Brafe, an Employee Ownership Trust since 2018 and before that family-owned for forty years, is a globally respected foundry and machining business. In recent years, not only has its legal constitution changed, but also its market - Brafe is now one of the world’s leading technical innovators, held to high account by industries including the American nuclear sector, notoriously demanding in its expectations of suppliers.
When we started work with Brafe, they had formed a new Senior Leadership Team, some from outside the business; and were looking to build a robust management structure with Andrew Dalby as Chair, Adam Dalby as Managing Director, and other directors from the SLT for specific areas of the business. An additional challenge was that Brafe’s workforce is predominantly either of many years standing, or quite new - and it felt vital to bring the generations together to learn from and support each other. Work styles, attitudes and expectations have changed and Brafe needed to adapt to this. The watchwords were ‘rapport’ and ‘respect’ and the values we were working towards needed to support those themes in a changing market, for a changing generation.
Our work began by attending a broad visioning workshop with the SLT, ensuring they were involved and contributing from the start. We then moved onto the first step of ActiveEthos, with a second workshop to focus on values, culture and the benefits they bring across all aspects of an organisation. From this, the SLT nominated people from inside and out of the business, at all levels; they approached these people with an invitation to talk to us, and an explanation of its purpose.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we spoke to around fifty people in the UK, North America and mainland Europe, face to face and over Zoom and Teams, starting each conversation with a set of questions designed to get conversations flowing. They did indeed flow, and we were granted a deep insight into the day to day experiences of Brafe team members, suppliers and clients.
These conversations have a side benefit of revealing areas worth celebrating and areas for improvement, always useful insight for the business, which allows them to address issues that had possibly been under the surface. But of course the focus of these was ‘Brafe at its best’ and the interviews allowed us to create a tapestry of themes and words that started to create a picture of what it is that sits at the heart of Brafe, on which ambition can build.
In parallel with this, we worked together to develop a clear vision that could sum up Brafe’s new place in the world, instil pride and ambition in the team, and which would be simple and clear enough to be easily remembered and shared. Insights to support this fell out of our conversations as well as regular update meetings with the Dalbys and the SLT. That vision, after much crafting, is “Britain’s leading precision-engineering company for global process industries” - something for everyone to be extremely proud of.
Having reviewed themes and agreed priorities, we crafted the initial values set to include the letters of BRAFE, and a repetitive use of the letter P: both designed to support their unique relevance and help people remember them. The draft values then moved into a co-creation phase with the SLT and some of the initial interviewees; this allowed us to ensure that the words chosen had the right feel and fit; and that what we had perceived to be important was actually felt to be so, and supportive of the SLT’s objectives.
In considering the values set we needed to ensure that they landed right when launched to the company and externally; we worked with Brafe’s marketing team to develop a concept of Brafe 365, where each month would have a key message, and repetitive actions - company gatherings, newsletters, social media, staff onboarding and much more - creating a rhythm that helped everyone know what to expect, and become familiar with the values in action. This concept was then developed by Brafe with a branding agency, and its launch became the launch of the values.
Pride in British engineering
Respect for our people
The Ambition to progress
Plan for the Future
The SLT met for a prelaunch workshop in which we considered how these values could come to life in practical ways that would integrate them into the business intuitively. This generated a long list of thoughts from across the company, which we distilled into a short list of five actions for each value that would kick start the process, creating the impetus required for other actions to grow. Each of these actions had an owner and deadlines agreed to get them into place.
Brafe 365 launched in early February 2022, and had an immediate positive impact within the team, with Brafe’s clients and suppliers, and on Brafe’s standing in the eyes of its peers.
"The energy and enthusiasm Erika brought to the project gained immediate engagement with the team. Her approach was methodical and thorough, which resulted in a truly insightful view into how the business is perceived both internally and externally. It was great to encourage the engagement of our customers, suppliers, and employees in the process. The values represent a true and accurate picture of what it means to be Brafe. I would like to thank Erika and her team for the support and guidance during all stages of the project."
Adam Dalby, Managing Director, Brafe.