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Home > About us > Leadership blogs > Being invested in our team – what I learnt

Being invested in our team – what I learnt

March 2024

Alison Knocker, People Services Director

Money is not the only motivator for teams.

Certainly, it’s an important aspect of the full package of employee benefits.

But in my experience happiness and working for an organisation that really speaks to their values is what really matters to people and contributes significantly to their overall wellbeing both at work and at home.

So, when I joined the financial mutual, OneFamily, just over two years ago as its Human Resources Director I was keen to see what their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) looked like.

As you might expect, from a mutual, there was a focus on the people - who are right at the heart of the business. But it needed a refresh, to be looked at closely to see if it was still fit for purpose.

OneFamily had just had a change of leadership and had launched its Inspiring Better Futures vision. This vision seeks to improve the financial wellbeing of those who need our services the most, whilst also supporting communities and the wider environment for everyone’s benefit.

"We needed our biggest cheerleaders – our team - right behind us"

It’s fair to say that these changes had led to a shift in self-perception towards that of a modern, growth-focused mutual, one that’s heart is firmly looking to benefiting its members but with a head resolutely focused on the commercial marketplace.

With this renewed vigour and emphasis on growth we wanted to get to the next level of pace, urgency and innovation. And, for that, we needed our biggest cheerleaders – our team - right behind us.

This was also an organisation that was about to embark on a significant change programme and modernisation. But when I looked at the stated values, they felt totally generic. They were all very worthy, but they didn’t mean anything to anybody, and no-one could even tell me what they were.

It was as if they’d been picked off a shelf and they could have just as easily have applied to ICI or British Airways – they didn’t represent who we are and what we’re all about.

As you can see from our vision, OneFamily is an organisation with a wonderful social purpose. So, my starting point was to really harness that, to make sure that every one of my colleagues understood it and that it meant something to everyone. Our values needed to encapsulate who we are at our core and what we represent.

Fortunately, there was a willingness from the top to make the changes that were needed, to fit better with the organisation that we had become, but also to allow us to be ambitious and to grow.

We needed to be overt in showing that we value our colleagues, to demonstrate that we are a thoughtful and caring employer. But most of all we wanted to engage with people’s hearts and minds, to deserve their loyalty and commitment – which is something you must earn.

And to do that you need a happy team.

If you can do all those things then you really have struck gold, because engaged people will go the extra mile and will push the company forward.

"We needed to be overt in showing that we value our colleagues, to demonstrate that we are a thoughtful and caring employer"

I knew that I needed specialist help with this, I wasn’t going to try to muddle through when it was so important to the future of the business. It’s something you only get one go at; if you get it wrong there’s no coming back from it. So, we brought in Initial CX to rethink our EVP from the ground up.

To ensure this was a fully collaborative process, we set up an internal team that consulted our colleagues alongside Initial CX. As you can imagine, there were many, many meetings.

But what the consultants did was to speak to people from across the business, to gain perspectives from colleagues at all levels – which was crucial.

Importantly, they listened, and in doing so they picked up from one member of the team the phrase ‘dynamic mutual’ to describe us as a forward moving organisation.

It fitted perfectly with who we are and our growth strategy.

Over the course of our conversations, they developed the concept of ‘invested’ which applies in so many ways to who we are and what we are about – we’re invested in our people and their wellbeing, we’re invested in innovation and we’re invested in personal development.

The concept meant so much to us as we sought to redefine our relationship with our team - who we want to be as invested in the business as we are in them.

Our values were re-envisioned to three words that encapsulate everything OneFamily is and everything we want our team to be – principled, courageous and effective.

But it wasn’t just words. We’re looking at career pathways so that people can visualise where their role could take them within the organisation – if they want to work in a different part of the business then we will support them in identifying the skills that they need.

We have a leadership development programme and a women specific development programme that seeks to grow confidence and build our talent pool from within.

We’ve also relaunched our rewards package which includes a medical cashback benefit and high-street discounts to encourage take-up by colleagues.

Recognition of those in the business who go that extra mile is crucial - the people who live our values - so there is now a way for colleagues to acknowledge their colleagues and we are launching an awards process too.

We’re also looking at a refreshed ED&I and Wellbeing policy to ensure that our colleagues feel listened to and comfortable to bring their true selves to work – and as part of this we’re setting up new diversity networks.

We recognise that we’re an organisation of diverse people, so we’re looking at people as individuals - who they are and what it takes for them to thrive, what is best for them and their particular set of skills, life experience and circumstances.

We want to make sure that people are in the right role for them, with the necessary skills that they need and that they are being remunerated appropriately.

It’s a big piece of work, that means looking at each and every job alongside performance management and then thinking does this work? What can we do better? But it’s absolutely crucial to getting the best from our team and, with this kind of project, you need to give it one hundred percent. There’s no room for half measures.

"Our values were re-envisioned to three words that encapsulate everything OneFamily is and everything we want our team to be – principled, courageous and effective"

But this is just the start. This is not a case of ‘right that’s that box ticked’ – this is going to be an ongoing process and it’s one that I’m very excited about.

What I’ve learnt:

  • You need absolute commitment from the people at the very top of the organisation.
  • People in the most junior of roles often have the most important voices.
  • Win over the managers, you’ll need their support to implement change within their teams – whether that’s through effective appraisals, objective setting, recognising talent or even in the way that they hold their meetings.
  • Change takes time, and sometimes people need a little bit of help to adjust.
  • If you can, get a specialist in – you only have one chance at this.

Alison Knocker is OneFamily's People Services Director

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