When Mark Wells joined software consultancy Cogent as CEO in 2016, he knew that putting culture first was the path to continued success. With a small but mighty team of 30 people (and growing) one of his first actions as CEO was using the Culture Amp platform to collect, analyze and understand employee feedback.
Communication across the business was a challenge, especially with people working off-site at clients. “My understanding as the CEO of how people feel about issues is compromised by that lack of physical cohabitation. The survey is particularly useful for getting an understanding of what is impacting people,” says Wells.
“The company was in a really good shape when I arrived, but I felt it could be better. I just didn’t know what to focus on. Implementing Culture Amp gave me the information to work out how we could improve ourselves, both as an employer brand but also as a customer brand.”
Creating and communicating a motivating vision
In Cogent’s first survey, the question: Leadership has communicated a vision that motivates me, came up as an area of focus for Wells. Wells says, “In some ways I already understood that, but it gave me something more specific to work towards. I started to create a vision, mission and purpose statement, then connected that with every day actions of all Cogent people.”
Creating this statement was tricky, according to Wells. “Because we’re a consultancy, what we do in our every day is often more aligned with our customers than it is with each other at Cogent. Often we’re delivering their vision not our vision,” he explains.
However, that didn’t stand in the way for long. “I spent time talking to our people and the shareholders, to clarify what it was we did that people were proud of. This emerged as the ‘craft’ we apply to local businesses to help them grow. The word ‘maker’ emerged from the idea of craft, whilst ‘novel’ came from our desire to work on unique and complex problems. ‘Loved’ was about the care and deep relationships we have with our customers.”
Cogent’s recently unveiled vision is to be Melbourne’s most loved maker of novel digital businesses.
Connecting the company vision to daily actions
At a company offsite, the people of Cogent got together to explore this vision and resolidify the core services they offer to customers. In small cross-functional teams, people created (quite comical) video promotions to articulate the key offerings of Cogent. Wells says it was this work that got everyone to on board with how the day to day work they do impacts their company vision.
In order to track progress towards achieving their new vision, Cogent created a measurement. They analysed all projects and scored them based on how much influence they are having on the business outcomes as a benchmark of success as a “maker.” “We’ve been measuring that and communicating that on a quarterly basis to everyone. We have been growing this consistently in the last 18 months,” says Wells.
Since their first survey in July 2016, agreement with the statement, “Leadership has communicated a vision that motivates me” has risen by an impressive 41 percentage points. It’s not just Wells that is celebrating this achievement. “At my board meetings the results of our engagement surveys are discussed more than my financial results. Engagement is the outcome of all of the culture-first related actions we take. When we get that right, the financial results follow. Our month-on-month revenues have grown ahead of our engagement scores,” says Wells.