Helping a top 100 UK law firm develop new values to underpin a high-performing culture in a recently merged organisation
During the pandemic, law firms Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged, creating a new regional powerhouse. The leadership team’s ambition to fill a gap between city and local firms, focusing on delivering expertise with empathy and care, meant Moore Barlow was not simply just another corporate law firm. So, creating a sense of belonging to the new entity was critical; key to success was placing a spotlight on culture, because no matter what synergies existed, two legacy firms merging brought different cultures and ways of working.
Moore Barlow reached out to culture and performance specialists, Dragonfish, to support the development, and activation of a new set of values and behaviours to deliver a new purpose and unite the firm. The project involved an inclusive approach, and building upon the strengths of the legacy firms, while looking to the future.
The approach embraced the following principles:
- Design the process to strengthen employee engagement, buy-in, and retention
- Adopt a top-down and bottom-up approach
- Discover behavioural strengths whilst identifying aspirational behaviours
- Give clear direction around ways of working to drive performance and growth
Dragonfish began by conducting internal and external research and speaking with senior stakeholders through a series of interviews. Following this, using some of the insights garnered from desktop immersion, Dragonfish connected with Moore Barlow’s people via an organisation-wide survey, which connected with 70% of the entire workforce. The internal culture survey used Dragonfish’s ‘Cracking the Culture Code’ research to better understand the links between people, brand, client, and performance. It also served to benchmark Moore Barlow’s culture against high-performing organisations, as well as setting an internal benchmark to measure impact. The survey provided an opportunity to engage all staff in creating the values and behaviours, ensuring everyone had the opportunity to contribute to shaping the culture.
Using the insights gathered in the discovery phase, key themes were distilled into territories to explore through staff co-creation workshops. In these workshops, the firm’s direction of travel was used to understand the behaviours that would enable a progressive culture. These sessions were also used to shape the Moore Barlow purpose – “making a difference”, the underlying reason why people come to work and why Moore Barlow exists.
Validation drop-in sessions ensured the values and behaviours resonated with staff across the firm. Participants were asked to give specific, real-world examples of the values and behaviours in action, capturing a portfolio of stories. A train-the-trainer approach was employed to enable Moore Barlow culture champions to extend the reach of engagement.
The final set of values and behaviours which were action-led and emotive:
Following final validation with core project team members, the new values and behaviours were signed-off and preparation began for launch. Led by senior partner, Trevor Sterling, the values launched through a firm-wide presentation. To optimise and harness the spirit of collaboration, the first in-person company event following the pandemic was utilised as an opportunity to come together and celebrate the new values.
To support launch and encourage deeper conversations, a leader’s toolkit and team discussion guide was produced. To embed the values into the everyday experience, Dragonfish worked with Moore Barlow to create an implementation roadmap and supporting communications plan through project team co-creation sessions. The moments that matter in employee experiences were identified as opportunities to dial-up the values. The roadmap also considered how the values could be used as a lens for business planning, decision-making, and policy development (the firm has subsequently reviewed their expenses and menopause policies through the culture and values).
The programme received a high level of employee engagement; it brought people together across the firm, created a sense of belonging, energy, and excitement about the future. From a strategic perspective, the values and behaviours will support Moore Barlow’s purpose – ‘to make a difference,’ and in doing so, increase client lifetime value and reputation.
Ed Whittington, Managing Partner said: “It feels like we’ve been one business for 20 years, not 20 months. This is solely down to our work on cementing the firm’s new values and behaviours which have been tremendously well received right across the business. Our focus on culture from the outset meant that we identified the right partner in Dragonfish and began working on our journey towards cultural integration and with a clear sense of purpose and direction. I can’t thank the team enough for their hard work and support.”
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