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The power of purpose

Ann Pickering, CHRO and Chief of Staff - O2

To get people working towards a shared purpose, HR Directors need to ask themselves the question what do your people want out of work? As well as a fair wage, I believe most people want to come to work and do a great job. To do that they need a degree of autonomy – and to feel trusted and supported from the top of the organisation down. So, to my mind the key to realising shared purpose is to make sure you get your people involved.

At O2 our purpose is ‘Making Every Day Better Through Personal Experiences that Count’. This was created by our people, for our people. It’s why we exist.

I like to think of it as our North Star. Anyone who is stuck on how to resolve an issue – whether working a Saturday shift in store or crunching numbers in Slough head office – can look to our purpose and ask themselves the question; is what I’m doing making things better for the customer?

That’s the power of purpose – your people know where to turn to get it right. What’s also important is the culture you create that underlies an organisation’s purpose, enabling employee belief that they can make that difference.

At O2 we listen. Fluid knowledge sharing is a key part of how we communicate. As connectivity is at the heart of what O2 does as a business, it’s only right that we are connecting our employees as well, constantly sharing information between us.

Too often I feel businesses fail to join up their front and back office staff through communication platforms – by having a spread of online and offline platforms we ensure everyone is included. Our quarterly Financial Results, for example, are big milestones throughout the year where we update our people on the performance of the business. Our CEO and CFO deliver results briefings to all-company, and we ensure executive team presence at our main locations in Slough, Leeds and Preston Brook.

For those who can’t be in the room, we live stream on Workplace, O2’s employee social media platform. This allows us to bring people who are in different locations right into the heart of the conversation as it happens, taking staff questions from the audience, from online or via the phone app (particularly great for those in stores). It means everyone feels present and included, and as a result they are more likely to engage which is vital. Every one of our people plays a part in achieving success for the business, so everyone should be able to communicate, share knowledge and align during financial results.

Fostering and nurturing different employee communities is another important way to help shape attitudes across a business. At O2 we’re committed to being a leading inclusive employer, and we want all our people to feel they can bring their whole selves to work. To do that we need to share knowledge and learnings. We have BAME, LGBT+ and Women’s employee networks with really engaged communities. They run Reverse Mentoring Scheme sessions for our Senior Leadership Team which have been enormously well received. These sessions are a powerful way of building trust and raising awareness of key issues on diversity and inclusion.

Prioritising inclusion is the right thing to do, but it isn’t just a nice to have, there’s a real business imperative too. Inclusion leads to a more engaged, motivated and connected workforce. And it’s not rocket science – happy and engaged employees drive performance, resulting in happy customers. As a customer led organisation, it’s vital that we have a diverse, balanced and inclusive workforce that reflects and understands the needs of our 26 million vibrant and diverse customers. As a business we will only be able to shape the competitive environment and lead if we truly understand and make things better for our customer. And this routes everything firmly back to purpose.

 

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