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Building company culture in the age of remote working - DWP Digital

Manchester Digital recently asked some of our members how they have gone about building and maintaining company culture since the sudden move to remote working brought about the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020.

We caught up with DWP Digital as they reflected on the measures they've implemented over the past year and look ahead to the future. 

It’s been over a year since the majority of DWP Digital employees moved to working from home. Like many other organisations, we’re currently exploring what the future will look like in terms of time spent in the office.

Collaborative technologies have successfully enabled colleagues to effectively work together and keep in touch with their teams. But with an organisation of our size, there was a risk of people working from home to perhaps feel isolated and detached from our overarching ambitions.

Our digital culture has always been focused on working in the open, collaboration, shared understanding and showing the thing. We wanted to maintain that, despite the physical barriers we were now encountering. We needed a way of keeping our 4,000 strong team of digital specialists   connected to our department’s unique goals, in a way that motivated and inspired.

So in Autumn 2020, our Digital With Purpose virtual events were born. 

Taking a hybrid approach

Our Digital Engagement team designed the events with the aim of delivering our digital ambitions, sharing information about how we work and enabling people to learn from each other. 

Making the most of the newly introduced Microsoft Teams live events, the team opted for a hybrid approach. Operating out of a COVID secure venue in Leeds, sessions were live streamed to colleagues working from their homes across the country.

In order to give colleagues flexibility, four three-hour events were held over various days in October and November 2020. And in conjunction with the events, we ran six focused workshops (again four times) to enable attendees to get to find out more about an exciting area of work taking place in the organisation. 

Digital With Purpose

We chose the theme Digital With Purpose, as it shows how we aim to transform services not by default, but where there is a benefit to do so for our customers. Our work helps to improve millions of people’s lives each year, and we wanted our digital teams to be reminded of the crucial role they play. 

A series of lighting talks were delivered as part of the events which included topics such as our use of data, our hybrid cloud journey, accessibility, automation, transformation and decommissioning legacy services. All the sessions brought the main message back home: that our work in DWP Digital really matters. 

Fireside chats with leaders from the wider Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) helped to put our work in context. During these one-on-one conversations around a virtual fireside, senior leaders shared their personal experiences of working through the pandemic, their challenges and their aims for the future. 

Workshops offered a deep dive into main priorities for the year ahead, with sessions on ways of working, architecture, innovation, APIs, digital ambitions and improving customer experience.

530 colleagues attended one of the four main virtual events, with 100% saying it helped them understand our priorities, 96.8% saying it helped them understand their role in delivering the priorities, and 93.5% saying the event helped them stay connected to other colleagues. 

Feedback from colleagues was positive: 

  • “I admit to a sense of fatigue in this new phase of lockdown. This event has been the reboot I needed and I just feel really re-energised with so much more to do.”

  • “Great event and very honest/open chats with senior leaders helps make you feel more connected to the bigger picture.”

Spring series

The positive impact that the Digital With Purpose events had on our company culture during these uncertain times led to us organising a second round of events in Spring 2021. 

This time held over two days, these events again featured fireside chats, keynote speakers and lightning talks. 

Timed to coincide with the new financial year, they were a perfect opportunity for leaders to give an update on our priorities and ambitions for the year ahead, and reflect on the previous year. 

Almost 700 colleagues attended the Spring events, and again led to lots of positive feedback: 

“Always enjoyable hearing our leaders and others talk about where we are now and where they see us being. And to remind us why we're here.”

“The passion shown by all of the speakers, and being able to reflect on what we have achieved as an organisation at such pace, and also an insight into the future.”

The future of engagement?

We all agree that 2020 was a year like no other. In DWP Digital the challenges we were faced with led to new opportunities, with this virtual approach to engagement being one of them.

We’d never been able to host a full team event, due to the size of our organisation, so being able to do so virtually is fantastic for us. It’s helping to bring our people together like never before and with fantastic outcomes. 

And as we move to the future and bring around 1,000 colleagues into the organisation this summer from our digital services provider, we’ll be able to use this virtual approach to ensure that everyone feels welcomed, valued and part of the team. 

The future of work looks very different from what we all would have expected just over 12 months ago. But in DWP Digital we’ve shown how well we can adapt and continue to build a strong work culture whether we’re in the office or in our homes.

To find out about careers at DWP Digital, click here.

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