As we navigate an era of rapid change and innovation, businesses need to work hard to keep up with the competition. But sometimes people can be afraid to embrace change for fear of making mistakes. As Chief Transformation Officer at Aster Group, Rachel Credidio has helped to nurture a learning culture which views mistakes not as failures, but as opportunities for personal and professional development.
In today’s conversation, Rachel met with Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, to discuss topics including the need for a personalised approach to inclusion, the importance of enshrining EDI as an integral part of an organisation's values, and the value of cultivating a culture of learning and growth.
I’m the Chief Transformation Officer at Aster Group. We’re a group of organisations providing housing and support services across the south of England and London. We manage over 36,000 homes from Cornwall to London and have nearly 2,000 employees. We’re also have our land-led programme, and we build about 1,000 new homes every year. As Chief Transformation Officer, I lead our people functions, communications, and charitable activities. To sum it up, I’d describe my job as helping support our people to have a good day at work.
I’ve been with Aster for 18 years now, and I’ve worked across a number of different roles. At university, I studied for a degree in Psychology, so I’ve always had a real fascination with people. I started out my career in project management before taking a corporate role as part of a secondment. From there, I took on a position as a Change Director, and my role has been through many iterations since then. For me, it’s all about making a difference for the people who work here.
Sometimes, organisations will carry out surveys to find out what the majority of people want. But I think that’s the wrong way to go about things. I think you need to have a tailored, personalised approach which takes the needs of every individual into account. So we have several flexible benefits for our employees, such as “take-what-you-need” leave. Our organisation works on the principles of restorative practice; we were the first organisation outside of the justice sector to receive accreditation in that field. At the heart of that is a commitment to giving people a voice and understanding the impact of our decisions on people’s lives. Another theme of restorative practice is collaboration, working with people instead of doing things to them or for them. We embrace diversity of thought, but that also brings differences of opinion which can lead to challenging conversations. Ultimately, restorative practice is about giving people the tools they need to improve communication and embrace difference. But sometimes you have to make difficult decisions: compromise is not always the best solution, and you must stick to your principles, even if that doesn’t please everybody.
It’s about making EDI a central part of the way you do things. We have something called The Aster Way, which informs everything we do here. As part of that, we’ve moved towards a method of evaluating performance which isn’t just task-focused but focuses on the way employees behave and deliver results. For us, diversity and inclusion are non-negotiable: we let everyone know that it isn’t just an add-on, and it’s something that is expected of everybody. Ultimately, the means are just as important as the ends.
We track our progress in a few different ways. We do many of the usual things, such as 360-degree appraisals and pulse surveys, but we’ve just carried out a more in-depth cultural audit. That was a deep dive to unpick the culture of the organisation, holding a series of focus groups with employees to find out what matters most to them. We also have several proactive EDI groups, focusing on issues such as heritage, menopause awareness, and men’s health. We also invite external evaluation, and we’ve seen our organisation rise by 26 points in our latest Talent Inclusion and Diversity Evaluation (TIDE) assessment.
Authenticity is key. You need to be approachable, and one way to do that is by sharing vulnerability. When it comes to motivating and engaging a workforce, I’m a real subscriber to the philosophy of Daniel Pink. That consists of three key elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. As leaders, you need to create an environment of mutual respect, and sometimes you need to accept that you don’t know everything. As Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn't make sense to hire experts and then tell them what to do.”
You need to cultivate a culture where it’s okay to fail. You learn as much from the things you get wrong as from the things you get right. It’s something you need to work really hard on, and you have to make a conscious decision to reflect on your actions before you move on to the next thing.
Have a captivating vision: you need to excite people with the art of the possible. It’s also important to make sure there’s something in it for the individual. It’s important to do things for the greater good, but if you want to keep people engaged, you need to have something to offer them. You also need to understand the barriers which discourage people from getting involved. My role is to be a disruptor and to question the status quo. But some people can be resistant to change, so you need to understand their concerns so you can help them buy into it. One of my mantras is “a change imposed is a change opposed”, so it’s vital to bring people along with you.
Always ask yourself: is what I’m doing kind? Being kind isn’t the same as being nice: it sometimes takes difficult choices. Honest feedback can be uncomfortable, but it helps people in the long term. Finally, don’t ask if you can do something, ask how you can do it. That helps you discover challenges and find ways to overcome them.