customers as well as our external customers. Changing the narrative has been essential and giving everyone a voice and an opportunity to be involved has been the ‘golden’ thread through all our work. 

When we started this work 18 months ago, we ran workshops for groups of people from across the organisation to talk about the three themes and to ask them to work with us in terms of shaping the desired culture and helping us achieve our goals. 

Attendance at the workshops was voluntary and over 75% of the workforce participated.  What we found was a genuine desire to be part of something different and better, particularly as we recognised the importance of retaining those elements of our culture that are important, such as the strong sense of community and the positive relationships we have with each other. 

Building on this, we identified that our culture change was linked to new, adaptable, bold and curious behaviours and looked for ways to create a “movement” of change champions. Colleagues were invited to be part of different groups with special interests such as diversity, engagement, environmental and communications networks. This has led to more than 300 people coming forward to be part of the culture change programme of work and we have held “go large” events to encourage collaboration and address organisational-wide issues. 

We also launched an “ideas hub” that enables colleagues to put forward suggestions and improvements. We have had over 250 ideas, some of which have led to significant savings and improved services for our customers. 

Other strands of the people transformation work include reviewing our operating model and a specific project that focusses on smarter ways of working.

Together, these work streams give a clear message that our people really do matter. Communication has been key, and we have celebrated the quick wins and small changes to keep the momentum going. In doing this, we have tried to be as creative as possible in terms of sharing stories using blogs, videos and face-to-face sessions to connect across the organisation. We have also been open when things have not worked and reflected publicly on what we will do differently in the future. 

We have made progress and some of the measures of success have been improved levels of engagement, reduction in turnover, and significant reductions in sick absence. External recognition for our work on wellbeing and the overall employee experience has been positive and we have been able to attract and recruit to specialist roles which we had previously struggled to fill. 

Transformation is not easy and requires vision, energy and determination.  We have a long way to go and we have to maintain the engagement and passion for change. However, I do believe that if you can get the people aspect right, and if there is a genuine understanding and support for the direction of travel, you have a much better chance of delivering the best possible outcomes.


Tw: @CompaniesHouse

W: www.companieshouse.gov.uk


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