First Middle East workplace culture consultancy launches in UAE

L to R: Lucy d'Abo, CEO; John Hague, Director of People & Transformation; Camilla d'Abo, non-executive director. (Supplied)
L to R: Lucy d'Abo, CEO; John Hague, Director of People & Transformation; Camilla d'Abo, non-executive director. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 November 2021

First Middle East workplace culture consultancy launches in UAE

L to R: Lucy d'Abo, CEO; John Hague, Director of People & Transformation; Camilla d'Abo, non-executive director. (Supplied)
  • New outlet from Lucy and Camilla d’Abo will help businesses shift from talking about workplace culture to acting on it

DUBAI: Together, the first consultancy of its kind dedicated to workplace culture, has launched in the Middle East, with an office in Dubai, UAE. 

Founded by local entrepreneurs Lucy and Camilla d’Abo, who set up the independent communications agency DABO & CO, which was later acquired by Edelman, the new venture aims to inspire brands to focus on workplace culture, bringing together leaders and employees to achieve an efficient workforce. 

Its services include strategic planning, culture transformation, internal communications, values and behaviors, people development, and managing change for future purposes.

Lucy d’Abo, who has been providing professional consulting services to clients and businesses across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe since 1998, will head the company as CEO.

John Hague, an expert in learning, development, and employee engagement joins as director of people and transformation. Hague brings with him over 15 years of experience across the UAE and Britain, running multi-faceted programs at brands such as The Entertainer, Walmart, Waitrose, and John Lewis Partnership.

The team is supported by non-executive directors Camilla d’Abo, who most recently held the position of managing director for Dubai at APCO Worldwide, and Chris Shaw, who joins after a nine-year tenure at The Entertainer.

The global workplace and its culture have been transformed, with many people working from home during the pandemic. As restrictions started to ease, some organizations encouraged employees to return to the office, while others adopted a hybrid work model. At a time when the future of work remains unpredictable, culture is more important than ever.

A Deloitte survey identified culture as one of six themes that the C-suite needs to give attention to, with 69 percent of leaders saying they believe that company culture will have a critically important impact on their organization’s ability to realize its mission and vision.

Culture is as important to employees as it is to leaders. A study by Workhuman, a software company for employee management and reward systems, found that job seekers stated wanting a better culture among their top five reasons for looking.

Arab News spoke to Lucy d’Abo to glean more on the needs and challenges of the market and how together aims to fill the gaps.

What do you think is the demand for this kind of consultancy in the region?

Based on our experience in this sector, we have seen a significant increase in requests for culture consultancy over the past few years.

In the last 12 months, we have been piloting our concept and consulting with clients that have thousands of global employees to test our theories. The successful feedback and growing number of inquiries have led us to establish a regional dedicated workplace consultancy.

The need is apparent, but currently, there are limited resources dedicated to helping businesses address this in the Middle East. To date, there has been talk about the topic of workplace culture, but little action. Now with the launch of together, there is a consultancy that provides the required services to support businesses shift from talking about workplace culture to acting on it.

As the Middle East continues to thrive and markets like Saudi Arabia and the UAE take pioneering steps forward, we believe there is an opportunity for the region to be a leader in adopting best practices.

What are the challenges you’re expecting?

Although recent studies prove that investing in culture makes business sense, many Middle East organizations are struggling to change their thinking.

Global statistics point to a dramatic shift in the workplace ecosystem: Forbes magazine ranks culture among its top three most important Future of Work 2021 trends. In tandem, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index 2021, over 40 percent of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year.

The question is how can companies in the Middle East drive a successful organization in the new era of work? The key challenges relating to workplace culture facing CEOs and leaders include the following:

Perception: Historically the perception has been that workplace culture is fluffy and soft and does not lead to business results. However, this is no longer the case. Recent statistics from Forbes state that companies with strong cultures saw a four-times increase in revenue growth.

Hybrid working: Companies that did not have a strong culture were unable to maintain a sense of togetherness when COVID-19 forced people apart. This is a critical time for businesses to reconsider their approach and protect themselves for the future.

Investment: One of the biggest challenges has been that traditionally many businesses are hesitant to dedicate investment into workplace culture over the long-term as there has been little focus on measuring results. We advocate measurement and use data to not only evaluate existing culture but also use our global and proprietary tools to drive strategic roadmaps for future Return On Investment.

What impact did the pandemic have on workplace culture with many companies switching to hybrid work-from-home/office models?

Globally, we are witnessing one of the biggest transformations in workplace culture since the industrial revolution. For many, COVID-19 has been a life event that has precipitated self-reflection about job satisfaction.

Widespread self-reflection coupled with an increased ability to work from anywhere has led to the most significant challenge to workplace culture in decades.

This global shift, fast-tracked by COVID-19, has put workplace culture at the top of the agenda because of three key factors:

The first is COVID-19. Organizations with strong and effective cultures demonstrated resilience, innovation, and loyalty in the face of adversity, and those without it have floundered and continue to be challenged.

Then there is the global talent war. Global trends are pointing to the phenomenon of the “Great Resignation” (a term referring to the widespread trend of people leaving their jobs during the pandemic). This is putting significant pressure on employers who are now facing productivity and engagement issues.  With the Middle East, and especially Saudi Arabia, wanting to attract the best global talent to live and work in its markets, employees are no longer willing to accept roles that do not adopt future thinking in terms of hybrid working and positive workplace culture.

The final factor is purpose. Following 18 months of reflection and assessing their personal values and alignment with the organization they work in, employees around the world are re-thinking what they want from their work and searching for companies with a strong culture and values that align with their own.

What are the key elements of a healthy workplace culture that any company in any sector should have?

When properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared goal and drive an organization’s capacity to deliver. Engaged employees inspire performance and people performance drives business performance.

We believe that workplace culture is a business superpower and with it businesses can enjoy an engaged, effective, and aligned workforce that achieves consistent business success.

A superpower culture is created with the perfect mix of ingredients that include the following:

  • A progressive leadership that is open to change and investing in people 
  • A high-performing team meeting and exceeding goals and delivering outstanding results
  • An aligned and engaged workforce that is living the company’s purpose
  • A clear strategy with articulated values and behaviors,
  • Care for people, integrity, ethics, and cultural sensitivity
  • Clear communication, active listening, and rewarding recognition across all levels 
  • Adopting global strategies, best practices, and principles.

Tell us about the culture at your new venture, together.

Relationships are at the core of together. We see ourselves as a partner and catalyst for change through culture.

We exist for both the progressive leader and the hardworking everyman because we know one doesn’t work without the other. We keep people at the heart of what we do. We inspire transformational change and harness the power of people to put it into practice.

We apply our insights and intuition to support leaders and teams, define and localize their purpose, vision, values, culture, and drive.

We believe that a great culture is possible — if you do it together.