Hayes Davidson – Our EO Story: Culture built on five EO guiding principles

Hayes Davidson (‘HD’) was founded in London in 1989 by Alan Davidson, pioneering the use of CGIs in the visualisation of architecture and the built environment. Since then, we have developed into a highly creative, collaborative and diverse 30-plus strong studio which we are proud to say is 100% employee owned.

Our culture is built on our five EO guiding principles of:

  1. Knowledge of the strategy
  2. Ability to influence
  3. Visibility over decisions
  4. Right to develop
  5. Right to information

This framework helps us all to understand how information is shared, how decisions can be challenged and how the voice of the HD team can be represented.

Knowledge of the strategy

At the start of 2022, we embarked on a process of redefining our company vision. In line with our EO culture, all HD team members directly contributed to the creation of our new strategy by attending a series of workshops and feedback discussions.

We passionately believe that by shaping this vision together, we will ensure that we continue to achieve high levels of ownership and engagement, which will in turn drive even greater success for the studio.

Ability to influence

This has been paramount in many of our recent decisions as an employee-owned business. A good example of this is the decision taken in 2021 to move to a hybrid/remote working model.

In response to team feedback (from one of our regular pulse surveys – which always receive a response rate of >90%), we have adopted a highly flexible approach which empowers team members to predominately work from the location which best suits them, with some team members now even able to work overseas.

By listening to the team, we feel that we have further strengthened our EO culture, creating a modern workplace of trust, ownership and team retention. Many decisions, from our team social events through to the charities that we support, are taken collaborative and influenced by what the HD team thinks.

Visibility over decisions

This has been achieved by our leadership team regularly and openly communicating and engaging with the team. We are proud of our highly consultative approach where everyone has a say in the running of the studio.

Central to our approach and our EO culture are our HD Champions (HDCs). Elected independently by the team, the HDCs act as the voice of the team. As a conduit between the trustees, leadership and our employees, the HDCs are here to promote and facilitate our culture of employee ownership.

Right to develop

This has been fundamental in our ability to retain our talented and highly sought-after people – with  our average length of service being over four years and our staff turnover (at 10% for the past 12 months) well below the industry average of 25%.

All team members are reviewed quarterly alongside our six core values. We believe that we are all accountable not just for what we deliver, but also for how we deliver it. Our values define the behaviours that we are all committed to and which help to protect the EO culture we’re so very proud of.

Furthermore, we invest heavily in learning and development, running the HD School seminar series, as well as internship and mentoring programmes for the team – all employee, rather than management-led initiatives.

In the past three years alone, we have had 16 promotions – not bad for a team of about 30 people – which demonstrates our strong and ongoing commitment to promoting from within and giving everyone the opportunity to progress.

Underpinning the right to develop has been our approach to supporting the health and wellbeing of the HD team. Through our regular consultation, we have adopted a number of pertinent policies, such as on menopause and mental health, and in 2022, we launched an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offering 1-to-1 counselling and therapy services.

With support from an external wellbeing coach, we have run wellness seminars this year covering topics such as nutrition, stress and resilience, mental health, mindfulness, sleep, gut health and women’s health.

We also now have two mental health first aiders, who are on hand to support the team, raise awareness and promote strong mental wellbeing. We take this responsibility very seriously and can see the positive impact this has on the team and the quality of their work.

As part of our ongoing commitment to working parents, we have enhanced maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental leave policies. For example, those with over two years’ service, are entitled to up to 26 weeks at full pay when taken either as maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.

We see HD as a family, so we want to do all we can to support those wishing to become parents or grown their family. This, we believe, is an important aspect of being employee owned and will help us to ensure that we retain our talent as they transition through this pivotal stage in life.

Right to information

Openness of knowledge and information sharing is driven via the weekly Monday all-studio team meetings which are always chaired by a team member rather than ‘management’. With a remote team, this has become a critical forum in which information is circulated and everyone is encouraged to share and ask questions.

Transparency is key to our EO culture and our future success, a recent example being the sharing of our salary bands across each job role/level – to create greater openness and trust around reward and recognition.

Our EO legacy

Arguably our greatest measure of EO success has been our employee-led approach to giving back to the community through the HD5K. First organised in 2018 in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association, the HD5K is an annual charity run held in Hyde Park.

The event, conceived by and organised by our amazing team, honours the memory of Alan Davidson who founded Hayes Davidson and who was diagnosed with MND in 2012. Alan died aged 58 in August 2018 and was present at the inaugural run in May 2018.

To date, we are immensely proud to say that the HD team has raised over £240,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. This is a fitting tribute to Alan’s legacy and his vision of HD as an employee-owned business.

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