How a cultural shift unlocked the gateway to measurable growth for P+HS Architects

Growth is a common ambition of many businesses but can often be stifled and complicated by cultural issues – and it’s hard to measure accurately. Internal communication, staff development and alignment of mission and values frequently derail the best laid plans and require careful handling for effective resolution.

P+HS Architects, a well-established firm serving Leeds, Newcastle and Teesside for over 40 years, has grown to a workforce of nearly 100. However, the leadership team recognised that the systems it was using had not evolved with the business.

Results on how People Puzzles helped P+HS Architects in the last 12 months
Impact People Puzzles has had on measurable growth

“We were using the same systems and practices as when we had 20-25 people. Those practices were no longer fit for purpose.” Director, James Almond. Dissatisfaction among staff became increasingly apparent. From inconsistent reward and recognition and career development opportunities to a lack of management training, it was clear things needed to change. “People were grumbling that others weren’t doing what they were supposed to do,” says James. “But those expectations hadn’t been communicated.”

In February 2022, P+HS brought in People Puzzles’ Vic Foster to help develop and implement an effective people strategy to build the foundations for successful growth.

One year later, the results speak for themselves. Retention and opportunities for promotion are up, absenteeism is down, headcount has increased despite huge market challenges, and female representation at Director level is up by 100%.

Here’s how they did it.

Business mission alignment to streamline productivity

“People didn’t really know what the values were before because they hadn’t been embedded,” says James. “Now, if you ask, they know, which keeps us all on the same page.”

  • Revisited business mission, vision and values with senior team to ensure relevance
  • Established day-to-day ways to bring these to life
  • Introduced an internal communications plan via consultant to roll out across the company
  • Improved internal comms via planned meetings, discussions, newsletters and emails

Increasing staff retention through career mapping

“People can now see routes through to directorship that weren’t apparent before,” says James. “It’s important to us that people don’t feel they are in a box with nowhere to go. We’ve had people here for 10, 20 and even 35 years as well as people who’ve left and come back. Everyone is on a different journey, and we don’t want to lose good people.”

  • Focus on personal accountability for career development through introduction of new HR system, HiBob
  • Staff can now manage their own personal information, communications, recognition and performance management process ongoing, with training provided to each Studio Principal
  • Easy to identify skills gaps, track training plans and understand and work towards people’s career aspirations through “progression pathways”

Learning and development

“Highly engaged staff will always be good for business,” says James. “This system allows people to create opportunities for themselves and take themselves forward.”

While architects all undertake CPD (continuing professional development), it doesn’t necessarily cover the specific challenges of managing a team or presenting ideas. “Presenting is a big part of what we do,” says James. “People come in as qualified professionals but aren’t always trained to engage with people.”

  • Training sessions for managers and team leaders on effective performance management
  • Aligned with P+HS’s vision and mission and focusing on behaviours that demonstrate values
  • Introduced coaching culture to inspire confidence in client meetings and presentations
  • Created a supportive, non-competitive environment to present ideas through “open mic” events

The right rewards to motivate staff

The leaders at P+HS felt that the current rewards platform for employees was not providing value for money. With Vic’s support, the office manager explored other options and secured a new platform that would be used more widely by employees and introduced a wellbeing calendar with a wider pool of mental health champions, ensuring that people at all levels of the business had a peer they could talk to.

A cultural shift for forward momentum

Collectively, these actions have contributed to a shift in behaviour at P+HS. “There’s now much more of a culture of connecting with people,” says James. “Before, people didn’t want to put their head above the parapet. Encouraging more honesty and thought leadership was a challenge at first, but it’s really been noticed by people who’ve been out of the business over the past year and come back.”

“We need people to be empowered to take opportunities when they find them. They can do this by talking to people, being personal and being inquisitive. Some people find it scary, but we have tried to make it not a scary thing to do. Being able to articulate your ideas is a skill, as is inspiring the confidence from the client and your team that you can deliver.”

The right foundations for growth

With an aligned workforce committed to reaching understood goals, P+HS Architects is now positioned for further growth.

“I feel like a weight has been lifted,” said James. “We are all on the same page now and working towards the right goals which has really improved focus and engagement. The change is really noticeable.”

Focusing on a longer-term people strategy with Vic’s expert guidance has helped the firm prepare for future success, with improved communication and staff motivation at its core. A great people strategy will help pave the way to achieve the overarching business ambitions and keep the best people on board for the ride.

If you’d like a People Director to ease the growing pains in your business, find out more about how we help your business to drive change and deliver growth. Call 0345 646 5201 or email [email protected] for a chat.

Portfolio People Director, Vic Foster
Portfolio People Director, Vic Foster

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