A huge part of creating a positive company culture is taking the time to create company values that people really align with. This comes from paying attention to what matters to employees and making them feel included, which has been the mission of Louisa Hogarty, Group HR Director at Noble Foods Ltd.
Louisa sat down with Luke James, Co-host of The Interview, to discuss how she creates an inclusive culture at every stage of the business.
I have been at Noble Foods for around six years. It is the UK’s largest egg packer and the third-largest compound feed miller. We are across the UK and have around 1,400 employees.
I've been in Human Resources for twenty years, starting in retail and hospitality. I went through many retailers beginning with Sainsbury’s, then going into a garden centre group, starting as a business partner and becoming head of HR.
I then went into retail hospitality, and I loved it; we really put people at the heart of what we did. I then went to work for Gu, which was part of Noble Foods, and that led me to the opportunity to step up to this role.
My current role is very different because I’m on the manufacturing side, rather than people-facing, so I’m more attached to the product than the service aspect.
When you're dealing with the end consumer directly, you can drive the experience through the customer directly and link customer satisfaction to your People Agenda. In manufacturing, it's much harder; we are trying to create that culture, but we do not necessarily have those correlations that make it easier to sell it to your people and measure.
Culture is: what do I feel when I get up and go to work in the morning; do I feel part of something, do I feel I belong, and does it align with the beliefs that I hold — do they work in harmony with my belief system? If you can implement values that are truly lived, people sign up for that and align with it; it either engages you, or it doesn't.
The more clear we are with our values and the more we live them every day, the clearer we can make to people what they can expect when they are working here.
I've worked in environments where I thought I could work within values that didn't align with my own, and it's only through working against my own value set that I realised just how exhausting and difficult it is. The more clear we are with our values and the more we live them every day, the clearer we can make to people what they can expect when they are working here. Hopefully, if they are aligned with that, then they get the energy and engagement from being a part of that culture.
Our business is really diverse; our culture in different branches of the company varies hugely. We all have microcultures within our overall culture, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing because we have local community ties and local teams, and they are empowered to have their own small families within our company. The thread that links us all together, however, has to be the values that are felt across the group. For me, it's not about fitting everyone into a mould; everyone will take different things from our values, but what underpins them is that we care. Caring is really centric to what we stand for; our purpose is to better nourish people, animals, and planet, and that is something we can all really easily sign up to. As leaders, we did not decide our company values; our people told us, so they are really real.
At the moment, we aren’t putting out huge diversity agendas as you would find in a larger multinational company; we don't have separate groups set up, but what we do have is a focus on how to engage people through better communication, how we create that sense of belonging and ownership of that sense of belonging. We introduced Workplace, which is a Meta product for work, and we historically were more traditional in communications using posters, notice boards, and written words, so this is a seismic shift to a social media platform, but it's important that communication is available to everyone.
So through that, we host ‘Talk to Duncan’ every couple of months — Duncan is our CEO, and he will go live and answer questions from across the entire company. We actively encourage people to ask questions there, and everyone can choose if they want to engage; if they do, the chance is there. We’ve also made a push for more connection too, where people can connect over things that they have in common outside of work too.
Similarly to many companies, we do have a lot more men in our business than women, but we are female-owned, and while our board isn’t quite 50/50, it nearly is, and hopefully, it will be one day. We certainly have a lot of female role models at the top.
We do see more imbalance across leadership roles, but our Noble Leaders Group has got far more women coming through. It’s not as simple as recruiting to fill gaps, we have to challenge ourselves to have a 50/50 shortlist when we can, and we do what we can to be true to that. We’re also looking at recruiting from the earlier career stages too, which is really promising.
For me, it’s about leading by example. We learn and grow as well as encourage others, and there is something so different about us doing it compared to speaking about it. Just recently, our CEO and some of our Managing Directors did a mini-mba on a three-day programme. That was amazing because it tells people that we are still learning and allows everyone else to go and learn more.