In conversation with

Zoe Mallett

Business Culture Consultant



Meet Zoe Mallett. A culture consultant who has worked with iconic brands such as Heaps and Stacks, Nike, Lloyd’s, Soho House, and The Stack World on business culture, employee engagement, happiness, and wellbeing. Zoe’s goal is to create engaging work environments, where enjoying your job is the norm, not the exception. Why? Because happy employees are more productive and companies with a healthy culture report higher revenues. We spoke with Zoe to learn more about how companies can best embed their strategy in their company culture, her most recent projects, and how spending time and effort on culture can be a win-win.

Question and Answer

At Sonder & Tell we believe every brand is a story. The story of who you are in your customers’ lives and the positive impact you have on their world. What power do you think storytelling has in communicating and reinforcing a company’s culture?

It’s the buy-in from your employees. Brands work hard on ensuring their stories are heard and understood by their customers, so equal efforts need to be carried out internally with employees. The key to a successful company culture is making your employees feel psychologically safe and emotionally attached to whatever you’re selling. They have to believe the story of what you’re trying to build and the impact it has on its customers.

There are always going to be hard times in business and the landscape, and this is where powerful storytelling is required. You have to keep people on the journey, and be honest with the ups and the downs. As humans, we need security and honesty, we need to feel connected.

What’s your process for helping a company translate their purpose into a tangible culture strategy?

That’s easy! It’s about being open to letting go of your own narratives about the business  and hearing from everyone, at all levels. Learning about their own purposes, from a brand and personal level. Each one matters and, if not understood, it will affect the company culture. Then we look at business goals and targets, and finally which trends and patterns to blend into an overall strategy that is a live, reactive, working strategy, moving as the business and people move.

I often ask, what do your office snacks say about your brand? Do people really feel like your brand’s purpose is reflective of the internal day-to- day behaviours? Does the proposition to your customers feel the same to your employees? How do you welcome people into the office? We have to look into every angle, to truly build a memorable experience which naturally builds your culture.

When helping a business implement their strategy, how do you create a feeling of connection between the employees and the purpose of the company?

Psychologically, people need to feel like they’re being listened to and how they feel matters. Sometimes businesses might feel like there isn’t room for emotion and people have to act in a uniformed way, but most of us have the one goal to try and have an okay life. We’re all aiming for the same thing, so if companies can help people tap into that, they can grow an organic connection. We’re all here to do the same thing. How can we work together to make that happen? How can we support you to get to where you want to get to? How can you help us? How can we be in this together?

“Your culture is a feeling, a language. The values are there as prompts, but if the behaviours, language and feelings are in line with the culture, the values will naturally feel like they are being lived. ”

Can you share a recent project where you successfully rolled out a brand's strategy within the company? Which challenges did you face, and how did you solve them?

The average engagement level in the UK is one of the lowest in Europe, coming in at around 40-51%. I worked with an urban travel business recently where we reached 90%+ month on month with people feeling engaged and motivated. The challenge of this is that culture needs to be cared for every day. It’s not a find one strategy and that’s it, you have to be on hand for it to be reactive, on the pulse with decisions that are made, external factors, and people’s personal matters. It’s tricky to balance all of this. We reached this level because we created a culture where people felt comfortable sharing their feelings, always assumed up* and let people be who they are. The blend of these elements creates a healthy culture where people show up the best they can.

 *If you create real trust with employees, they will assume up rather than assume down. When something goes wrong, they’ll have full faith that leadership is on it, rather than assuming that leadership isn’t thinking about the wider team.

How do you evaluate the success of a culture strategy once implemented? Do you use any metrics to measure the results? And how do you make sure the culture and values are aligned?

Through collecting data via online surveys and feedback in 121s, workshops and culture sessions. I will then analyse across the board to see where shifts are being made, where the success has been, where there needs improvement, and if something isn’t working, how come it didn’t work, what was going on.

I feel like values are great but we shouldn’t get stuck or pigeon holed by them. Your culture is a feeling, a language. The values are there as prompts, but if the behaviours, language and feelings are in line with the culture, the values will naturally feel like they are being lived.

How do you stay informed about industry trends and best practices in culture consulting and employee engagement? Which approaches have you added to your work based on your insights?

Generally keeping tabs on the economy, social trends, etc, to help you understand how people are going to be affected day in and day out. The people are the most important element to analyse when it comes to culture. My background in psychology supports this, as I have the scientific knowledge of people’s emotions and behaviours. I’m also an accredited coach, therefore, the way I set up questions for teams helps us all understand each other on a deeper level.

Zoe's Storylist

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