Merging to create more homes: Immersion workshops for rapid cultural integration

The Client 

In 2017 Amicus Horizon and Viridian merged to create Optivo. This not only created one of the largest housing associations in the UK – providing homes for more than 90,000 people in London, the Midlands and South-East England – but the combined power of the new organisation also allowed the group to build a further 1,500 homes every year.  

In addition to the performance advantages of merging together, the two organisation also demonstrated a number of shared values: Being employee-focused, not just resident-focused, being innovative in their approach and having exceptional focus on the job to be done. 

Indeed, this focus on customer service and excellence had seen both organisations achieve high customer satisfaction levels and exceptional employee engagement.  

 The Desired Outcome 

The leaders were conscious that mergers are always challenging and success cannot therefore be guaranteed.  To continue their track record of success, the new organisation wanted to rapidly design and embed their new culture.  

The Objectives  

We were asked to design and deliver fun and dynamic cultural immersion workshops for all Optivo staff, which would promote: 

  • Shared values & behaviours to continue the growth of the organisation 
  • The application of tools and techniques to help employees embrace the changes ahead 
  • Delivery of innovative ideas and solutions, even with reduced external funding.   

The Approach 

Insight 

To make immersion events truly successful requires a lot of pre-work. Culture Consultancy took the time to understand the reasons the merger and where the newly formed Optivo were trying to get to as an organisation and what culture they would need moving forward. 

Design & Deliver 

The CC team had to design a fun and innovative, visually appealing workshops in a style and theme that the Optivo employees would never have experienced before.  

Employees were empowered with the best tools to perform in their jobs through  three-hour cultural immersion workshops that were designed to be suitable and accessible  for the entire organisation.  The emphasis of the workshops was to help staff gain a rapid understanding of what the new culture entailed and what was expected of them.  

At the heart of this was a powerful toolkit that was designed to inspire staff and empower them to be accountable for their work and adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude to enable the very best customer service to be delivered, even in the midst of a challenging austerity environment.   

  • Design and deliver culture, engagement and integration workshops 
  • Provide a staff toolkit to increase effectiveness and performance and to reinforce the new culture  
  • Engage staff sufficiently that they pledge to continuously improve performance 

The Workshops 

From light-hearted ‘Getting to know new colleagues’ sessions to empowering, hard-hitting sessions giving employees a range of strategies, tools and methods to overcome barriers, the participants were fully immersed in the importance of Optivo’s new culture, what it meant to them and how embracing it would impact the  of delivering of exceptional service. 

Very personal examples of commitment to change delivered by the Executive Team were a crucial part of the workshops; building trust, making the ET more approachable and helping to inspire  staff.    

Each of the workshops were also supported by Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell.  As both an individual champion and the former team captain of the British Olympic team, Sally was chosen in order to highlight how each individual could strive to be the best, whilst also working effectively as part of the new Optivo team.   

A Personal Pledge 

Each person finished the workshop by creating a personal pledge to themselves and the organisation as to what they would focus upon changing and improving, and how collectively they would create a great Optivo culture.   

These were collected personally by the Executive Team who will respond to each one in turn- thanking each employee and pledging their personal support in making the pledge possible.  

Embed

The toolkit presented in the workshop was used alongside coaching and support and challenge sessions in order to fully embed the desired changes.  

 The Result 

The early signs are very positive and feedback from the workshop participants was excellent:  

  • 84% of participants agree that they clearly understand how they contribute to the Optivo culture  
  • 87% of participants believe they can apply the behaviours and attitudes highlighted during the workshop 

Testimonial 

https://youtu.be/qvj_OAq8uk8 

https://www.optivo.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/Our-culture.aspx