Creating a Cultural Change at Hardwick

Published : Wed 15th Aug Author : Denise Edwards

I’m Denise Edwards, and I’m the General Manager here at Hardwick Hall. Like every National Trust place or space, we want every visitor to have unforgettable experiences, to feel involved in what we do and feel like this is their place to explore and enjoy. Here at Hardwick Hall, we want to help them discover the lives, loves and adventures of the creators of Hardwick. But how do we make sure that we’re being brilliant every day? Well, it starts with our brand new service promise: to be proud representatives of the Trust and listen to people, to share stories with them and help them to make the most of their visit. Here at Hardwick Hall, we’re one of 40 properties leading the way with its roll-out. But how do we make sure it happens? How do we make sure that everyone who visits our wonderful place has an incredible experience?

It’s all about people

First off, we need to recruit the right people. I want everyone in my team – that’s staff and volunteers - to deliver exceptional customer care everyday – and without even realising it! This means that anyone we take on has to live and breathe customer service. So we started by changing the wording we use in our job adverts to reflect our new customer service vision. We’ve also carried it through to our recruitment days. Our new service promise is all about being brilliant representatives of the Trust and listening to people, sharing stories with them and helping them to make the most of their visit. So we start every recruitment day by telling candidates about it. We also base our interview questions more on customer service skills than technical proficiency. And we ask candidates to describe their own experiences of excellent customer care and how it felt to receive it. That’s a really new thing for us!

Making change happen

I’m not a fan of standing around lecturing large groups of people on how we’ll deliver our new service promise. So I don’t. I try to inspire my team, rather than tell them. When you want to initiate cultural change, I think it’s good to try something new. If it doesn’t work I’ll go back to the drawing board, but I feel that as a pilot property we should take the chance to do something new and different and make it feel special. Our House and Collections Manager, Nigel Wright and our Visitor Experience Manager, Emily Rapley, have both committed to delivering 30 minute workshops to teams across the property two or three days every week. Anyone from any team can attend and because they are confident and good at delivering the Service Promise, the behaviours are permeating through all the teams, staff and volunteers. The property Senior Management Team have all committed to delivering short workshops within their teams over coffee once a week or as part of their daily briefings so that the language of the Service Promise becomes familiar.

The challenges ahead

We need to make sure that it doesn’t feel like another workshop or training session that has to be delivered or sat through. And we need to follow it up – and keep following it up. It’s about changing mindsets. In the past, some National Trust staff may not have had much experience of delivering high class customer care and we’re asking them to behave in a totally new way. That’s a challenge. Cultural change doesn’t happen overnight, it always takes time and we should be looking for long-term results. I’m aiming to see clear change and improvement by the summer next year.

Leading the way

It’s extremely important that all change comes from me and my senior management team. We need to demonstrate the behaviours we want to see from all of our staff and volunteers. It’s all about cultural change and leadership. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be part of the project: I wanted to be part of the group that created and shaped the service promise as I feel it’s essential for our ongoing success. So yes, I’m probably a bit biased but I think the new service promise is brilliant in every way! It’s an exemplary project because it has managed to involve properties, consultancy and Whole Trust - led by someone with energy and enthusiasm. Jonathan has been truly inspirational to us all and I’m happy to say the new service promise is working. We are really seeing the difference in our VE scores now that we are delivering it on a regular basis. Let’s keep up the momentum everyone!

Want to be part of this? Join the team at your local National Trust property, simply search 'jobs' in your location.