I have spent many years reflecting on what it is that makes the Virgin organisational culture so powerful. It seems to drive extraordinary discretionary effort, create incredible positivity, inspire a ‘can-do’ attitude and awaken a passion for customer service that most brands can only dream of.
Finally, I think I may have found one of the key ingredients of the Virgin organisational culture. The simplicity of this key ingredient may surprise you. In fact, I can summarise it in two words: 'thank you'.
The frequent and sincere use of these words can have an incredible impact, whether they are used as an acknowledgement of effort, an expression of gratitude or the recognition of a contribution towards hitting a company target.
Across the Virgin companies, I have seen a wide range of approaches to saying thank you. It can take the form of online recognition tools, celebratory events, holiday prizes to exotic locations, monthly trophies and ‘in the moment’ voucher schemes. It can also be as simple as a personal letter or email from a senior leader. Sometimes, the gesture of thanks is between peers, sometimes it is from a leader to an employee and sometimes it is even from an employee to a leader. Often, Virgin’s employees from our onshore and offshore partners receive the same levels of appreciation as our in-house employees.
I have seen with my own eyes the reaction at our annual Virgin Group Stars event when peer-nominated star employees have fulfilled a lifelong dream of meeting Sir Richard Branson at his home in Oxfordshire. Richard and his family always take the time to speak to each star employee personally, have a photo taken together and to thank them for their efforts.
My time working under the Virgin brand is coming to an end after 7.5 happy years, as I embark on an internal transfer within Virgin Media’s parent company (Liberty Global) to the Latin American region. It seems only fitting, therefore, that I give a final 'thank you' of my own.
So thank you to all the fantastic leadership teams I have worked with, the brilliant folks at Virgin Management, the supportive People Directors across the different Virgin companies, the passionate People Teams I have been fortunate to both lead and be a part of, the partner organisations that have helped me along the way and all of the many loyal, passionate and committed Virgin employees that I have met and had the privilege to work with over the years. I take with me a better understanding of the value of putting people at the very heart of a business and some incredible memories that I will never forget.
Thank you for teaching me the value of ‘thank you’.