Culture drives engagement and ignites passion for your purpose. High-performance companies prioritise culture by putting their people first and building their businesses around talent.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work for a company where people are truly passionate – Swisse Wellness.
The company certainly projects a positive brand image…but I was truly delighted in my time as their Performance Partner from 2014 to 2016, to discover that the hype is real. People at Swisse are genuinely passionate about the company mission to “make millions around the world healthier and happier” and to CLED – that’s Celebrate Life Every Day!
The Swisse Culture is grounded in the belief that if they focus on people, principles and passion, then profit will naturally follow. They call this their ‘4Ps’ and they are the foundational values of the business, governing every decision from dealing with suppliers, to customers, to employees.
There were lots of perks at Swisse – on-site gym and yoga, fully stocked kitchens, weekly team lunches, and a “healthy and happy” (or “H+H”) day – 1 day a month of additional leave just to rest, recover and to look after yourself. And while this was all great, living the company values went much deeper than that.
The values were talked about regularly – in planning meetings, performance discussions and recruitment interviews. In performance reviews, we placed equal weight on not just results, but also on behaviour. Team and managers would rate themselves and each other on how they lived the values and behaviours. On top of that, we would regularly celebrate people who acted as role models to others when it came to our values.
But what we hadn’t done was tangibly link how the values drove engagement and were honoured by the company in dealing with employees at every touchpoint in their employee lifecycle. Our culture was too precious of an asset to leave up to chance. The company was growing and changing at a rapid pace, with lots of new faces recruited to support the growth. We needed to ensure our culture stayed strong. Not long after I came on-board, we created the Culture Plan to truly embed these values and communicate our commitment to nurturing our entrepreneurial 4Ps culture.
The Culture Plan was a key one-page document that existed alongside the company one-page Business Plan. While the Business Plan mapped the company strategy for commercial growth; the Culture Plan ensured every team member was empowered to contribute in a H+H way. The Culture Plan ensured that the vision, mission and values were upheld in achievement of business objectives.
The Culture Plan was created in consultation with the whole team and articulated the many initiatives Swisse had in place to develop, support, engage and reward their team. All initiatives were clearly structured against their 4Ps – making the business accountable to living the values internally.
Radek Sali was the CEO at the time and he led this change from the top. He participated in the program including 360-degree feedback on the top 25 leaders of the business in order to highlight their influence on culture and develop their capacity to lead in more constructive ways.
As a result of initiatives implemented from the Culture Plan, we were recognised with multiple employer awards including the Great Place to Work’s Top 25, the AHRI Health and Wellbeing Award and Employer of Choice awards for several years running.
In September 2015, Swisse Wellness completed a landmark Australian transaction for A$1.67 billion with Hong Kong Stock Exchange–listed Biostime – one of the leading premium infant formula producers in Asia. This new partnership brought Swisse closer to its mission of becoming a global leading wellness brand by further positioning it strongly in the Chinese market.
The new owners fully embraced the company’s unwavering commitment to the 4Ps core values; so much so, that on June 8, 2017, Biostime changed its name to the Health & Happiness (H+H) Group and adopted many of their cultural practices across their vast team in China.
After leaving Swisse Wellness as CEO, Radek went on to found Light Warrior investments and acts as Chairperson on multiple boards spanning both private and non-profit sectors.
As part of the research for my book, I interviewed Radek to ask for his reflections on what drives high-performance, having embraced and harnessed the power of culture at Swisse:
Radek: The best thing you can do is make sure you have an extraordinary culture … The culture itself demands everyone in that organisation bring their best self and to not take the easy road but be rewarded for bringing their best to work.
Culture fuels passion by connecting people to a shared system of values and beliefs. Progressive CEOs like Radek understand that culture and strategy are equally important in driving performance outcomes, and that these things are delivered by leadership. The CEO and leadership team play a critical role in supporting culture and change initiatives:
Radek: For me, if you don’t have a Culture Plan and a Business Plan, you won’t be successful. When I ask, generally people say they’ve got a Business Plan. And that’s great, but what you need is that overlay of culture – how you’re going to go about doing it, and your reason for doing it. The Culture Plan brings the Business Plan to life and makes it relevant, so we feel really engaged and purposeful when we do our work.
In high-performance cultures, everybody lifts to bring their best game. People are encouraged to challenge each other and speak up, no matter their status or authority in the business. No single individual is above the culture, not even the founder or the CEO. These cultures create legacies; operating rhythms that pull people in and generate enormous amounts of energy and passion from everyone who works within them.
The Swisse Wellness story demonstrates the critical factor of culture in driving high performance.
My book – Purpose, Passion and Performance – describes how to systematise your culture to build a team of engaged people even in the face of rapid growth and constant change. Pick up a copy, or connect with me for a free consultation to understand how I leverage validated and researched methods to lift passion and engagement for my clients.