Project name: co-creating the Santander Way

Objectives: to kick-start a new, positive culture that can sustain positive business performance

The issue they were trying to solve

Following a challenging merger-acquisition process and the fallout from the financial crisis, Santander were struggling with inconsistency in the quality of their services, and behavioural expectations were not always clear. They wanted to co-create a shared, positive culture and a new way of guiding the business that was less about formal control and more about principles of personal leadership – where clarity of vision, values, behaviours and goals can empower people to exercise initiative and adaptability.

Why Clever Together?

Clever Together had recently helped one of Santander’s organisational development teams to think differently about staff engagement. Given our broader focus on culture and behaviour change, and our low price points, compared to the “usual suspect” agencies, they chose to give our young agency a shot – they commissioned us as partners to help kick-start a culture change process for the UK bank.

Our journey together

Working with the CEO’s office:

  • We helped to write a narrative to tell the story about the need to engage and involve staff in the creation of key strategic choices – especially vision, goals and values.
  • We designed and hosted three business-wide online workshops for 28,000 staff and helped the bank to activate these with creative physical outreach and digital communications.
  • We aggregated data from staff surveys and other audits of performance.
  • This meant we captured the lived experience, ideas, comments and votes from over 50% of staff regarding:
    • the type of Bank staff wanted Santander to become – our analysis and facilitation revealed a new, shared vision;
    • what needed to be stopped, started or done differently to achieve the new shared vision – our analysis and facilitation revealed four overarching objectives and a series of sub objectives, measures and action areas;
    • the type of behaviour they should expect and not tolerate from their colleagues – our analysis and facilitation revealed a new set of behavioural standards that:
      1. staff wanted to see up-held across the entire business, and
      2. reveal support for the CEO’s belief that the bank could achieve its vision if it was committed to being simple, personal and fair in all that it does – this re-wrote the values of the entire UK operation; and
    • what needed to be stopped, started or done differently to bust bureaucracy – revealing millions of pounds worth of new savings opportunities.
  • We helped convert these results into the “Santander Way” – a compass and behavioural matrix – that was used as a leadership tool:
    • to set a clear shared direction,
    • to guide and inspire the right choices at all levels of the business,
    • to course-correct the business when things don’t quite go to plan.
  • We shared counsel on how to embed the Santander Way throughout the business – made dramatically easier by the fact staff felt they had co-created it, for example by:
    • redefining staff recognition and development;
    • refreshing the staff engagement approach and brand – giving birth to “Santander Is You”; and
    • embedding our crowdsourcing methods and a 24/7 digital suggestion box into their tool suite to keep staff informed, involved and inspired in the future of the business.

The legacy and impact of our work

In short, we helped the bank to co-create the Santander Way, a platform for culture change and business performance improvement, whilst building a new innovation engine and staff comms platform to tap the collective intelligence of their people. The legacy of our partnership with the CEO’s office and OD teams at Santander UK was felt at a number of levels, some of these include:

  • We helped to redefine and reboot the Santander UK brand – their values ‘Simple, Personal, Fair’ became the strapline of the business.
  • At the time of writing this case study, our methods and tech had been used for 5 years as an integral part of their improvement, innovation and staff engagement work.
  • One of our key contacts at Santander UK was promoted and made responsible for global culture, rolling out the Santander Way across the world to all 202,000 colleagues across the Santander Group.
  • Millions of pounds of savings have been identified and implemented.
  • The pace of improvement projects increased as did the capacity for improvement.
  • Customer processes have been made much simpler and much more personal.
  • Staff reported significantly more clarity and belief in the business – retention improved along with employability rankings compared to other UK banks.