Shoreham Port

Shoreham Port

On paper, a workforce with an average length of service of eight years, a retention level of 92 per cent and several members of staff who are the second or third generation of their family to work there might seem ideal. But in practice, this can in fact mean the culture is “static”, with said workforce being “highly resistant to change” and modernising processes.

That’s what happened to Shoreham Port – a traditional maritime organisation with more than 250 years of history behind it. Yet in 2020, a cocktail of Brexit looming on the horizon and increased competition from other ports caused a significant change in market conditions, leading to the company deciding to take a more dynamic and innovative stance to drive more growth. And in order to develop a culture that could achieve this vision, the port needed to change its relationships with its people, and so undertook a values-led transformation programme.

This journey began at the start of 2020, when Shoreham Port refreshed its purpose, vision and masterplan, with its vision of playing its part in leading the regional economy to a sustainable future, balancing economic performance with social accountability. Having ascertained that employees’ knowledge of the firm’s existing strategy and values was low, and workshopped the transformation path and held a values conversation among the leadership team, the HR team then worked to cascade the conversations throughout the port, ensuring every employee had an opportunity to participate.

With the values defined but some teams struggling to understand exactly what they meant for them, the team created a dictionary providing examples, and contextualised them by department, taking into account that many employees at the port have low levels of literacy and creating a set of cartoon visualisations to illustrate them. These are now included everywhere, including all internal comms, on the company intranet, and displayed on notice boards. Staff objectives are framed around the values, and they are also incorporated into the recruitment process and board-level strategic thinking.

A measure of initial results in 2020 saw the company surpass its targets in all but one of its strategic success metrics, with the biggest improvement being a 300 per cent improvement in its surplus reinvestment. The organisation has also been pragmatic about the changes: it saw an increase in turnover during this first period, which exit interviews revealed was largely because of cultural misalignment with its new values, but the departures are enabling it to recruit a different demographic with fresh, new ideas.

The judges praised the way Shoreham Port approached its values with pride, and commented on how it really listened to the experiences of its workforce on the ground.