Benedict Gautrey, Managing Director at Great Place to Work UK and Iceland

Benedict Gautrey is the Managing Director of Great Place to Work® UK, the global authority on workplace culture. For over 15 years he has helped organisations to quantify their workplace culture and produce better business results by creating high-trust work experiences for all. Great Place to Work® annually supports over 10,000 organisations to boost their productivity, retention, talent attraction, and well-being by measuring the employee experience, benchmarking results against other organisations, and steering them to actionable outcomes. Benedict’s background is in Occupational Psychology where he developed a keen interest in employee engagement, wellbeing, and communication. Prior to joining Great Place to Work, Benedict worked as a consultant at Ipsos MORI.

In a recent interview with Digital First Magazine, Benedict Gautrey discussed his experience as a Managing Director. He shared his insights into why a positive work culture is important, how to drive innovation and stay ahead, the importance of diversity and inclusion, and more.

As a leader, what is your philosophy on effective management? How do you inspire and motivate your team to achieve organizational goals and foster a positive work culture?

A principle that I was taught by an inspiring colleague was to treat others how they would like to be treated. This guides me and our leadership team when working with colleagues to achieve goals. It is also important to be authentic and credible and to walk the path that you would like others to tread too so that as leaders, we are credible and sincere. I also believe firmly in the importance of divergent views and ensuring that everyone has opportunities to be heard and help shape the path that we are collectively walking. We regularly collect feedback and communicate actions being undertaken and strive to be transparent about everything happening within the business by regularly updating colleagues on our traction against KPIs.

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, how do you ensure that your organization remains adaptable and resilient? What strategies do you employ to drive innovation and stay ahead of the competition?

Regular dialogue and collaboration between teams is essential and within Great Place to Work, we have incredible leaders who ensure that they are respectful and mindful of their own teams and other teams’ challenges and needs to meet not just today’s targets but solving challenges to reach future goals. Whilst we know the pace of work and change has never been so fast, we also recognise that it will never be this slow again. We also constantly monitor client feedback so that we can keep supporting these wonderful organisations in meeting their people and culture aims. Our colleagues are encouraged to internally keep questioning the status quo when it comes to being more productive and effective. We also are incredibly fortunate to have an incredible international network and so regularly learn and become inspired by peers. We have multiple metrics that we measure and gauge to ensure we continue to be robust and resilient.

Why is workplace culture important, and how does it impact the overall success and performance of an organization?

Workplace culture is an essential factor that influences employee trust, engagement, and performance, which, in turn, impacts the overall success and sustainability of an organisation. An organisation’s people are its competitive advantage – but only when they’re having a great employee experience. A workplace culture is a robust predictor of long-term business results – investing in workplace culture leads to increased profitability as workers with positive experiences are more likely to stay, experience less burnout, be more productive, and drive innovation at a faster pace. The culture of an organisation will extend to its customer interactions. Employees who are engaged and thriving at a great place to work will provide better customer service and will subsequently impact the customer experience, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. A strong workplace culture will also make an organisation more adaptable to change; employees feeling a sense of trust and empowerment will embrace change and work collaboratively to navigate challenges. Finally, workplace culture shapes the ethical standards and values of an organisation. A progressive culture of inclusion, belonging, diversity, equality, and equity promotes great conditions for all employees to thrive and push an organisation to new heights.

Can you discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion in your workplace culture? How do you ensure that diversity is celebrated and that every employee feels valued and respected?

Embedding and fostering diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity at work is not just a moral necessity; it is also a strategic business necessity that leads to enhanced innovation, employee experience, financial profitability, and overall organisational success. For us at Great Place to Work, it is imperative that we continue to cultivate the very best workplace for all employees and not just the majority where everyone feels like they belong and at a workplace where they can truly thrive and maximise their potential. We actively have worked on creating and building a diverse workforce that has brought together people with varying perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. We have subsequently benefited from enhanced creativity innovation and business results through an introduction to a variety of ideas and approaches that have ensured a broader understanding of global markets, cultures, and customer bases. It is vital for us that every employee has a strong sense of connection with our shared purpose and with colleagues and is able to bring their true authentic self to work. By continuing to measure and improve DEIB within our organisation we have seen increases in psychological safety, where colleagues feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas, and expressing their opinions without fear of negative consequences. We also strongly encourage peer-to-peer recognition so that employees are shown appreciation through various channels.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, how do you leverage technology and digital transformation to drive business growth and enhance operational efficiency?

Great Place to Work is about data, measurement, and championing the very best employers in the world. We employ an employee listening tool called Emprising that has captured the open, honest feedback of over 10,000 organisations. Our clients are easily able to compare the experience of their employees against the most progressive organisations in the world and within their sector to drive meaningful improvements and make the changes necessary to continue succeeding. This technology platform is appreciated by our clients and has helped us grow impressively year-on-year as a business. We also rely on Emprising ourselves and based on the real-time feedback capabilities, we have seen increases across the board when it comes to our own employee experience.  In terms of operational efficiency, we work with an adage that if you can’t measure it, then how can you improve it? All of our leaders have departmental metrics that are constantly being measured and refined so that we can continue to move forward and all departments rely on technology solutions to help improve the experiences of our customers, employees, and shareholders.

As a leader, how do you actively shape and foster a positive workplace culture? What strategies do you employ to create an environment where employees feel motivated, engaged, and supported?

My grandmother always used to tell me that we are born with two ears and one mouth and for me as a leader, listening to different perspectives is something that helps me succeed as a leader. I work closely with my leadership team and a key performance indicator for us is our Trust Index, which is the Great Place to Work gauge of workplace culture. We regularly pulse and frequently feedback to the business in terms of people priorities and what is in place to enable every employee to flourish. Transparency is key for me and when we hire, we constantly look for culture-add in parallel with culture-fit as we want to keep advancing as a great place to work for all. We have multiple employee resource groups tackling themes such as the future ways of working, business improvement, camaraderie, quality and processes, wellbeing, and so on. We have found the more opportunities that we can provide employees to contribute and feel empowered by, then the higher our Trust Index and the better our business results.

How can organizations effectively communicate their values and expectations to employees to reinforce the desired workplace culture? Are there any communication strategies or practices that you recommend?

Every organisation is different and has its own DNA and I don’t believe a one size fits all approach exists but when it comes to values, it is important to keep assessing whether they are still relevant in an ever-evolving business landscape by evaluating not just at the corporate level but across the business and whether the behaviors associated with the values are being held up too. Time and time again we see from the data we collect the importance of effective communication in whether a business truly succeeds. There have been recent studies demonstrating that organisations with effective internal communication channels report higher levels of engagement and employee experience. Key principles of effective communication when it comes to expectations include clarity, openness, regularity, and consistency. It is important to keep collecting feedback and sharing high-level results, priorities, and next steps.

In what ways can leaders and managers actively influence and shape workplace culture? How can they lead by example and create an environment that fosters engagement, collaboration, and employee well-being?

Leaders set the tone for the organisation and influence the behaviour and attitudes of their team members and the workplace culture. When leaders consistently demonstrate the desired values and behaviours, it sends a powerful message about what is expected in the workplace. Leaders and managers serve as role models for their employees because their behaviour, work ethic, and values are monitored and often emulated by others in the organisation. It is important to measure the employee experience to understand baseline levels of engagement, well-being, and collaboration so that workplace culture can continue to be pushed forward.

On the whole, leaders and managers will create a positive and inclusive work environment by fostering collaboration, trust, and open communication. Encouraging a supportive and psychologically safe atmosphere will undoubtedly enhance employee well-being and engagement. Our data has shown that leaders and managers who fully empower their teams and trust them to make autonomous decisions foster a culture of accountability and higher engagement. Employee development is a big contributor to a positive and prosperous workplace culture and leaders and managers should be mindful to provide plenty of training opportunities, mentorship programs, resources, and transparent pathways for professional growth. Taking steps to ensure that all employees feel included, recognised, and respected contributes to a more diverse and vibrant workplace culture. Leaders and managers significantly influence workplace culture through their actions, communication, and the values they uphold. By embodying the desired culture and actively shaping the organizational environment, they contribute to creating a positive and thriving workplace.

What advice do you have for other leaders and organizations looking to improve their workplace culture? What steps can they take to create a positive and empowering environment for their employees?

My first piece of advice would be to assess the quality of information that is currently being measured when it comes to workplace culture. Is enough being collected at the moment, and whether results and fostering the employee experience are discussed regularly in strategic leadership meetings? It is worth too evaluating if progress has been made on previous measurements and whether a culture of action currently exists within the organisation. Employees want to know that they are being heard when it comes to making their working experience better. If it isn’t, then this would be a priority area and I would recommend tackling one or two focus areas and tackling these well.  In terms of general advice, it is important that the pillars of high employee experience are in place within the organisation, and I would term these as Strategy and Direction, Values and Ethics, and Communication and Involvement. If organisations are succeeding in these three areas, then engagement will be high. In terms of continually moving forwards, always involve and empower employees to help find solutions and contribute to driving the organisation to new heights.

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