Marsh & McLennan (MMC) is the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people with an annual turnover of almost $17 billion and approximately 76,000 employees in 130 countries. MMC’s four subsidiaries – Marsh, Guy Carpenter, Oliver Wyman, and Mercer – help clients navigate safely in an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. Mergers and acquisitions are key to MMC’s growth strategy. With three substantial acquisitions in the recent past, the most recent almost doubling the scale of the business in the UK, Mercer found the challenge of differing legacy cultures a potential barrier to realising the value from the acquisitions.
Following the recent major acquisition which coincided with restructuring and rebranding, Mercer in the UK needed to create an integrated culture to unite the 4,500 colleagues as part of one business. The culture transformation project focused on Mercer’s UK business which works with clients to deliver solutions to their investment and retirement, health and benefits, workforce and career transaction challenges. Whilst the acquisitions expanded the firm’s reach with clients, they also provided an opportunity to reinvent and reposition the firm, to better reflect the value that clients recognise and the reasons that they come back for more. The challenge was to find one way to describe culture at Mercer and to embed this in how colleagues behave recognising that legacy cultures were deeply embedded in different businesses and their sub-parts; global rebranding work was happening concurrently; and a new leadership team with a new strategy created an opportunity.
The approach took place in 3 phases: Shaping the culture; Embedding it and then Living it. In the initial Shaping phase, regular leadership alignment sessions set the tone from the top. Culture analysis through focus groups with employees at different levels and from all four legacy companies, identified cultural drivers and barriers to change. Co-creation of the new culture development involved 140 volunteer “Culture Influencers”. There was a huge focus on simplifying the language and personalising the message, as well as integrating the way the external brand commitments and internal culture behaviours were described to colleagues.
The Leadership team and Culture Influencers chose the following Culture Commitments. The choice of words were designed to enable the celebration of success and validation of why someone has ‘been bold’ for example in their decision making. It has also helped hold people accountable if they are not working in line with the culture.
We have a clear purpose for all we do – There is a reason behind everything we do and we push the boundaries to deliver even more. We are clear about what we need to achieve. We take pride in the contribution each of us makes to our success as a team.
We are nimble yet decisive – We keep things simple and make quick decisions. We are curious about new ideas, take risks and are prepared to learn quickly if we do not succeed. We encourage each other to be bold, to innovate, and to try new things.
We do what we say we will – When we say we will deliver, we do. Every time. We share knowledge readily because it helps deliver the best result. We recognise and reward contribution and results fairly and consistently.
We trust we can succeed as a team – We bring the best people into every client relationship so we can always deliver the whole firm. We trust in each others ability to take ownership and deliver. We are accountable to each other for our actions and decisions.
We care about each other – We respect all our clients and colleagues and encourage everyone to be themselves at work. We give each other feedback so we all learn and grow. We celebrate successes and have fun together in our work.
The Culture Influence Team (CIT) comprised members from across the whole business and in each office location. There was an initial face to face workshop in London with them and the UK Leadership Team (UKLT), including a ‘Fishbowl’ discussion which enabled CIT members to ask burning questions of the UKLT in front of everyone.
At the Embedding stage, a 2-year implementation roadmap was developed to enable everyone to understand the journey. CIT members acted as role models and multipliers for the new culture, with Mercer leaders empowering them to envisage, plan and execute launch activities that suited local populations. In total over 30 experience-based launches were held to introduce the new culture, allowing people to seek feedback and discuss next steps. These covered all UK locations and were attended by over 4,000 employees. Tools used at these were designed to address both rational understanding and emotional excitement, including a video message recorded by the UKLT. Pledges and feedback were captured from all attendees.
Phase 3 was all about Living the culture and maintaining focus and momentum. In many ways the examples here highlight the key outcomes of the initiative. At this stage, defined communications were used to activate different target groups and culture updates were incorporated into all UK comms. A Culture Compass toolkit was developed as a practical tool for local teams to use including detailed information and slide decks for culture activities such as workshops and team meetings. It was absolutely key to empower leaders locally, supported by their local CIT member, in order to encourage natural adoption. The aim was to integrate culture into BAU activities to ensure it was anchored in all interactions and behaviours. Following the experience day launch, each office CIT was given a summary of their pledges and feedback so they had a basis to start their monthly meetings.
From the onset of Covid-19, the new values were fully played out. A Mercer Buddy initiative was set up for colleagues to talk to another colleague from across the business who was in a similar home situation. Colleagues have felt more supported and able to open up to someone that isn’t in their team or business area. A Mercer-wide Culture Challenge was set up for colleagues to show what the culture meant to them. Entries could be in any format and had to be posted on Totem, Mercer’s internal social site, also launched at the onset of Covid to connect employees working from home. Colleagues have posted about client and team stories and successes; fitness and wellbeing activities; and even their family and pets.
Mercer have launched many free client webinars to guide and support businesses. A ‘Wellbeing & Culture Shift’ webinar led by Nick McClelland saw the external launch of the new culture for the first time. Client websites were also set up very quickly to support companies in navigating the hard times ahead, along with many communications offering practical guidance to help businesses meet the challenges of recovery. A new digital Client Experience Measurement (CEM) survey was designed for Clients who don’t receive a full CEM, in order to harness their feedback. The consists of 5 questions, is quick and “on brand”, and the results enable detailed analysis. Prior to Mercer’s new value of being Bold/trying new things, this initiative would have taken a long time to come to fruition.
MMC have been quick, consistent and empathetic with their communications to employees during Covid. For their safety, colleagues were told to work from home before this was officially announced by the government. Dan Glaser (MMC CEO) sent videos to staff and their families stressing they must look after themselves, with sick days not counted through the pandemic, as well as MMC’s commitment to job security. A fund was set up with $5 million to support colleagues in financial difficulty. During Easter holidays and May half term, a free activity pack was sent to all colleagues and clients, particularly to support working parents with children. Mercer ensured all colleagues had the right working from home equipment straight away and colleagues were able to quickly order screens and have chairs delivered. The company also offered 3 weeks of Pranayama and yoga classes for all colleagues, as well as other wellbeing fitness classes. Colleagues even set up their own fitness classes for colleagues to join over Zoom. Support for colleagues’ health and wellbeing during the pandemic has been at the forefront.
The value ‘We care about each other’ has come to life more than ever through the pandemic. Teams have pulled together, held coffee mornings, Friday night drinks and generally looked out for each other. The CIT have played a key role in ensuring colleagues were kept updated in each of the offices. They re-shared key people communications, set up quizzes, games and general ‘how are we all’ group chats, creating a true #OneMercer feel. Mercer’s CEO Sylvia has sent daily communications to colleagues, also clear and empathetic, with links to the most important practical support and information for colleagues, their teams and their clients.
Colleagues at Mercer have been buzzing about the culture journey. An overview of key outcomes includes a common definition of culture at Mercer UK; a hugely successful launch of the new culture involving over 4,000 employees, creating excitement, interest and engagement due to the innovative launch style. Pledges and commitments at launch were evidence of people’s real intent to change. The new culture has been anchored through leadership commitment and tangible culture activities, enabling local leaders to embrace the culture in their own way. During the journey, the empowered community of over 140 volunteer Culture Influencers was established, all of whom are passionate, energetic and inclusive, reflecting core cultural values. The language and sentiment of the new culture has been reflected in people processes and policy; client activities and recruitment throughout Mercer UK. Colleague engagement and retention levels have also improved and the framework for behavioural expectations is now clear to everyone. Rebranding Mercer globally has created a common way to talk about how they deliver value for their clients.