Charlotte Silver, Culture and Engagement Lead at NEOM Organics, recently outlined the importance of a strong company culture and how it can help smooth the way for a return to the workplace. (Part one) Here, in part two, she reveals how the company supported employees throughout the pandemic in line with the business’s culture and values.
You’ve recently been appointed as Culture and Engagement Lead at NEOM – what drove this decision and what will your role involve?
Along with every other business, the pandemic was a huge shock to us. Despite what was affecting us globally and the challenges this bought to us all
, the team were working so hard and remotely cut off from our usual support networks personally and professionally. While the business was still doing well overall, personnel staff were struggling with the unknown and the never-ending changes.
As we witnessed the shift in competitors investing in their staff and wellbeing initiatives throughout the pandemic, despite being a wellbeing brand this still put a huge spotlight on an area we previously had not had any focus on – the importance of the home working environment, communication and ultimately how NEOM (and what we all knew as NEOM) could survive in this climate.
It quickly became clear that it was our people that would get us through. We could not rely on our beautiful head office space or stores, face to face communication and events. It left people feeling isolated and highlighted the need to re-evaluate.
As always, our founders listened to the team’s feedback about focusing on aligning how we work and how we get there. But, of course, they also had the small matter of keeping the business going through a pandemic and our senior leadership team was stretched with new challenges every day.
It’s in our DNA at NEOM to promote our culture and values, but this experience highlighted a need for a role to continuously drive and focus on all things culture, engagement and people – focusing on keeping that alignment and never losing ourselves.
The investment in people and their morale is hugely important and is naturally aligned with our business goals this year to ensure outside reflection is mirrored inside. It is a new role for NEOM but one with support and focus to drive things forward to achieve just that.
Anything we do now has to be done in the right way so our culture is not affected going forward.
Without culture, our work at NEOM can’t branch out and support the wider wellbeing of those around us.
How have you created an engaged and inclusive work culture with stores spread across the UK?
As soon as someone new joins, our focus is on making the onboarding approach as joined up as possible. Our retail cluster manager bridges the gap between HQ and the stores to ensure that communications are cascaded down to every store team.
We’ve learned how important it is to communicate the company values to new starters and deliver the same product training across the board. All stores are involved in any social activities or challenges and of course receive as many of the same benefits as a head office member of staff. It’s an area we are working on to improve even further.
How have you supported team members during the pandemic and managed to maintain company culture during lockdown, both for employees working remotely and for retail staff who have been furloughed?
During the past year we have made use of technology such as Microsoft Teams to allow us to have
quick check-ins, video calls and instant messaging to keep in touch with the team. Seeing people’s faces certainly helps when you have those days where you feel isolated or need that team atmosphere to brainstorm an idea.
Regardless of the event or occasion, the social committee always tries to put a wellbeing spin on things. Throughout lockdown we got everyone together to ‘spin the wellbeing wheel’ where each member of the team received a prize that supported a local business, ranging from local bread and coffee delivery, flowers to brighten up the home we were in so much or vouchers for online workouts.
We also all got together to Move Miles for Mental Health, counting our miles as a team with the aim to raise money for our charity partnership, the Mental Health Foundation. This was so great for everyone as at the time there was nothing else to entertain yourself with other than a walk. Having a shared goal across the business really brought us all together. We set a challenge on National Fitness Day which resulted in some team prizes too for the sweatiest picture!
Our monthly staff allowance didn’t stop throughout lockdowns, either; a product each month with a focus in line with campaigns or customer messaging. This was so great to be able to send to our retail team who mostly were furloughed as it allowed them to still feel part of it all as a valued employee.
Christmas parties at NEOM are traditionally the highlight of the year but of course 2020 created another challenge so alongside a generous gift from Nic and Oli, everyone also received a voucher from the social team to treat themselves.
How do you ensure your company culture messages filter through to your customers?
The NEOM brand is naturally very aspirational but is not preachy or pushy – we aim to be advisory and supportive within our community. We ensure this is communicated consistently through all channels and it extends to choosing the people we partner with carefully. They need to match the NEOM wellbeing community
; people who live by our 80:20 rule and practise wellbeing in a positive but balanced way.
It’s also really important to allow the voice of the staff to come through on a personal level to
demonstrate and support the ethos of the brand. For example, the team are the face of the product on Instagram, Grace, one of our commercial managers, and Sam, our education manager, often post using NEOM products from their own homes, doing live Instagram videos which opens up a new world of NEOM for our community.
None of this is mandatory and the fact that our team buy into the brand so authentically and choose to share their thoughts without green washing is something we are really proud of.
We have an amazing team and the past year has taught us so many lessons, especially how important our people were at that time. At the end of the day, they were feeling everything we were. Isolation, a need to interact and to be a part of something.
We delivered two wellbeing festivals for our community throughout the pandemic – one in summer, our Feel Good Festival, and one in the autumn, Sleep with NEOM. These included everything from NEOM focused product sessions to a cook along with some of our NEOM experts, workouts, DJ sets, breathing workshops and seminars covering anxiety, founder lead conversations and one-to-ones.
Not only was it amazing to truly connect with our customers, but we raised more than £3,500 for our charity as the full ticket price was donated which just encompassed the feeling of connection and positive impact through what was quite a dark time.
Thank you Charlotte for sharing …