We’re a Finalist in the Wales HR Awards 2022

We are thrilled to be shortlisted as Finalists in the Wales HR Awards 2022

With a range of categories including ‘HR Director of the Year’, ‘Outstanding HR Professional’ and ‘HR Team of the Year’, the Welsh HR Awards 2022 recognises and celebrates excellence across the HR profession in Wales. It’s a real honour to be nominated and make it through to the finals.

The awards will celebrate the unsung HR heroes working behind the scenes to support businesses and organisations of all sizes over the past twelve months.

We can’t wait to meet the other outstanding nominees and to hear about the incredible achievements of these individuals and teams.

 

We’re proud to be shortlisted for the Consultancy of The Year 2022 Award

 

Organisations looking for transactional, one-off advice to deal with employment issues are well-served by the market. However, leaders that want to make commercial, customer-focused HR or people changes often struggle to find quality strategic consultants that don’t force them to be tied into subscriptions, memberships, or retainers. That’s where we come in.


We aim to work with clients on long term strategic projects and deliverables. People love working with us because they’re continually pleased with the high-quality work and advice they are getting, rather than because they are tied in.

  

“I’m thrilled that The Spark Company has been shortlisted and feel privileged to be considered alongside so many other awesome finalists.

This wouldn’t be possible without the generous feedback of our amazing clients and the incredible video testimonials they’ve shared.”

Andrew Knight, Principal Consultant and Founder

  

About the judges

The Welsh HR Awards 2022 judges include:

 

We’ll find out if we’ve won at an awards ceremony in Cardiff on the 8th July 2022.

Darwin Gray’s Head of Employment Law and HR, Fflur Jones said: “We were delighted with the quality and number of entries for this year’s HR awards. The fact so many companies and organisations decided to enter the awards demonstrate in what high esteem these businesses hold their HR managers and teams. They will have played an instrumental role in steering their organisations during the COVID 19 pandemic. We look forward to celebrating all their achievements on the night.

 

About the Wales HR Awards

The Welsh HR Awards are made possible by Acorn and Darwin Gray LLP. The Wales HR Awards recognises and celebrates excellence across the HR profession in Wales.

 

About The Spark Company

The Spark Company specialises in Human Resource Development and Organisational Transformation. Founded by Andrew Knight with the guiding philosophy that putting people first always leads to better business results.


The Spark Company gives clients access to high quality consultancy services to transform productivity and performance across the whole organisation.

We can help with human side of organisational change, mergers and acquisitions, restructures and those thorny HR issues that crop-up from time to time.

  

Choosing the right HR Consultancy

If your organisation needs to transform your productivity and performance, I’d love to hear from you. I love working with companies who want to make meaningful and sustainable change.

Get in touch for a friendly chat about how I can help.

  

 

Ascenti | Bespoke Leadership Development Programme

BESPOKE LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME

Design and deliver a bespoke Leadership Development Programme for the UK’s leading provider of physiotherapy and mental health services

The Spark Company (Human Resources) Ltd Logo

A great partner for any business

“Andrew at The Spark Company is a great partner for a business to work with. He combines a practical, no nonsense approach with good technical knowledge and quickly builds a rapport with existing teams to hit the ground running.”

Jacinta Magee
Chief Financial Officer

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Google Review

Client

Ascenti

  • Ascenti is the UK's leading provider of physiotherapy and mental health services.
  • The Ascenti team provides excellent patient care at over 400 clinics across UK, supported by office-based and regional teams.
  • Patients are treated by a national network of 500 directly employed Ascenti clinicians delivering upwards of 600,000 treatment sessions every year.

Challenge

Design and deliver a structured leadership programme for line and middle managers

  • Like many rapidly growing organisations, Ascenti identified their leaders needed structured development programme to enable their growth ambitions.
  • Ascenti's Exec Team asked us to come up with a bespoke programme.
  • The initial cohort would include line managers and middle managers, with various levels of experience.

A safe space for leaders to flourish

“From the very first meeting I had with Andrew he felt like part of our team and not an external consultant. He went on to lead on our management training using the Insights Discovery Personal Profile and is an amazing facilitator, allowing for everyone to participate and get the most out of each session.

He creates a fun and safe environment to allow effective collaboration and thought sharing. I would always recommend Andrew's services.”

Angela Shott
Head of Operations

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Google Review

Solution

LEAP: The Leadership Development Programme for Ascenti Managers

  • We designed a structure programme which included an Insights Discovery Personal Profile, formal training, action learning and personal reflection.
  • We delivered training to 3 Cohorts from September to December 2020, and broke-off into 7 smaller Action Learning Sets from January to April 2021.
  • The programme was delivered online to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, and we sent personal learning packs which accompanied the programme to each delegate's home.

Impact

Greater confidence and effectiveness from leaders at all levels

  • Delegates gave the Management Development Programme an impressive Net Promoter Score (NPS) score of 50.
  • Newly appointed managers gave the programme an outstanding NPS score of 65!
  • Delegates reported a 19% increase in confidence when talking about their own preferences, behaviours and leadership style.

Managers told us they were more confident, had greater self-awareness and a better understanding of others.

New and experienced managers

89% would recommend The Spark Company to others

New and experienced managers

90% would recommend Insights Discovery to others

New Managers

Newly appointed managers gave an average 91% satisfaction rating

Looking for a bespoke Leadership or Management Development Programme?

Do your leaders need to improve their self-confidence and effectiveness? Fed-up of off-the-shelf training that doesn't have any impact in the real world?

If you are looking for a programme that enables leaders to understand their personal strengths, preferences, blind spots and possible weaknesses, we can help. We support leaders to translate learning into positive changes to productivity and performance in the real-world

Give us a call for a friendly chat about how we can help your leaders flourish.

We’re a Finalist in the British HR Awards 2022

We are delighted to announce that we’ve been named a Finalist in the British HR Awards 2022

With a range of categories including ‘Best Overall People Experience,’ ‘Wellness Initiative of the Year’ and ‘Rising Star of the Year’ the British HR Awards 2022 sets out to discover and celebrate the organisations and individuals that are truly passionate about delivering a world-class people experience.

This year, just over 100 entries were received from organisations across the UK, and so competition to be named a Finalist proved to be very tough.

Firms taking part range from innovative start-ups to tech unicorns, global giants, not for profits and everything in between.

 

We’ve been shortlisted for not one, but two awards…

Start-Up of The Year 2022

Consultancy of The Year 2022

 

Organisations looking for transactional, one-off advice to deal with employment issues are well-served by the market. However, leaders that want to make commercial, customer-focused HR or people changes often struggle to find quality strategic consultants that don’t force them to be tied into subscriptions, memberships, or retainers. That’s where we come in.


Andrew Knight reacts to being shortlisted in the British HR Awards 2022 for Consultancy of The Year and StartUp of The Year

We aim to work with clients on long term strategic projects and deliverables. People love working with us because they’re continually pleased with the high-quality work and advice they are getting, rather than because they are tied in.

  

“I’m delighted that The Spark Company has been shortlisted in two categories and feel privileged to be considered alongside so many other awesome finalists.

This wouldn’t be possible without the support of our amazing clients and the incredible testimonials they’ve shared.”

Andrew Knight, Principal Consultant and Founder

  

About the judges

The British HR Awards 2022 judges include:

 

We’ll find out if we’ve won at an awards ceremony in Central London on the 21st April 2022.

Nate Harwood, Founder of New Possible and British HR Awards judge said: “The quality and diversity of entries has made judging a real challenge, but also a great privilege. We’re immensely proud to recognise the organisations and individuals that are working hard to create exceptional people experiences. These leaders are fundamentally reimagining the future of work and helping to showcase British HR leadership on a truly global scale. Congratulations to all the Finalists.”

 

About the British HR Awards

The British HR Awards is powered by New Possible, a next-generation employee insight platform. New Possible helps HR leaders build healthier organisations by providing meaningful insight that can drive real change.

 

About The Spark Company

The Spark Company is an expert HR and change management consultancy. Founded by Andrew Knight with the guiding philosophy that putting people first always leads to better business results.


The Spark Company gives clients access to high quality consultancy services to achieve specific change management and strategic HR projects.

We can help with human side of organisational change, mergers and acquisitions, restructures and those thorny HR issues that crop-up from time to time.

  

Choosing the right HR Consultant

If your organisation needs support from an experienced HR and change consultant, I’d love to hear from you. I love getting stuck into sustainable and meaningful change projects.

Get in touch for a friendly chat about how I can help.

  

 

The Company Culture Blindspot

Before the article, a word or two about Ukraine 🇺🇦

When I drafted the outline for this article a few weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined that Russia was about to invade Ukraine. At that time the rolling-news agenda was dominated by #partygate, the Sue Gray report, the Met Police and the ‘toxic culture’ at 10 Downing Street. What a difference two weeks makes.

Like many of you, I’ve watched the news in horror, bearing witness to this unfolding catastrophe through the reports of journalists and the messages from the brave people of Ukraine. And let’s be honest; from my position of relative comfort and privilege, ‘thoughts and prayers’ are utterly insufficient.

If you want to do something to help, you can donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. By donating you’ll help DEC charities provide food, water, shelter and healthcare to refugees and displaced families. Also, the DEC Afghanistan Crisis Appeal remains open to respond to what the Head of the World Food Programme previously described as “the worst humanitarian crisis on earth”.

 

I’ve decided to publish this article as planned, because an organisation’s culture and leadership are key to the resilience, productivity and success of its team. This is especially important at times of uncertainty and crisis, whether the cause is close to home and (potentially) controllable, or further afield and out of our control. So, what does your company culture say about you, how you manage uncertainty, and how you support your team?

 

Can you see what your workplace culture says about your business?

Having a strong workplace culture can be a lifeline in times of pressure or stress. Internal strains aside, whatever’s happening in the world will have an impact on your workforce. Whether the pressures and stresses your team are feeling are as a result of Brexit, COVID-19 or a raging war, a working environment that feels psychologically safe is really important.


The black door at 10 Downing Street

Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ‘toxic culture’ of both 10 Downing Street and the Met Police dominated the news for what felt like forever. Understanding that culture change is key in transforming an underperforming business is not an alien concept to many leaders.

Most leaders understand the necessity of good workplace culture. The trouble is that even though we know what it means, it can still be hard to recognise what’s happening in our own organisations.

  

Most leaders don’t know how to objectively measure and assess company culture

  

In this article, we discuss a few positive and negative indicators that you might recognise from your own business. Lots of positives means Sue Gray is never going to knock on your door…but more than a handful of negatives is a definite red flag.

Think of your organisation as a complex web of different traits, habits, actions … ways of communicating. Johnson and Scholes mapped this out in their Cultural Web tool into six high-level categories, which we’ve unpicked here.

 

Control Systems

Organisation Structures

Power Structures

Rituals & Routines

Symbols

Stories

  

What are the positive signs that we have a healthy work culture?


Let me be clear here, the perfect culture does not exist (sorry not sorry to the perfectionists out there). Whenever I work with clients on cultural change, I’m always on the lookout for positive signs of a healthy culture.

Some indicators will be subtle, and some are glaringly obvious. You might have a handle on the formal culture across the business but find gauging the informal culture is much harder.

 

Culture can be subjective but you can objectively assess the formal and informal elements in your workplace

  

Formal indications of a healthy work culture

  • Control Systems – colleagues accept responsibility to support and develop others. Balanced decision-making is valued. Information is shared transparently, with no mind games!

  • Organisational Structures – teams work collaboratively. Purpose and strategy are clear to all. Learning from failure is encouraged and there is space to make mistakes without unfair reprisals.

  • Power Structures – clearly delegated authority. Leaders are open to (and seek) challenge. Teams tend to be self-managing. There is a high-trust environment.

 

Informal indications of a healthy work culture

  • Rituals & Routines – culture of learning and nurturing talent. Customers at the heart of all decisions, inclusivity beyond legal requirements.

  • Symbols – success and failure leading to innovation is celebrated. An informal hierarchy. Strong, organised internal communication tools. Leaders shape culture through their actions.

  • Stories – no rumours or gossip (ok, minimal rumours or gossip), all information is shared, listening is valued, clear guidance on how conflict is managed.

  

If you only come across positive indications…you’re not looking hard enough!

  

What are the signs that our culture isn’t doing us any favours?

Reminder: the goal is to check the health of your company culture and it would be weird if you didn’t come across some negative indications, so please try to be open to them.


An employee holds his head in his hands as one colleague points at his work and another colleague points at him directly

If you notice one-offs from the list below that might not mean you’ve got a problem; after all, none of us are perfect, right?

But lots of negatives are a red flag and indicate you’d benefit from digging a little deeper.

So take a deep breath…and dive in…

  

None of us is perfect, but if you notice lots of red flags, it’s time to dig a little deeper

  

Formal indications of an unhealthy work culture

  • Control Systems – areas of the business where ‘management’ is feared. Sales or performance incentives drive inappropriate behaviour. Processes are side-stepped with workarounds.

  • Organisational Structures – business units operate in silos or with minimal collaboration. Diaries are overloaded with meetings. Promotions are decided based on who you know.

  • Power Structures – leaders make unilateral decisions without adequate consultation. Information is managed on a ‘need to know’ basis. Challenge is absent, discouraged or simply ignored.

 

Informal indications of an unhealthy work culture

  • Rituals & Routines – communication is a one-way street. Leaders broadcast messages and employees are told to leave their personal life at the door.

  • Symbols – there are unwritten rules about teams, people, or places to avoid in the business. Some teams are higher in the pecking order than others and burnout is a badge of honour.

  • Stories – whispers of toxic behaviour tolerated from high earners or top performers, managers ‘throwing their weight around,’ gossip about leadership conflicts.

  

If you only come across negative indications…take a step back and check your own blind spots (and biases)!

  

If you recognise some of these points, consider whether your team feel psychologically safe enough to raise them with you themselves? Having a working environment that allows people to feel comfortable speaking truth to power is a vital part of a healthy company culture.

 

10 proactive things leaders can do now to influence company culture


10 proactive things a leader can do now to influence company culture

It is challenging, but possible, to assess your culture from the inside. There are lots of tools available to assess culture and there are simple things you could try and implement straight away to make your place a better place.

Here’s a link to my list of 10 proactive and pragmatic things leaders can do immediately to influence company culture, split into organisation-wide, team and individual actions.

 

10 proactive and pragmatic things leaders can do now to influence company culture

  

Invest in your culture

If you’ve read this far you know it matters! Assess how you can do better – happy, healthy, profitable businesses put aside time and effort into nurturing a positive culture. Assessing your culture needs a coordinated approach and, particularly in a large business with lots of divisions, it may feel like a daunting task.


A HR Consultant talks to a client in their Cardiff office about how to assess and improve their company culture

If it’s too much, an external consultant might be a worthwhile investment. It’s more cost effective to pay an HR expert to do it right first time, than getting an internal team to struggle with it over a longer period.

A fresh pair of eyes will often see more when it comes to diagnosing cultural problems and will be able to help you create a plan of work to implement and manage change.

  

“Andrew at The Spark Company is a great partner for a business to work with. He combines a practical, no-nonsense approach with good technical knowledge and quickly builds a rapport with existing teams to hit the ground running”.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Google Review

   

Choosing the right HR Consultant (and get a return on your investment)

Your organisation’s culture and values are essential to your performance and success, but how do you measure them?

If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to a culture review or diagnostic; or if you’re ready to make a positive change to your organisation’s culture, values and performance, I’d love to hear from you.

Get in touch for a friendly chat about how I can help.

  

 

Image credits

Images sourced from Canva Pro and are photographers are not individually credited. If you see one of your photos above, please let us know so we can credit you here.

 

10 proactive things leaders can do now to influence company culture

 

I want to change things for the better at work and culture is top of my To Do list. Where do I start?

It is challenging, but possible, to change your culture. There are lots of tools available to assess culture and there are simple things you could try and implement straight away to make your place a better place.


A leader standing at a flipchart and working through some options to improve company culture with her team

I’ve pulled together 10 straightforward and pragmatic ideas for leaders who want to improve workplace culture. It’s time to get stuck-in with some practical and actionable things that you can do in any organisation.

I’ve split these actions into organisation-wide, team and individual actions. It’s best practice to hit all three levels to give your culture change a chance to stick.

But before you start, imagine your organisation as a complex web of different traits, habits, actions … ways of communicating. If you really want to get under the skin of what’s going on, check out our article on company culture blindspots and make sure you’re not missing something crucial to your team’s success.

  

Your organisation is a complex network of different traits, habits, actions and ways of communicating

  

Things I can do as an individual to improve company culture

  • Articulate your vision – Clearly explain what your vision is, get the senior managers onboard and create a plan to communicate across the business.

  • Live by your values – Make sure your decisions align with the values of the organisation, both in good times and tough times. Personally demonstrate the business values every day.

  • Talk to your customers – Find out what your customers really think of you. Using an external consultant here can encourage a customer to speak more freely and give honest feedback.

 

Things I can do as a manager to improve company culture

  • Analyse all available data – Gather statistics that reflect how your culture is impacting customers and staff. Consider: customer complaints, Glassdoor reviews, Trustpilot reviews, attrition rates/absences and staff complaints.

  • Listen to your team – Spend time with people. Visit the shop floor. Be seen. Be approachable. Get to know your staff and ask them what their experience of the business is.

  • Recognise how COVID-19 changed how teams work – How has hybrid working during COVID-19 impacted team culture? Avoid ‘forced fun’. Consider scheduling people to be on-site at the same time, so they can work together naturally. Online collaboration time can be as helpful as blocking-out time for deep and meaningful work.

  • Monitor workload & set boundaries – Make sure that everyone has an equal chance of success, time to meet customer expectations, and sufficient down-time. Consider a ‘no video meeting day’ each week, to allow space to focus.

 

Things I can do across my organisation to improve company culture

  • Survey your team – When did you last benchmark how people are feeling? You could survey all your staff to see how they are feeling about the organisation post-pandemic. (Maybe a statement of the obvious, but only do this if you have bandwidth to analyse the results, listen to what you’re being told and crucially, do something about it.)

  • Review your organisation design – Has any unfairness crept in due to remote working during the pandemic? Have you buried problems by some people not being physically present? Is everyone clear on who their manager is and who they go to for help?

  • Improve internal communications – Check your communication channels work and reflect your company values. Are you sending a weekly newsletter into a black hole? Are people engaged? Is it 100% broadcast or is there interaction? If you are getting interaction, does everyone have a chance to join in?

  

Quick fixes won’t create a lasting and positive culture

  

Invest in your culture

Why bother investing in company culture? Well, it’s no coincidence that happy, healthy, profitable businesses put aside time and effort into nurturing a positive culture. Let’s be clear, this is a conscious choice that leaders make to invest in a positive, inclusive and productive workplace culture. It doesn’t have to be difficult but culture change does have to be planned and coordinated.


A team of happy, healthy and productive colleagues work together in an open plan office

Taking action, particularly in a large business with lots of complexity, may feel like a mammoth task. This is particularly true if you’re not sure where to start.

Company culture is a bit like health & safety, compliance, safeguarding, etc.; it’s everyone’s job to develop and grow a positive workplace culture, but it starts with you. Leaders set the tone.

If the idea of cultural change is too much, an external consultant might be a worthwhile investment. It’s more cost effective to bring in a HR Consultant to do it right first time, than asking your team to try and pull together a plan for culture ‘off the side of their desks’ (and usually over a longer period).

  

Positive culture doesn’t just happen. Bring in an expert to get things moving and upskill your team

  

Depending on your workload and available resources, I’d always suggest allocating someone specific to lead on cultural change, whether this means bringing in an expert to work alongside and upskill your team, or giving someone a secondment or project opportunity. That way you’re getting focus and energy in the right place, and developing your own in-house capability at the same time.

However you do it, it’s all about enabling you to take control of your own cultural destiny and not being ‘done to’ either through inertia or reacting badly to events because your culture isn’t resilient or flexible.

  

I want to make positive cultural changes, but I need help getting started…

It can be daunting to get started, so you might need an experienced and knowledgeable HR consultant to assess your culture and create an action plan.

As a specialist in organisational change I love to get stuck-in and support clients to make positive changes in the workplace.

Get in touch for a friendly chat about how I can help.

  

 

Image credits

Images sourced from Canva Pro and are photographers are not individually credited. If you see one of your photos above, please let us know so we can credit you here.

 

Ascenti | Interim HR Leadership for a leading provider of physio and mental health

INTERIM HR LEADERSHIP IN PRIVATE HEALTHCARE

Acting as Interim Head of HR for the UK’s leading provider of physiotherapy and mental health services

The Spark Company (Human Resources) Ltd Logo

Happy Clients

“Andrew is brilliant at engaging with people at all levels and across the whole business. If you need someone that can really bring people together and make things happen quickly, he’s a great person for that.”

Stephanie Dobrikova
Chief Executive Officer

Client

Ascenti

  • Ascenti is the UK's leading provider of physiotherapy and mental health services.
  • The Ascenti team provides excellent patient care at over 400 clinics across UK, supported by office-based and regional teams.
  • Patients are treated by a national network of 500 directly employed Ascenti clinicians delivering upwards of 600,000 treatment sessions every year.

Challenge

Step in as Interim Head of HR and lead strategic projects

  • Ascenti's previous Head of HR had moved on leaving a gap in the HR Team.
  • HR leadership was needed to navigate the people impact of both a global pandemic and Brexit
  • Ascenti’s leadership team needed an Interim Head of HR to support them during this challenging time.

Happy Clients

“Andrew hit the ground running and unlike many other HR consultants who can often create more work for the team, he lightened our workload.

We are undoubtedly better off as a business having worked together and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Spark Company to others.”

Sophie Harper
Chief People and Communications Officer

Solution

Remote HR leadership through uncertain times

  • We led the in-house HR Team remotely when none of us could meet face-to-face.
  • We supported the Executive Team to review and simplify organisation structures.
  • We ensured legal compliance of visas for all overseas staff – an important consideration as the Brexit transition period ended and new immigration rules emerged.

Impact

Key talent was retained so patient-facing services could return to ‘normal’ without disruption

  • Majority of roles protected and colleagues furloughed, particularly clinical practitioners who were essential for patient care.
  • HR roles restructured and redefined, giving Ascenti a scalable structure to support future growth.
  • Upgraded HR and Payroll technology to enable self-service and minimise wasted time

Looking for an interim HR Director that can hit the ground running?

Do you need short-term cover for a HR Director or People Director role? Tried recruiting and still can’t find a Head of HR or Head of People? If you are looking for a HR Consultancy to take the pressure off you and temporarily manage your HR function, then you need to speak to us.

We’re ready to step in, give you interim strategic HR support, and get stuff done…until you make a permanent hire.