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Actions develop an organizational culture - Milestone and Aktia are on a journey of digital culture development

By Sanni Juoperi on Sep 2, 2020 4:16:24 PM

Milestone Coaching & Consulting is a Corporate culture design (coaching and development) agency with over 20 years of history in human-centred change. They build their customer relationships, coaching processes as well as change and strategy processes all around the same basic principles: how we are as humans.

The human concept in the centre

“We believe that Successful leadership is about two things at its core: what kind of being is being led (human) and how to make corporate culture to support the strategy. Leadership without a healthy perception of what a person is (human concept) does not lead to the desired outcome. A strategy that is not supported by culture is doomed to failure. That’s the perspective we bring to every process, describes Elina Aaltolainen, Culture Strategist from Milestone.

How to create openness and a sense of community in a traditional industry?

Aktia is an asset manager, bank and life insurer with an extensive history ranging back to 1825. Today it has around 900 employees and functions around Finland. Investment funds managed by Aktia’s award-winning asset management are also sold internationally. Aktia and Milestone are working together to develop their corporate culture.

Banking is a traditional industry with a lot of hierarchical structures. At the same time, it’s going through major changes with digitalization and customer behaviour shifting. Aktia has recognized that in order to be able to build wealth together with their customers now and in the future, they need to strengthen the best parts of their culture: working together for the customer, innovativeness, bravery and accountability. That can be achieved by strengthening the feeling of psychological safety, trust and feeling of belonging to something important. A big role in future success is in a team culture which nurtures constant feedback. Explains Elina about the starting stages of their journey together.

Milestone and Aktia created a group that was a mix of younger rising talents in the organization and senior management to set the structures to observe Aktia’s culture today and the vision for its tomorrow. “With the Howspace platform, we got the opportunity to also involve line managers in the organization straight from the beginning. Using digital tools combined with service design methods allowed us to grasp the big picture fast”, Aaltolainen describes.

Big things can happen virtually

An important part of the culture process was to spend time with all managers in the organization to explore how to start shifting the current culture towards the desired state. This was supposed to happen in a big live event called Aktia Day. But as many other organizations during spring 2020, Aktia’s plans changed due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

“We were already using Howspace for the process, so it was an immediate decision for us to keep working as planned but digitally when we realized that Aktia Day cannot happen in person. We started the pre-work for the event on the digital platform and went on to transform Aktia day to a virtual experience.”

In the end, Aktia day was built entirely on the Howspace platform. In the core of it was a studio-quality live stream where the top management was present to share and discuss throughout the day. Managers were participating in different parts from their locations.

As part of Aktia’s culture vision, one of the qualities they wanted to see more of in the organization is that people dare to challenge others. This was incorporated into the ways of working.

“Culture changes when you do things differently. We had some business directors presenting planned strategy work on the live stream, and then we invited people to challenge them and the work, real-time. Working this way takes courage from the organization, but that’s how you build practices that support the desired outcome”, Aaltolainen describes their methods.

Wow-effects instead of staring passively at a screen

One of the big goals for Milestone with Aktia day was to create an interactive and inspiring experience and bring the wow-factor to virtual work instead of the fatigue of endless video meetings people had been experiencing.

“The collaboration with Milestone from Aktia’s point of view was very professional and flexible, which we largely appreciate. Developing our organizational culture further and thus building an even stronger employer brand is an area we focus on hugely at the moment,” says Johanna Alasuutari, HR Director at Aktia. 

“The digital ways of working also have tools to bring more participation and equality to the process. Everyone’s voice matters the same on a digital platform. You can even do some parts anonymously when needed. Working with AI-tools makes it possible to involve a lot of people in a dialogue real-time and summarize the discussion then and there. This is a possibility for leaders to hear what people in their organization are saying, at a new scale.

Aktia day was a success. In general, I think we are only scratching the surface of what these tools can bring to the world of involvement and human-centred development” Aaltolainen summarizes.


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