A Story of the Creation of an Award-winning Organisational Culture

Navigating Change During the Pandemic

Amid the many Covid-19 lockdown periods that we experienced over the course of the pandemic, I was approached by the senior leaders at UL Student life (the University of Limerick’s student’s union for the campus), to help their staff cope with the level of change to their work-life balance that they were experiencing at the time and improve the business’ organisational culture.


Initial Success and Executive Coaching

After facilitating some successful sessions on the impact of change, the general manager underwent 1:1 executive coaching with me.  During these sessions, we explored his goals and ambitions in relation to the strategic direction of the organisation.  He had already put a comprehensive strategic plan in place and it became clear that the plan would only be as strong as the team behind it. The team, that would ultimately deliver the results set out in the plan, in the long run.


The Birth of the ‘Evolve’ Programme

It was at that point, that we identified the need for a development framework which would support the team to develop the skills and behaviours needed to deliver the aspirations set out in the plan.  During a highly consultative process in which all levels of staff within the organisation were engaged, the ‘Evolve’ programme was born. Evolve comprised of a comprehensive development framework which would provide staff with development opportunities in their various roles at UL Student life.  ‘Evolve’ became synonymous with performance development, progression, delivery of projects and having fun whilst learning new skills.


Celebrating Success at the ‘Best Companies in Ireland’ Awards

Cut to the 28th February 2024 where I had the privilege to join this team at the ‘Best Companies in Ireland’ awards as part of the ‘Great Place to Work Ireland’ framework.  Bursting with pride, we listened as the team at UL student life was listed as 7th in Ireland in their category of small enterprises.  This makes them one of the best places to work in Ireland.  Not only is this a huge achievement for a team of this size but it is groundbreaking for a team in their industry, as this is a first in Ireland for teams working in this sector.  

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The 3-S Change Model: Signposting, Supporting, Safety

At O’Brien Learning Solutions we use our bespoke 3-S change model as a diagnostic tool to help teams to assess where they’re at on their journey towards greatness.  At a high level, this model also outlines the journey on which the team at UL student life undertook in becoming one of the best places to work in Ireland:

  1. Signposting:  We look at all the ways in which we can point, direct and lead others on a change journey.  Essentially, this means that the senior leadership team must become role models for leading others towards a vision, and through the various changes needed along the way. 
  2.  Supporting:  All members of the team must be adequately supported in achieving their specific goals within the change programme.   This means that there must be a fully skilled middle-management ‘layer’, who are adept at guiding, managing and directing people towards the achievement of their goals.
  3. Safety:  The staff within the workplace must feel a sense of psychological safety to participate in the change programme.  I.e. things like making a mistake, speaking up or having healthy debate must be present for people to feel that they can show up, bring their best selves and add some creative magic to their day-to-day roles.


Essential Ingredients for Success

Essential to the process is a visionary leader who can see the bigger picture, perhaps before others can.  The senior leadership team who rows in behind the leader must be fully bought in to the process also, to make it work.  And finally, the staff members who show up day in, day out to achieve operational goals are the most essential ingredient to success.  


Maintaining and Enhancing Organisational Culture

The team at UL student life had the perfect mix of all of the above ingredients to get them to award winning status at national level.  The next task is to maintain these amazing results, and constantly hone and fine tune the organisational culture.  Culture-change matters, and can be the magic ingredient that sets people out on a pathway of achievement together.  This is the start of a process of learning that team members will carry with them wherever their career may take them.

If you’d like help to build an award-winning team culture within your organisation, please get in touch at denise@obrienlearningsolutions.ie, or by booking a clarity call.