In 2022 our work inside Wholegrain Digital was shortlisted for a culture pioneer award by HR Zone. Here’s how we managed that and what it might mean for you and your team.

How we became culture pioneers

The full story of our path to becoming culture pioneers was originally published on the Wholegrain blog here in August 2022.

We did two main things; offered and delivered training and coaching for everyone in the team, and worked on a culture manifesto.

Instead of (often ineffective) ‘leadership training,’ the focus was to be on creating an environment where every team member feels supported to learn and grow. In offering both 1:1 sessions alongside group work, the team is now comfortable with an appropriate level of vulnerability. This opening up – welcoming the showing up of our whole selves in the workplace – allows for the sort of meaningful working relationships that facilitate real growth. 

Some of the work I do with the team includes:

Tailored team training sessions

Voted for by the team, these sessions cover a wide range of topics including the importance of deep work, self-management, how to approach challenging conversations and handle the complexity of modern work and the personal and professional challenges that inevitably arise.

Allowing the team to vote on what they feel would be most helpful to them, ensures a high level of engagement and positive outcomes from these sessions.

Facilitated group conversations

Occasionally, we created small groups of 4-5 people, who would support each other to implement the training topics. Within these more intimate spaces, team members felt more able to show their vulnerability and open up in new ways. This helped them to support each other through challenges as they arose, and fostered an increased sense of belonging within the team.

Seeing the system

As we developed further in our learning journey as a team, we hosted regular ‘system seeing’ conversations. This idea comes from Jennifer Garvey Berger’s work on handling complexity in fast-paced work environments. Using our weekly team call for these conversations, we would take a step back from the day to day.

This allowed us to observe any patterns and unconscious tendencies in our ways of working that didn’t serve us. Once we could ‘see the system’ in this way, it helped us to then address any issues at the appropriate level.

Developing emerging leadership

As part of our focus on the team’s growth in the past few years, we have welcomed a number of changes to existing team member’s roles and responsibilities. These have arisen out of our increased awareness of where the bottlenecks were disrupting our workflows, or had the potential to do so. 

New roles often require transition to a new kind of leadership. Being able to offer 1:1 impartial coaching support around the changing responsibilities has helped team members meet any challenges that arise head on, embracing them as a learning opportunity.

It’s a real pleasure working with the team members in a 1-1 capacity. They’re such an intelligent, hard working, and deep thinking bunch. Witnessing their progress has been heartwarming.

An example of the kind of whole team group work that we’ve done included crafting a ‘culture manifesto’ for the organisation.

In order to ensure everyone is working together, having a shared vision for the future is essential. One of my most enjoyable sessions with the team was the Cultural Manifesto workshop, in which we all stepped out of our roles and looked at the future of Wholegrain together. In letting go of what is, and imagining what the future could feel like, we co-created a ‘North Star’ that everyone is invested in reaching for. 

Other kinds of work include identifying training needs and crafting bespoke sessions. HRZone put this well in their summary article about our work:

At Wholegrain Digital, regular employee discussions and surveys are deployed to help identify gaps in business critical skills and capabilities. Areas covered so far include ‘Deep Work’, self-management, challenging conversations and handling complexity. 

Monthly ‘system seeing’ conversations are held to help employees take a step back and see the system within which they operate. These sessions, alongside a ‘Growth Culture’ Slack channel, help foster open, curious and developmentally oriented conversations.

What does this mean for you and your team

We’re at an exciting new edge of work place culture and we’re proud of the recognition from HR Zone of our pioneering efforts.

My hope is that you find inspiration and new ideas to try in building your team culture. There is no single right way to do this, no silver bullet that’ll work for all individuals or all teams.

If you are curious about how we could enable a cohesive, productive and enjoyable workplace culture for your team then get in touch.