A Cultural Transformation and Resilience [Session Summary]


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For those of you who did not have the chance to tune into The CHRO Virtual Summit Reloaded, here is a brief look into the story of “A Cultural Transformation and Resilience” presented by Ingrid Eras-Magdalena, the EVP and CHRO at Belmond.

When faced with company-wide stagnation and falling performance, it’s quite easy to start finger-pointing and blaming. It’s difficult to take an objective look at the root cause of many organizational issues: company culture. This is exactly the scenario that faced Ingrid Eras-Magdalena when she arrived at Belmond in 2014, a company that was essentially at a stand-still. To combat the slide in performance, senior management decided on implementing a comprehensive 5 year transformation plan that included a three-point growth strategy to change the company culture.

“When you decide to transform a company, you need to take a step back and say – are we ready for this?”

The fundamental basis of resilience in an organizational context is that everyone moves in the same direction, and has a shared sense of purpose. In practice this is much more difficult that it sounds, and there are many reasons for this – usually because roadblocks come from the entrenched mindsets and actions of senior management. To begin the transformation process, leaders must learn to listen actively, build a culture of accountability, trust and engagement – and perhaps most importantly of all – break down the silo mentality.

Cultural transformation in the organizational structure

The first major step in building resilience is to review how the organizational structure impacts the overall transformation process. This occurs through a company-wide review process that senior management must support. It is essential that the structure of the organization is mapped and evaluated clearly, as this will inform the capacity for change before any changes take place. HR is in a great position to lead this evaluation, as it has access to the company’s structure, the people tools and processes currently used, and the growth potential contained within the organization. Must take the lead in reviewing and aligning roles, streamlining old processes and constructing new ones, as well as reviewing and developing people – particularly through performance management, learning & development and other similar practices.

Cultural transformation in the organizational culture

The second part of this process is far more nebulous. Transforming the organizational culture must deal with a huge number of variables – mostly due to the fact that the people in the organization are inherently more complicated than any tool or management process. Belmond used two main review processes – a bottom up review of the core values of the organization that’s led by employees, and a leadership competency review. It’s important in both of these reviews to canvass what not only the employees feel the purpose and meaning of the company to be, but how the leadership group’s skills and behaviours fit in with the cultural vision of the organization.

Once you have designed a model based on the feedback from both groups, it becomes essential to ensure that the company’s brand is therefore made recognizable. Eras-Magdalena suggests that HR and the company must work together, otherwise there will be a disconnection between the brand vision and the workforce reality. To further ensure global continuity, changes were rolled out across the entire company by establishing a service culture training, a consistent tool implementation, change processes and KPI’s. However, in order not to ‘flatten’ the strengths of each international sector of the business, a local flavour was added to each individual unit in an effort to avoid homogenizing a unique brand point.

Building resilience: Adversity Quotient 

Adversity quotient (AQ), is one of the most significant indicators of business success and resilience. While intellect and emotional intellect are of course very important, AQ is essentially a force multiplier, a measure of how well an individual deals with adversity. AQ is an essential part of leadership capability, as possessing a high AQ gives an individual the ability to navigate stress and uncertainty with more clarity and mindfulness. While there’s a certain element resilience that is unique to individuals, Eras-Magdalena suggests that there are some ways to develop your AQ and boost the transformation process along including:

  • Developing a good social network
  • Possessing the mental capacity to deal with stress
    • This can be enhanced by practices such as meditation, mindfulness, visualization etc.
  • Improving Physical capacity
    • It’s important for everyone to have a healthy exercise routine, a good diet, and ensure that they get enough sleep and rest.
  • Findling Spiritual balance
    • Aside from mental health and personal spiritual health, this balance also comes with aligning you personal values with that of the company.

Building the organizational capacity for AQ is essentially the icing on top of the transformation cake. It is the adaptive building block of long-term success, cultural growth, and agility. HR leaders must be aware of the importance of building AQ and resilience into their people systems, process, and leadership development pipeline. As a part of Belmond’s journey, this is perhaps the most enduring element of ongoing cultural change – it’s not something that can ever be fully mastered, but will act as a future-proofing feature of a healthier organization.

If you missed the Summit or some of the presentations – don’t worry – you can purchase access to the presentations and slides for a 30-day period by following this link.


The 3rd HR Congress Brussels, November 27-28 will feature a selection of sessions that will explore this topic and much more! Make sure you follow The HR Congress Blog and #HRCongress18 to stay posted on all the latest news, updates and content from the world of work!

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