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Creating a Culture as Special as Their Chocolate


Jenny Lawrence

Our culture has  a common purpose that everyone believes in: ‘making people feel special’. Lindt and Sprungli’s HR Director, Jenny Lawrence, discusses how a spark of imagination can reignite the culture of an organisation.

For anyone who’s received a box of Lindt’s Lindor, they’ll know they’re a gift to be savoured. Certainly not for quaffing down on the way to work, they’re a treat that encourages you to take your time and indulge.  The luxurious nature of Lindt’s products cannot be under-estimated, nor the fact that they can leave you feeling pretty special.  However, it’s rare that the feeling a product produces can be encapsulated in a brand’s working culture. This is precisely what Lindt (part of Lindt & Sprungli) strived to achieve through their employee engagement programme.

As Jenny Lawrence, Lindt’s HR Director, explains: “Without doubt, one of our successes with our culture has been through creating a common purpose that everyone believes in: ‘making people feel special’”. Whatever they’re doing, it has certainly produced a winning formula. In 2016, the company beat off competition from Aviva and Innocence to win the Gold Award and Innovation Winners, at the Organisational Culture Awards. Indeed, employees themselves have described initiatives as being ‘life changing.

So, how do you begin to create a culture that makes your people feel as special as that melt in the mouth moment a Lindt chocolate inspires?

For the judging panel, it was the programme’s ‘innovative and brave approach to reimagining [Lindt’s] organisational purpose and culture’ and for the ‘clear and lasting impact of the change programme’.  And this is true –  it’s often that spark of ‘imagination’ that can be the difference between merely being told to take on board an organisation’s values to truly feeling, believing and sensing it for yourself, within the workplace.  Culture is still a difficult concept for employers to grapple with but as Jenny explains, it can sometimes be as simple as creating a visual that resonates with everyone in the organisation.

Lindt is a brand that aims to create special and memorable moments. This is a strong vision that inspires its employees and is  one that is played out throughout the company’s culture on a daily basis –  from random acts of kindness that involve leaving gifts on car windscreens, to volunteering days and Easter Bunny hunts that involve the whole family.

It also extends to time off in the head office to go and work with retail and field sales staff at busy periods during Easter and Christmas, to find out more about their experiences.  Jenny says: “Culture is the heartbeat of the organisation that drives people to go the extra mile. And it’s engagement with staff that enables this. It’s not about what you do but finding the why you do it.”

The company has been on an impressive growth trajectory for the past ten years, rapidly increasing its workforce from 50 employees to over 200. Indeed, Jenny describes the organisation as a family that’s ‘growing up’. And as with any extended family, it faces different challenges – in particular, one that many organisations are learning to approach differently – that of the multi-generational workplace.

Jenny believes that ensuring your organisation has a purpose is one of the biggest challenges for organisational culture in the future, particularly when it comes to attracting the younger generation. She says: “You can’t have a culture that begins at nine and ends at five.  Work/life balance is not an adequate term to describe this anymore. Rather, ‘symbiosis’ has more pertinence because work and life aren’t separate any more – people want to embrace the belief that family matters, across both their work and home life.”

However, despite the family feel that Lindt nurtures, the organisation is are far from insular. It has a strong international perspective, particularly when it comes to the environment and sustainability. It’s one of the few organisations that controls the supply chain from staff to product import in the UK, and is endorsed by The Cocoa Foundation, an organisation that is helping to achieve cocoa sustainability.

Jenny says: “We create a premium product but are very clear about how this has been created in the context of sustainability. Our passion for the environment is also reflected in how we work and operate within our culture – in everything from our HR green fleet to reviewing how we can improve and reduce our carbon footprint. We recently completed the ESOS (a government environmental report) because we wanted benchmark feedback and recommendations on where to focus and improve our sustainability. ”

Despite some of the more unhealthy connotations linked to chocolate, wellness programmes are advocated throughout the organisation –  staff are given £100 a year to develop their own personal health and wellbeing goals. In 2015 Lindt were awarded Britain’s Healthiest Company for their initiatives and approach to physical and mental wellbeing. Interestingly, the majority of these initiatives have sprung from the leadership teams, rather than being pushed through by HR. Jenny says:  “People are happy to put in the extra time to help create wellbeing programmes. A strong culture drives not only loyalty, but a sense of compassion for one’s colleagues.”

Would you like to learn more about how to create an award winning employee engagement programme? Do you want to learn more about building a brand that resonates with your employees? Meet Jenny Lawrence in person at The OC Excellence Awards to discuss her ideas face to face. Tickets are available for an early bird rate of £495 +VAT. For more details please contact: Bethany.Carter@ocexcellence.com

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