Company culture

Experience: a working group dedicated to supporting values-based corporate culture

Helen Roots
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Where to start if your company doesn’t have a human resources director and HR policy, and on top of it, has a negative employer net promoter score? Grant Thornton Baltic’s HR director Marge Litvinova and recruiter Kätlin Treima share some valuable experience.

Grant Thornton Baltic started way back in 1992, but human resources and employee experience topics were first broached in 2017 when the first HR director was hired.

In 2015, the company faced a situation where the employee promoter index was negative, there was a lack of focused attention to human resources topics and it was getting harder to find suitable employees.

Challenges in 2015–2017

1. The company lacked a unified strategy, and the various sub-units were basically organizational silos.

2. The predominant focus lay on financial targets.

3. The managers in charge of personnel had derived their roles from previously serving as specialists within the company.

4. The company lacked a HR policy and HR director.

5. Negative employer promoter index (-19%).

6. The situation on the job market made it increasingly harder to find and retain the necessary specialists.

Setting down the goals

Grant Thornton seized the bull by the horns and laid down four goals in 2018:

1. First, to create a company-side working group consisting of people from different services. They would be tasked with launching the development of a value-based culture.

2. Setting the focus on employee experience: making employee experience front and centre in every phase in the employee life cycle and putting together an action plan reflecting this.

3. Increasing the employer promoter index score to at least 25%: changing the employer’s image both inside and outside the company and achieving growth in the employer promoter index score.

4. Improving management quality: supporting managers who were originally in specialist roles in the transitioning to leading people through development programme and workshops where they can share experiences. 

To address the problem, a five-member company-wide People & Culture working group was formed, and tasked with working on the challenges: creating a better employee experience for people, creating a values-based culture, attaining a positive employer promoter index score. The goal of the working group was to put the focus on different topics throughout all phases in the employees’ life cycle.

As a result of what was achieved, topics related to shaping employee experience were no longer just the domain of the HR director but covered more broadly throughout the company.

Preparing the action plan and laying a foundation

To make the activity truly company-wide, management and partners were included and joint agreements were reached. To map problem areas, a 360-degree feedback survey was conducted among all managers, the employee engagement was studied and interviews were conducted with employees. An external consultant – a management trainer – was brought in for the next activities.

To design a long-term plan for developing the soft competencies of managers, a manager development programme was initiated, which consisted of three training courses:

  • from specialist to manager;
  • a video training session on communication skills;
  • ABC for mentors and supervisors.

A culture of regularly providing feedback was enshrined and attention began to be paid to such aspects as how to talk to employees so that the conversations would generate some meaning. Feedback itself was two-way: up-down and down-up.

The company’s structure also changed: in the past, the department head dealt with all employees of the department, but now smaller teams were created within each department, consisting of a team leader and 5-8 employees. Career journeys for employees were also mapped.

Ready... go!

The first to be developed was the employer value offer, along with giving it a broader dimension and regularly updating it. The company’s needs also suggested additional benefits that could be offered as part of the compensation package:

  • employee health;
  • recognition for seniority (from 3rd year on);
  • flexible policy on holiday and leave.

The employee’s value offer became a standard part of job offers sent to candidates.

Secondly, flexible and trust-based work arrangements were implemented at the company; based on principles such as seasonal nature of work and arrangements that factored it in (including part-time loads), work-life balance, remote work options, flexible holiday/leave, etc. It was found that employment relations based on trust were the underpinning for everything and that employees had to have the confidence to talk to their higher-ups.

Third, changes began to be made to managers’ mindset and value-based recruitment was implemented. The priority was now on whether something conformed to the values and the concept, importance and role of the recruiting manager were now laid down. After that, the recruitment process itself was tackled and improved with such features as a tour of the office and meetings with the team; recruitment itself became digital through the use of software (Recrur, TeamDash).

Existing employees were supposed to become ambassadors for the employer’s brand, and accordingly, a career website that genuinely reflected the essence of the company and its employees was started, including profile stories on individuals. Besides job postings and profile stories, the career page includes the scholarships that the company’s employees have received, how they have represented the company at various events, references to open doors day and work shadow opportunities. The employees appear with their faces and names on social media and wanted ads, they are ambassadors for their employer and help the company stay visible.


1. The company’s employer promoter index score rose from -19% to +50%. It reached positive territory in year 3. In 2023, for the first time, the recommendation index was measured in each quarter and it remained high even in the heavy-workload high season – 64%.

2. Change in managerial quality: employee feedback regarding human resources management is positive. Whereas the responses in 2016 to this question were 2.70 on a five-point scale, in 2023, the figure was 4.3. Honesty and openness in dealings with employees is up from 3.46 to 4.34.

3. Number of employees and retention rate: the number of employees is up (FTE) by 70% (from 71 to 121), and their retention rate is up from 70% to 83%.

4. Corporate culture metric: 4.7 (out of 5). In 2016, it was 3.59, but now it is one of the highest performing parameters in the employee engagement survey.

Value added

  • Two employees who left us in 2023 wanted to return after spending a couple months at a different employer. The reason: very strong differences in corporate culture. We re-hired both of them.
  • Employees from competitors have come over to us, since word is out about the great culture.
  • We have a very strong alumni community among former employees who recall their time with us fondly and take part regularly in alumni events:
  • Our reputation on the job market is much better and we are able to find good candidates with less effort.
  • Feedback from our new employees after their probationary period is excellent. They often say the reality is even better than they expected.
  • Our company’s turnover and profit have doubled.

This case study was written for the Kickoff 2024 recruitment marketing awards event held in March.