Nina Dar. The Change Troubleshooter

Can we be Fans of the Companies we work for?

July 13, 2020 Nina Dar Season 1 Episode 4
Nina Dar. The Change Troubleshooter
Can we be Fans of the Companies we work for?
Show Notes Transcript

Can you turn a workplace into a fanbase? Nina and her guest, former FanatiCo employee, James Ashworth tried to do this. They take a look back to discuss what they learned from that experience.

In this episode Nina and James discuss why we fake it when we talk about changing culture at work. In 2015, with Steve Smith (chairman of Ear to the Ground) they saw the opportunity to combine their expertise and created FanatiCo. Their mission was to turn workplaces into fanbases. Despite the fact that they did some fabulous work with amazing brands, the element of turning workplaces into fanbases was more of an exciting and thought-provoking conversation rather than a strategy the corporate world wanted to deploy. This was in stark contrast to the fan intelligence work Steve was doing with Ear to the Ground which was being taken very seriously and Nina being used as a change troubleshooter to sort out change that hadn't delivered successfully.

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Narrator:

Hello and welcome to The Change Troubleshooter. This is Nina Dar's podcast.

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Speaker 2:

In today's episode, Why do we fake it? Nina talks to James Ashworth, a former colleague about the projects they worked on together during their time at FanatiCo, a company set up by Nina and Steve Smith that looked to take inspiration from the world of sport and music into the workplace.

Nina Dar:

Hello, and welcome to our podcast, which today is about why do we fake it? When we talk about having fans at work. In 2015 with Steve Smith, famous for connecting brands, with sport and music fans, chairman of Ear To The Ground and the sport and music agency powered by fan intelligence and me bringing The Human Approach to Innovation and Change to the corporate world with Cheeky Monkey, saw the opportunity to combine our expertise and created for FanatiCo our mission was to turn workplaces into fanbases. Despite the fact we did some fabulous work with amazing brands. The element of turning workplaces into fanbases was more of an exciting and thought provoking conversation, rather than a strategy the corporate world wanted to deploy. That was in stark contrast to the fan intelligence work Steve was doing with Ear To The Ground, which was being taken very seriously. And me being used as a change troubleshooter to source out change that hadn't delivered in the corporate world. We went back to our areas of expertise. Both of us knowing that this moment would come back. It was a no-brainer, surely. Every now and again, I have had a look round to see if anyone is talking about this, and recently I stumbled across a Tony Robbins podcast about raving fan culture. It's a great listen. I enjoyed it. And I will attach a link for you in the podcast notes. It says that in this episode, you'll hear from Tony on what it takes to create a raving fan culture, both internally with your employees and externally with your clients. In fact, it doesn't and Tony is joined by David Meerman Scott, the author of Fanocracy, which is about turning customers into fans and fans into customers, and the author of Culture Code, Daniel Coyle,, which is about the culture of high performing teams. It doesn't actually help you with how you turn employees into fans. And I'm guessing that's because they had the same issue as us . It seems intuitive and an absolute, no-brainer, but it isn't. So with me today, I have James Ashworth who worked with me at FanatiCo, and we're going to talk about why we fake it when we talk about having fans at work. Let's face it, more than ever we need businesses to be something that we want to be fans of and business need the extra emotion, commitment, passion, determination, to succeed and be part of that success that being a fan brings. So today we're going to cover three questions. What does it mean to be a fan? How do we maintain belonging and identity in both the physical and virtual worlds and how do you turn a workplace into a fan base? So welcome James.

James Ashworth:

Hello. Uh, I was just thinking back as you're talking there, Nina, about how this all came about , um , going back through the , the journey that I took to get to where we started FanatiCo. So, you know, all , all of my time outside of FanatiCo has been in the consumer comms world. And I think the reason I was always in that was the creating connections with people and communicating with people. And then I thought about it and actually the consumer comms I was doing before FanatiCo, I wasn't really making those connections. It was quite transactional, but more one way trying to sell something. And I think where I've come from since then, everything I've done since is much more transactional as we mean it properly creating those connections and people spending time with each other, whether that's as a business and a consumer, or like we were doing for FanatiCo, actually getting people to spend time with the people around them in a way that's not just the work environment.

Nina Dar:

So you think that a lot changed since 2015?

James Ashworth:

I think so. Do you,

Nina Dar:

When I looked back over our FanatiCo work. One, I was so excited at how relevant it would be just five years later. And like you, I started to think about the things that have changed , um, which is what I'd like us to take a moment to reflect on in this first topic we're going to cover, what's it like to be a fan? And when I, when I mentioned FanatiCo and fandom to people and say, actually, we had a business trying to do this. They don't get it. They don't get it by the title. They'll even question, what what's fandom, what you talking about, why are you even bringing it into this conversation? And we had that, those moments then didn't we definitely, but fundamentally we were all fans. Steve, a massive fan of a number of things. Me, you, I mean, we cover sport in lots of different ways, football, cycling, tennis, and then bands, music, food. And then more recently, something that we've been talking about, this new wave of influencers and things that happen on YouTube, which were both seen to be absolutely fascinated by not because we like the influencers, but we are fascinated by this level of fandom that has now entered the picture.

James Ashworth:

But they're all easy conversations. You can have those conversations with people, regardless of how well you know them or what else they do as work. And yet we were struggling so much with having those conversations as soon as we started talking about in terms of business, but it's such an easy conversation to talk about being a fan.

Nina Dar:

You, you, you think so, don't you think now, if I make my first confession, I am a Manchester City fan, please don't turn off. Then a lot is happening with my club at the moment. And when I think back to when I first became a fan, which is a moment that I can remember, I was very young. It has nothing to do with football. It was all to do with Junior Blues or youth club that my friend, my next door neighbour's dad used to take us to the , the link to that being a football club came later for me. And I was already a fan of this thing called Manchester City, even though I didn't necessarily connect it to football.

James Ashworth:

So it's something to believe in. That's not even really tangible.

Nina Dar:

Yeah. It was a great environment. As a kid, we went to Junior Blues. It was somewhere that was really fun. We were definitely connected by this brand, this brand of Manchester City, the colours, everything they stood for, but it was about a community of people coming together, having a great time.

James Ashworth:

Yeah . That's and it's definitely the people completely agree, but that's interesting of how that's changed I think in fandom where it's actually more about the people now than the clubs sometimes. So I'm , I'm thinking about , um, well, I think it's actually probably changed a little bit in cycling, but I always, when, when we used to talk about being fans of things, and you were talking about City, I was talking about individual cyclists. So it's quite alien in some of the conversations when I was talking to, well, I share values with a person what they do as an individual. And you are sharing values with a club, I suppose, in cycling, it's changed a little bit now with, especially for the UK, with Team sky setting up. And then when that became team Ineos and people's feelings towards the team changing its identity, that's a little bit new for me in cycling, because you would always go to countries to follow a cyclist. You'd be on a hill to see, you know, like now you'd be on a hill to see Froome leading the way up a hill or you'd be, I used to be down on the Champs Elysees seeing Cav cross the finish line first. And really when you look back, most of those moments, you don't really remember what team they were actually riding for at the time. Well , Cav especially. So whereas you you're following a club from a very young age,

Nina Dar:

But then amazing that the opposite has happened in football isn't it . And something that I is alien to me is that , um, now I will meet people who were following players. Yeah. And so when I play a moves, they will move, well, that is unheard of, unheard of anyway , that you would move teams, you know, I think Sky did an advert a long time ago, but it was very serious about like, they were really discussing a , such a serious topic and it was make this choice very carefully because it's a choice for life good and bad. And they were actually talking about how you choose your football team. And I remember it resonating so much because obviously being a city fan for a long time, we have not always had the position that we have today. And actually my dad who's a United fan could not understand why I've chosen to support a club that made me cry actually cry week in, week out. Because the connection that I had with that club was so strong that when they lost and not just because they lost, but it was what people said, then, when we lost, I used to deliver the Pink Final, obviously showing my age here. But as I'd race to the newsagent's, get this bundle of football papers. First of all, I'd absolutely scan it to see what had been written about City, and then I'd be so upset because normally it wasn't great. And that would be an indication for me of the banter I would get as I was delivering that paper. And everybody would know that I was a City fan fan and I took that as if they were criticizing me.

James Ashworth:

So that's the other element of being a fan then is how invested you are on a personal level. So you've got the shared vote . So you talked about that community of when we're there and how we feel, but then also how we feel outside of that community as an individual and how invested we are in a sort of tied to it , I guess like how personally you take it. And I think that's the other thing when we talk about fandom is, there's a , there's a scale of fans, right? So I would say you're probably a diehard fan.

Nina Dar:

I wouldn't actually, I've seen diehards, you know, they've got their whole heads tattooed, there's a level above me.

James Ashworth:

Um , but then there's, I think there are fans who are a little bit more, could we say passive about that personal side of it, but then still feel absolutely in the moment when they're in those communities. And I think that's a really interesting bit about fandom as well. That makes it quite intangible in a way.

Nina Dar:

Yeah. And we had a lot of fun. I remember actually one of the nicest speaking moments I had was , um, with one of the banks that was going through a tough time then, and we had just, we'd just put our deck together with the fan scale. And it was very easy as a city fan, City give you a lot of content to play with - over the years. Um, and so it was very easy to use the fan scale and say the fan scale starts with negative fans. Yeah . That's the interesting bit, right? Yeah, exactly. And I think you don't have to know much about football to know that there's an element within city because of where we've come from, where a lot of our fans are still so negative, despite despite what has happened more recently in the club's success, their imprint, their DNA is so connected to those times when things wouldn't go well, and they are very quick to say, Oh, it's all going back to now look at it now, we've drawn a game. a game! We, that didn't work out the way we want. We're not passing the ball as well. And inside them, they're going straight back to those times where, where things weren't as rosy.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. I think , I think that's , um, that's probably more inherent than football than anything else. When I think through, when we're talking about the negative fans, because other sports , I think there is a bit more solidarity on the team or the people that you're invested in are doing the right thing. And it's the rest of the sport . That's doing the wrong thing. So I know there's another parallel with cycling would be all the other teams are doping, but ours are fine, like there's a negativity towards the sport that they're in, but they're , they're still got that allegiance to they're the ones that they are a fan of

Nina Dar:

And this is so relevant for city fans at the moment with what's happening with UEFA. So , um, we are watching absolutely everything because people are basically saying we've cheated now for a fan that is knocking your own value set, I hurt desperately inside when I think, has my club done that or is something happening that people are trying to make out that my club has done that. No matter which side you take of that, for a fan, that's a very difficult position because it's very personal. What's happening there is knocking a value, set , an identity, a set of ideals and beliefs that we believe we share. And now that is being put into question. So everything that the club is doing right now is under scrutiny, not by, and of course by lawyers and everything else, but actually by the fans because the fans want some response from the club that says, don't worry. And I think the hardest thing that the club has to navigate through now is if something actually did go wrong, maybe an individual took a decision, or there was a moment in time where for the greater good certain decisions were made, how they are going to tell us how relevant that is , and what , uh, what we should do about that.

James Ashworth:

But all of that, that you're talking about that this, this is the disconnect for me, all of that, that you're talking about there , the rational mind would say that that's the business side of the team, right? That's very different to the thing that they're turning up to at the stadium or on the sides of the streets or to an arena to see. But I guess that's the bit that maybe we're overlooking as fans is that there's always a business side to all of these. And that's where we were talking about influencers earlier and how actually we're just following people, but there's a business behind those people that they're generating revenue for it. And I think that's maybe where it becomes a really tricky thing to dissect fandom is, are they a fan of the team or are they a fan of the team and the business, if all this stuff comes out about the Champions League, well, that's easy to pass off as a fan if you're only a fan of the team, but if actually you following the , the business as well, and you believe in the business, then it's harder to disconnect from that.

Nina Dar:

And I think that's why I am following it so closely because my work is all about change. And I am a fan of that, you know, it's clear and I've made this my career and lots of people will say to me, how can change be a career now? How can you be a fan of change in , in everything I do. I am a fan of change, the moment of change, and then understanding the psychology behind why some change goes through and some doesn't and being a fan of that means that you look at these situations and say, so in the business world, in the corporate world I'm in, what bit am I a fan of then? Do I follow chief execs that I believe are delivering change well?, Well, actually I do, you know, do I have an opinion on those people in the corporate world that aren't doing things well, yes, for me, when I take clients on, does there have to be a connection for me when I meet that potential client? Is it all about money for me? No. Does there have to be a connection? Do I have to believe that that company I'm about to work with and actually the individual that I'm talking to, Do I have to believe that they are serious about this and want something to happen? Yes, I do.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. Yeah. You're identifying with them. Right. And that's not on a monetary level, which is very different to the business side of the other conversations that you'd have. And I think that that sense of like , that's why it always worked for me in my head. That's this wasn't , uh , ever a difficult conversation to have about the parallels, because really it's all about belonging. Whether we're talking about a team or, you know, across a meeting table, it's about feeling like you belong in that space

Nina Dar:

And that you, that belonging and identifying that and , uh, identifying comes in different layers as well, doesn't it? You know, easy with a club that you can visually spot fans, even with bands who turn up to a concert, everyone's got the tee shirt on from some point in time that is memorable for them. They'll probably dance a certain way. They know the words. That's easy to identify in the corporate world. Not so much, is it?

James Ashworth:

No, but then are we talking about that scale of your you've referenced some of the diehard fans there who want to put it, want to slap that badge on the shirt, but do they really feel like they belong anymore than the fans in the middle of that scale, who maybe aren't as outward, but they've still got the same feeling of belonging?

Nina Dar:

Well, we had this middle of the scale, didn't we? Passivem passive fans. Yeah . And I remember entertaining in one talk by saying, you know, passive fans could be asleep at their desk and we wouldn't know it. And the laugh that came from the audience was they so resonated with that. It was like everybody knew a passive fan at work. Somebody who was there, but not really. And we tried to tap into that. Didn't we try to say that actually what we were trying to do here was just move people up the fan scale , turn a negative one. Some of them are easy, turn a negative one into not so negative one easy. And actually in the workplace. I think that sort of thing does happen. Turn a passive one into somebody who's going to be now more connected, feels like they belong, is going to do something that demonstrates why they feel that they have a part to play here was much more difficult.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. But then that's where they need to be to get through that change.

Nina Dar:

Yeah. And then we have the interesting bit of the physical and virtual now, which I think again, in sport and music, they have done this beautifully, the globalized nature of fandom in those worlds, it cannot be faulted. At City, particularly, the match day experience is shared globally through a virtual ability to connect overseas fans with match day. Webcams are there, they're being beamed to the stadium, the excitement of those fans we've been in New York in Mad Hatters when they've had that moment , they have to get up early. No one cares. The pub is wall-to-wall packed. They are so excited because they've got this moment where the virtual world is connecting them to the physical and it's real.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. Yeah. And you've got the platforms for that. That's, that's something as simple as just thinking about actually connecting those two physical places through a virtual connection, which is easy to do now, the other element is, and I guess it's slightly virtual as well, is all the partnerships and that the things that surround the club or the business that allow those two physical things to be connected as well. So I'm thinking about how, when we looked through NFL clubs and football clubs, how they were using computer games partners to create better experiences for the fans and not necessarily the fans who had just arrived at the stadium, but then around the world, having sort of fan zones where there's an experience for them. And I think that's also a newer element to fandom, is the experience outside of that core experience.

Nina Dar:

So it has changed a lot. And even we know as being fans, that things have changed a lot. And I suppose the big thing in that for me is I went from being someone who I thought was just expected to turn up and support something to , uh , to be in, in a moment where the club was actually asking for my opinion and then demonstrating that my opinion was actually at the centre of their strategy. And if I connect that to what I try and see, or maybe even achieve in the corporate world where we say, okay, how is your employee, how is their opinion at the centre of what we're doing here? That's harder to see a straight line there.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. I imagine most of the sponsors still are about , uh , like radar surveys just to get, you know, sentiment of what the staff feel about their role and things. But I'm thinking much deeper about what we used to try and do simple things like, okay, so your company supports charities. Well, here are the charities that they support. Okay . Well, why do they support that? Okay. The CEO has got a connection to them from something else, maybe in the family. Well, do your staff know that? Do your staff know why you're, why you support that charity? Have you asked your staff about what charities they might want to support? It's things like that. I think that's where opinions matter. And that's where you build that relationship beyond the workplace or beyond the brand or the employer. They've got a real connection with something outside or surrounding that business then.

Nina Dar:

And then that means that businesses now have to be much more aware of the big topics happening in the world. Generally don't they? And of course now since 2015, those topics have changed enormously, you know, as we said, CSR was breaking out there . Now, now look at it.

James Ashworth:

Some meetings we were going into, they were still asking what CSR was. Um , but yeah, I mean, even interviews, I've done this year, people coming through the door now in the first interview, when you go to the, have you got any more questions? Is there anything we've not covered? A lot of that is about, ah , I read on your website that you're supporting this charity, or I read on your website you give days back , um, in lieu, if we support the community and give back to, you know, spend time in food shops and things, that's really interesting to me. Can you tell me more about that? Completely unrelated to anything we've talked about in the interview, but that's what matters to people and they're joining employers who have those shared values of things outside of what they're producing

Nina Dar:

And that's only going to increase, isn't it? I mean, the climate change conversation has gone beyond doing a bit of recycling in the office. It's beyond that. It's what supplier base are you using? Is that an ethical supply base? If not, are we looking to change it? If we're in a dirty industry today, are we looking to clean it up and how are we doing that? And I think there is a reality moment where people aren't expecting that every business can turn into a mean clean and green business overnight. But I think there is an expectation that the company needs to show it wants to.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. And , and the individual wants to be part of that. That's the belonging, that's the shared values. It's not necessarily the brand that currently exists or what they've done in the past or what they're doing now, it's that the individual's part of the change that's going to happen? Um, I think that's a really interesting area. And I think that's maybe where we really struggled to get that across before, but that's completely aligned with what we were talking about at the start about fandom. There's just that belief in where you're headed maybe. And that's not necessarily just about the results on the pitch or the brand that's being produced or the parts that are being manufactured. It's the , it's the journey.

Nina Dar:

Yeah. And we had, of course we had the moment where we'd have these amazing conversations with people. No doubt. I mean, we had nights in the office where we invited people over . Um, and the conversation was always something that got us really excited. But then when we went to have the actual meeting about what we could do that very coldly turned into, well , how do we get a return on our investment on this? And suddenly some of the magic was gone.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. Yeah. It was all that passion that we want to come through when this is delivered, was in the , in that first conversation. And somewhere in the middle, it gets lost by how do we make it happen? Okay. We're making it up and by getting these stakeholders sign off. Okay, well what do they need? Okay. Right. So we need to change this bit here. And it just got so diluted by the time we got to actually actioning something, I think, or by the time we got to an action plan that the fandom did seem quite trivial to it because it had become a business change piece it's as a very functional piece again.

Nina Dar:

Yeah. And it was all about employee surveys or capturing opinions, but capturing them in a way that then we could filter them. The , the fear really of giving an employee just free rein to say what they wanted and that then the leadership would be equally fearless in reporting back on that and turning that into, taking all that good and bad and turning it into something that was part of their strategy. We never got to that point,

James Ashworth:

The free rein's the key part for me there, because when you think about everything that we've talked about, about fandom, none of that's been enforced actions. Like everything we did was through choice. We, I chose to go around Europe, following some guys on some bikes. You religiously go to football games that , well, I mean, maybe not, now you don't think you've got a chance at, but you used to go knowing you've not got a chance, but they were all, they were all your choice. And there wasn't really much put in place for that to happen. You were doing that off your own back. And I think that free rein and those free decisions, like in retail, the ability to be able to refund someone without having to ask a manager over those free rein decisions, that's not really putting something in place. That's taking something away and that's the real difficult situations. And that that's the real difficult conversations for employees is to remove those things that are in place. Actually, most of our conversations turned into, okay, what can we implement? What can we do? What can we put in place? What scheme can we set up? Who can we appoint to run this club and things? That's not really what fandom is.

Nina Dar:

No. And , and really the advances that have happened in sport and music have made it seem more effortless that we have as fans, more input, more freedom, more transparency is all about the more, yet we never feel exposed to the business case that sits behind that. Now there's no doubt a business case sits behind it. No doubt, but we never feel it.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. It's the flip for workplace. Yeah.

Nina Dar:

Every day we feel the business case and we never feel the openness, transparency because that business case just destroys that magic. And it's not here, not for one minute am I suggesting we can't have the business case and it's clear if we take, there was a lovely example about when Ronaldo moved to Juventas and the Instagram account for Juventas grew by 4.7 million at the point he moved and the fan base for Real Madrid dropped by a million, instantly. Now that equates to this... Isn't just people logging on to social media, that translates into shirts bought, all sorts of merchandise, connections, tickets, people going, everything. There is a machine, a business machine that sits behind that. And these clubs know that that's why they make these decisions. But as fans, we don't feel it.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. Yeah. But you don't feel it, but you , like you said before, you know, it's there, you're not ignoring it. You just know it's there in the background. It's not been brought to the foreground

Nina Dar:

And that's physical there . They're doing this well, it's a well trodden path. The physical, the virtual, the globalisation is all there. We have exactly the same, particularly the clients I have typically global. And there are small examples that I've got where I've said, typically, if we do something great, of course it's all cakes in the office, in the office where we physically are, typically in the UK. On this one occasion I said, it's a global team. It's not just us celebrating, let's set up webcams, webcams for all the places that so the whole team can come together over a webcam environment. And we're all having cakes together. We had to time it, it had to be a bit more manipulated. Obviously it's not as, as spontaneous, but we had our moment where everybody shared cakes together in the virtual and the physical,

James Ashworth:

But that would become more of the culture that then you will get, if you do that, right. In that example, you will get the spontaneous ones within that business over time. That's what I mean. I don't think it's, I don't think it's part and parcel of how businesses operate now necessarily, but you do it once or twice or three times in the right way. Then it will become spontaneous because it's part of that culture. And part of that , um, part of what the people are doing rather than what the business is doing, I think they've got to take ownership of it. Haven't they?

Nina Dar:

We're on this two levels again, aren't we of that, the people and the business side of this, which as we move into our final question now, obviously the killer one . So how do you, how do you turn workplaces into fanbases?

James Ashworth:

I've been thinking about this? You might not like what I think , uh, I know we struggled with it at the time, but actually I don't think we can go out and tell people they can turn workplaces into fanbases. And it's the term that I've got an issue with. I don't think, I think maybe that's what the people we were talking to assumed we were asking them to do. They assumed, we asked , were asking them to turn things into something else and that's not actually what we were trying to do at all . So maybe it was just in the phrase that we were using. I think all we ever set out to do is in the same way, as a person who wants to love another person, you can't, you can't force that to happen. Really. You can create an environment where that's very likely to happen. You can do everything you can to kind of incubate that. And that is the environment we were trying to create. It's the environment that needs to happen. I think the workplaces that are doing it well now, the workplaces that do have fans in the sense of fandom that we mean they're not, they're not really implementing a huge amount they're listening and they're allowing things to happen. And they're not too scared about some things falling by the wayside in that, I think that's the difference

Nina Dar:

Really angry with you. You can't. I think that was sometimes part of the, the thought provoking moment. Wasn't it? When people said, I want to want to believe in this, but I can't. And it was, you know, we , we put fantastic presentations together and actually I'll also attach a link to the podcast so that people can see the lengths that we did go to to try and prove that you could do this, but we fell into that trap. We fell right there into trying to prove, even you'll see, on the slides, we tried to prove that you could get 20% more because we had to, we had to try and do that.

James Ashworth:

Yeah, yeah. That's yeah, yeah, you're right. You're right. But even now, as we're talking, that still makes sense. You can, but we had to try and prove it. Like it makes sense that it would, it would happen in the same way as you've got, you know , the 12th man , uh, in, in , uh , in football, it's the same mentality. It's that productivity it's that , um, combined power or , or more than the sum of the parts of a connected group of people, right. When you're dig into the fandom, that was part of it. The thing that we didn't really get across, I think was what you were talking about earlier the fan scale, where, when we were talking to people, everybody defaults to that die-hard fan and they don't think about all the other people in that stadium that they're picturing this die-hard fan in, the one who's covered in blue paint with two trumpets and all the bells, like there's a load of people around him who were just in their normal , uh , workwear they've come straight from work, but they'restill cheering as hard when it happens. And it's that group of people. And I think that scale is really important to understand that not everybody's in the same place in fandom. The other thing that I think really didn't that we really struggled with, or that we don't consider enough is that when we're talking about turning a workplace into a fund base , their fund base is already there, right? It's of the people are already there. All we're trying to do is surface that we're trying to connect them or build an environment where they can connect in something that's not just the conveyor belt that they're stood next to each other on to manufacture parts or , um, the part of desks that they're sat on or working on different screens. We're just creating an environment where they can connect as people.

Nina Dar:

Yeah. And it's so important that bit, that it is already there. And I think, again, there is a level that people jump to almost like it's an initiative that we are trying to create something new and we're not trying to create something new. We were always trying to say, the fans are already sat at their desks, but they come in different shapes and sizes. And actually in terms of the big conversations, diversity now is probably one of the biggest elements. A lot of heritage companies have to deal with, bring in making sure there is a good balance of people, skillsets , beliefs, bringing all that, making all that part of what it is to have a culture in the workplace now that is becoming increasingly more complicated and increasingly more important. And we I've always thought that as individuals, we bring our culture to the workplace, not the other way round , and it is turning some of these things on their heads and which really we tried to do, but I don't think the world was ready. I think you're right . And when, when we've had this lovely moment to look at it now to reflect back five years later, I think , uh, I don't know about you, you'll surprise me in a minute, but uh , for me, definitely, I thought, God, this has never been more relevant.

James Ashworth:

I agree. I was thinking the other day that when you look at how much more aligned the strongest brands in the world world are for unprompted recall and the best places to work in the world, are there more and more becoming the same companies in the top, obviously the top 10, but the top 20 top 50 top hundred. Whereas you think back Mercedes was always a love mark as a brand, but it was, it's a manufacturing company. It was never a place that would hit the top places to work. And that's the real shift I think in business over the last five, maybe a little bit longer, but definitely increased in the last five years, the affinity of , um , brands and also of places to work. And they're not necessarily the same people, the people working there are not necessarily consumers. And I think people can quickly jump to that and say, Oh , it's easy to love that brand, but it's, you know, it's manufacturing, but that's not really, that's not the case. Not all those brands are love marks . It's just that the brands are strong because the places to work are strong.

Nina Dar:

Yeah. And now if you're a high achiever, you want to work in these places, don't you.

James Ashworth:

And that's why they're becoming love marks. That's why they're becoming brands that people have affinity to is because they're associated with a brand you want to work for as well.

Nina Dar:

Yeah. So , our advice now, based on everything, our experiences where we've tried to gain , um, for this is to put the employee experience at the center.

James Ashworth:

Absolutely. Yeah. And that's, you said it easily there. And I think we presented it in a simplistic way, but there's so many different employees and so many different experiences. It's not a one person in the business that can implement this. This is the whole business, all functions being part of that, building that employee experience, isn't it?

Nina Dar:

Yeah, because I got frustrated and maybe still do actually, but I very in a very black and white way say, Oh, well, HR still have their hands all over this and that's why it's not working. Like it's a really negative thing.

James Ashworth:

Yeah, I , yeah. And , and I think that was right. And I think there's still a lot of that, but from my point of view, HR is still absolutely at the core of this. It's just that HR has kind of got to evolve a little bit, I think in some businesses. Um, so from my perspective and the companies I work with now, HR is there as a kind of an implementer, but as , as , um , connector as well. So they're looking at what else in the business do they need to connect into this to make it happen? It's not someone who's ordering personalized diaries or, you know, doing a world whatever day and bringing everyone together. And that's not that function anymore.

Nina Dar:

No , no. We're talking about a collective aren't we? It's everything, it's those , the meetings, the values, the teams, the company performance, the company image, the environment, every conversation that happens. It's that whole collective and how that comes together as an employee experience.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. How do they come through in that? Meetings is a great example. How's the meeting structure formatted. So the person comes through rather than it being another meeting the same as all the others. And I think that means a lot to people. You couldn't get away with having those things outside of the workplace because people just wouldn't turn up to them. I think that's the, that's the seriousness of it, isn't? It's that you can't get away with it outside of work. And yet work seems to be this forced place where you can implement all these things and people just have to do it cause they're gonna get paid at the end of it, but that's changing. So it's got to be reasons for people to turn up and the reasons they turn up is because they can add value to that and they can bring themselves through in that.

Nina Dar:

And we've always said, we want people to be as excited in work as they are when they leave work to go to that concert or to go to that sporting event.

James Ashworth:

Yeah. Even at lunch breaks, you see people who are working, working, working changes to one o'clock, whatever they're working on, drops to the bottom and they bring a website up and start looking at their favourite sports team. It's like they're two different people in the same place. And yeah. You know, there's, there's ways to get around that.

Nina Dar:

In summary, I guess the answer to our final question today, how do you turn a workplace into a f an b ase? Is You can't and that's from us who actually put our money w here our mouth was and tried to make it work. But the more important, u h, thing that we want everyone to take out of this podcast today is that you can definitely create the environment for that to flourish naturally.

James Ashworth:

Absolutely.

Nina Dar:

And that we all have a responsibility for making that happen in the same way that we do for whatever we are a fan of outside of work. It's been fantastic catching up with you, James. Let's see where this goes. Thank you.

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Narrator:

Thanks again to Nina's guest today. And thank you very much for listening to this episode of The Change Troubleshooter. Nina now invites you to carry on the conversation with her directly. Contact details can be found on her website, ninadar .com . Join us for the next episode in two weeks time. This has been a Sunsoaked Creative production.

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