The City of London owns and runs three famous markets, Billingsgate, Smithfield and Spitalfields. Each is a fascinating place, immersed in history and with its own unique culture. The Markets Directorate is the head office which provides a strategic and co-ordinating role in developing and improving communications, finance, personnel, health & safety, and the promotions of the Markets. The whole Markets Department was at the time of this piece of work headed up by David Smith, the City's Director of Markets and Consumer Protection.
Though the Markets' real estate has been modernised over the years and meets the highest food hygiene standards, the working atmosphere within them is still pretty 'rough and tough' and the workforce, both landlord's and tenants' tend not to be 'shrinking violets' - in some cases attitudes haven't changed much in decades!
The HR advisors for the department approached David Smith with feedback that a number of staff felt that some of their colleagues' behaviour, such as the level of swearing, bantering and nick-naming was not appropriate for the 21st century.
David and his team were aware that behaviour was going to be more boisterous in the Markets than some of the administrative offices in the Guildhall (the City's corporate headquarters), but this was something that needed addressing to ensure a better, more inclusive working environment for all.
Against this back drop Focal Point Training worked closely with David and his team to design an approach which would lead to the necessary cultural changes in the department.
We know that, to bring about deep seated changes like this, the process needs to begin at the top and be clearly role modelled by the senior managers. We arranged three workshops for the middle and senior managers in the Department, which David opened and attended. We linked our approach to the City of London’s staff policies, including the Code of Conduct and Customer Service standards. But most of all we worked to get team members thinking about the impact their behaviour can have on each other.
We then ran a series of two-hour workshops for all 131 team members in the department. Each workshop was opened by a Senior Manager, sending a very strong message of support. We asked the groups to define what they thought was “Inappropriate behaviour” and were fascinated at how much came out of those discussions and how people made links to other areas of poor team working such as poor time-keeping and under performance.
The workshops were a huge success. They have got people genuinely thinking about their behaviour at work and real changes were made. One team member commented “Today someone used my own name – it was the first time in four years I haven't been known by a nick-name I don't like and it was great!" If you have ever been given a nickname – even a “nice” one – or been the butt of an on-going joke you may know what this team member meant. These are significant changes, creating a far happier and therefore more productive place to work.
David Smith said ”We knew that there was a problem to be solved and it really helped to have an objective, outside team to work with us to fnd a solution. Stella Chandler's experience elsewhere was an enormous benefit and she got to grips with analysing the causes very quickly. Her style in the workshops generated real free-flowing discussion, so that the staff themselves, with only a little guidance, actually came up with most of the solutions, so that they have willingly taken ownership of work that we'll keep going in the future. Changing an old-fashioned culture is never easy but is greatly helped by working with a good professional team.”