How to Build a People Manifesto

On Episode 90 of Talent & Growth our guest was Eleanor Gooding, the People & Culture Director of Boost Drinks. She’s a passionate HR professional with a fascinating history in various different industries. Most importantly, she’s a mum who cares deeply about other people. During the podcast we talked about people manifestos – what are they? How do you make one? What difference do they make? Just in case you missed it, here are the answers in a handy blog!

What does a ‘people manifesto’ actually mean? 

It’s like a constitution that sits behind other HR and people policies in our company. It outlines our beliefs, our pledges to our people, and our expectations. So it’s a written piece of work, and it’s quite concise. It guides us in lots of things that we do and gives our people a sense of security about our environment. 

Where did it come from? What did the creation process look like?

It came about because I was looking at our contracts one day and I just thought they were just awful things. That’s one of the first points of contact anybody has when they join us, so I wanted to update them. I got talking to an employment lawyer who specialises in doing contracts and I explained what I was trying to do. She said it was worth doing a piece of work to identify all of the things that we really believed in, then people like her could figure out how to get those things into a contract that makes signing sound friendly. It would be written in Boost’s voice rather than that legal contract voice. 

We formed a small Working Committee, sat down and decided that this was not about the business or how we work, this was about how we wanted to treat our people. This wouldn’t be a code of conduct. This was really about the overall experience that we wanted to give to our people. We ended up putting in three sections, which were our beliefs, our pledges and our expectations. It forms a contract between our people and us. That’s how we started the process. 

What does your people manifesto look like?

The first section is what we believe. We believe that the boost spirit is unique and special, and we all have a responsibility to look after it. Your experience of working at boost should be positive and rewarding. There’s an equal give and take between you and boost. Our values and behaviours live, breathe and evolve over time according to the needs of our business. We believe that being a high quality progressive employer is worth the effort. 

We also took the time to assess where we were with things, because in some aspects we are really advanced, while other parts are still a work in progress. That translates as us identifying where we need to grow saying ‘this is important to us’. We have an energy or spirit, which, when you walk into the building, you can feel it. You can see it in the way we do business, you can see it in the relationships that we’ve made with people and so on. We’ve been trying to capture what this spirit is in our values and behaviours programme. 

The second part of the manifesto is what we strive to do. We strive to create a fun and rewarding environment where you can develop and be your best self, to treat you well, to support you and work through challenges with you and to be fair, ethical and transparent. We started with D&I training for everybody in the business to understand why diversity in every aspect is a positive, and how we’re going to benefit as a business if we all can come to the door as ourselves, not the person we think we’re supposed to be at work. As a leadership team we’re working to create an environment where everybody can develop and be the best staff. Putting all these things on paper requires work from us. That’s a manifesto that we have to live up to. 

The last section we have is what we expect from our people. We expect you to help us to grow and win and be the best it can be. We expect you to fully immerse yourself with our vision, your strategy and your job. We expect you to be accountable for your actions and behaviours, we expect you to live by the Boost values and behaviours and be a positive ambassador for Boost. If you think about all of those things, writing down ‘you’ll be a positive ambassador to boost’ means that your contracts can refer to it. If you’re having a conversation with somebody about their behaviours, you can say, this is what we’re striving for here, it’s all written down, it’s all really clear, but your behaviours right now aren’t aligned with this. You can also use it positively and say ‘here’s a medal because your behaviour is aligned with our manifesto every single day’.

What advice would you give to other businesses who are looking to create their own people manifesto?

Do it. Pick your moment, because this is the kind of thing that if you did it too early it might backfire on you. Don’t try and say ‘we’re perfect’. You should always be clear that there’s an aspiration behind it. It’s got to be transparent too. It’s got to be something people can look at and resonate with, and you have to live up to it too. Where possible, be open with people about what you’re trying to do. My advice for any company would be do it, you won’t regret it. Just be careful of your timing, because you need to be able to walk the walk once you’ve put one in place.

To learn more about people manifestos and how they have impacted the culture at Boost, tune into the full episode of The Talent & Growth Podcast.

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

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