Interview with Xander Hough, HR Manager at Wolff Olins

Culture has been a defining part of how our clients recruit and hire talent.  It’s also an intangible asset of a business – it’s a competitive advantage and leads to true high performance.

 In design and innovation, culture is central to creating the type of work that fuels growth for clients, and it’s been our experience that the best work comes out of  consultancies that foster a culture that fits closely with clearly defined values. Further, a culture founded on collaboration, transparency and creative freedom also bolsters success factors, both for business growth and employee satisfaction. 

In the first of our Design Culture Series, we sit down with HR Manager at Creative Consultancy, Wolff Olins, to find out about why culture is important to them and what they’ve done to foster the right culture for their staff to create great work.

Why is culture important to Wolff Olins when recruiting in design and strategy? 

The way that we work is inherently collaborative.  We’re united in wanting to help our clients have a positive impact on the world, which means that we recruit people who are not only fully on board with that mission, but also thrive off working with different people. They need to enjoy the challenges of helping organisations answer big questions.

What have Wolff Olins done to create the right culture and why? 

 In our recent office move, we had the opportunity to re-imagine the work environment. We needed to provide a physical environment that was conducive to our collaborative working style and also supported other aspects of our culture, such as the sense of community that we get from eating together at lunch. 

 We also constantly review our working practices and our learning and development and well-being offers to make sure we are nurturing our culture in the right ways.  Throughout the recruitment process and our induction programmes, we try and give newcomers a thorough sense of who we are and what we value as a company so that they are in the strong position to make an informed decision about joining us. We want to help them get up to speed as quickly as possible so that they can do the best work of their lives.

 What doesn’t work? And why?

We remain open minded about where talent can come from.  We’re not prescriptive in that sense and we don’t hire ‘more of the same’.  We ask ourselves constantly what skills and backgrounds could we add to the mix so that we continue to do radical work.

 We don’t try and over-curate the culture either – we let it develop organically.  We’ve seen over the years that our people self-organise and develop their own rituals, ways of working, initiatives and social activities.  The role that HR and the leadership plays in those situations is to provide tools, forums, advocacy and funding for those ideas, as well as acting as a role model in terms of getting stuck in and enjoying the ride.

 Thanks Xander!

 If you want to discuss workplace culture and how to incorporate a strong strategy into your business then get in touch! – 

I’m a Founding Partner of Bamboo Crowd. I help our clients invest better in people and scale through Engine. I solve recruitment challenges and help our clients source the best talent across operations, business development, programme management, and technology. Ask me about good films, beards and hip hop.