Shifting gears on culture change with Mercedes-Benz Cars UK

Client stories


10 July 2018

How have the team at this premium heritage brand created a more collaborative culture? 

Daimler – whose purpose is First Move The World – wants to reinvent 21st century transport. Its Leadership 2020 strategy is designed to achieve this vision by driving innovation across the business globally.

In 2017, we took the Leadership team of Mercedes-Benz Cars UK, part of Daimler, on a London Quest to explore how to translate this global framework into on-the-ground culture change.  We visited very different organisations - from tech giants to community change-makers - to talk about team-building, creativity and flexible decision-making.

A year on, the team has created a workplace that encourages openness and collaboration. We caught up with Rachael Edwards, HR Director, who shared the key factors in their success.

Solid top team buy-in

From the start, the Quest group fully embraced the potential for change. Together, they came up with a neat blueprint, focused on five priorities: feedback culture, recognition, agility, career rotations and Laureus (a charitable foundation co-founded by Daimler). Crucially, the CEO made culture change part of his team briefings – giving real top-down momentum.

Own the change

Back at Head Office, the group shared their excitement with the rest of the team and invited all of their colleagues to be part of the transformation project. The five priorities evidently resonated because, to date, more than 40 per cent of the team has signed up to one of the culture-change teams – each one empowered to decide how to make progress in their chosen area.

"Our company feels much more collaborative and open – somewhere people can just be themselves at work.” Rachael Edwards, HR Director

Break down walls

In an industry where vertical career openings can sometimes be scarce, Mercedes-Benz Cars UK introduced cross-department rotations. These have broken down the invisible walls that used to divide specialisms, and collaboration has increased dramatically. Another popular feature – Day in the Life Of… – allows colleagues to gain a 360° view of the business by hearing from different departments (eg After Sales District Managers, or Customer Operations).

Go beyond the bubble

The Quest drove home the power of seeing how others operate – and of listening to different voices, even when it’s uncomfortable. Mercedes-Benz Cars now encourages colleagues to spend time with its community partner, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, to gain different perspectives. It has also made one of the London Quest hosts – Carney’s Community Centre, which mentors young ex-offenders through boxing – an official Laureus-supported charity.

Two-way street

Feedback needs to be a regular part of company culture, rather than an isolated element of the annual review. Rachael’s team have developed simple feedback tools, coupled with practice sessions, to give colleagues the confidence to give and receive feedback more intuitively. As the scheme beds in, they’re making a point of focusing on positive feedback. The goal this year is to introduce more developmental feedback, as trust and confidence levels grow.

The people connection

Sometimes it’s the simple things! The team set up a framework to encourage appreciation – an important part of a nurturing culture. Managers and colleagues can now say thank you using a very simple recognition framework of gift options, or by sending a thank-you card, which has been really powerful amongst colleagues. People feel more valued and this, in turn, makes them more receptive to sharing and taking feedback.

Rachael says: “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved over the past year; an idea that was shaped by the leadership team has now transformed into empowering our colleagues to play a key role in shaping our culture.

“People around the organisation are talking about the impact they’re having, not just in business terms, but in the communities that we work in and so I feel that we are truly living our purpose. 

"Our company feels much more collaborative and open – somewhere people can just be themselves at work.”

Last year, Mercedes-Benz Cars UK was number one in the UK premium car market. The nature of transport is changing and for Rachael and the team, the journey’s just beginning.

We’ve partnered with Daimler since 2010. You can read about our work with its top global leadership team here