Nurturing a Company Culture

What is your company’s purpose, beyond the product it makes or the service it provides? This is an important question for every company to consider.

Over the past few years, at Tobermore, we have invested a lot of time to articulate a company vision and values that everyone in the company could embrace.

In Tobermore, we want to recruit and retain team members for the long term based on sharing the values of the company and understanding our vision. We want them to know they will have a welcoming, rewarding, fulfilling career path with us. We felt it was important to define our vision, values and ultimately our culture to inspire and motivate our team and provide a clear sense of purpose.

People want a reason to come to work: a purpose, not just a paycheque. And we have found the way to build this sense of purpose is by providing meaningful work. So we began to think about how to bring our vision, values and culture to the forefront so that staff and stakeholders can feel connected to Tobermore.

Some of the world’s leading brands do this very effectively, by connecting with people at a level beyond just what they do or make. Apple’s famous commercial from 1984 doesn’t mention its products. Instead, it talks about people who changed the world. Under Armour has an inspirational advert featuring the ballerina Misty Copeland, titled ‘I will what I want’.

Management by mission

Four of the Senior Leadership Team at Tobermore completed the Advanced Leadership Programme with the Timoney Leadership Institute, which exposed us to the work of business thinkers like Professor Carlos Rey who teach about management by mission.

Management by mission is about how you make people feel connected to your business by what you do beyond providing goods or services. It focuses on a company’s purpose, how the company serves its customers and its people as well as the contribution the company makes to society.

Thinking this way led us to consider how we incorporate social purpose within our company vision and values. We are fortunate because Tobermore is very generous in terms of charity work and contributes substantial amounts to local and national charities every year. Between 2018 and 2022, we donated close to £8 million to charities, which equates to over 11% of our profits.

By effectively communicating that we do this, everyone in our company understands they’re working for a goal that’s bigger than themselves. They know their contributions have helped to eradicate disease in countries, and to provide people with food, shelter, clothing, education, and clean water.

Another reason for refocusing on our vision was due to our significant growth during Covid-19. Today, we have around 400 employees at Tobermore, with around one-third of the team joining in the last two years. What’s more, this growth happened at a time when many people in the company were working from home due to the Covid restrictions, so it was a challenge to help those new arrivals truly understand the Tobermore culture.

A connection to the company

Tobermore is a wonderful place to work; everyone helps each other and we have a ‘no blame’ culture where we treat problems as opportunities to learn and grow. However a huge part of culture is about feeling connected to the business; we are like a family and it was hard to truly convey that culture with new starts while Covid restrictions were in place.

Many of our recent recruits had never been to our head office, and never got the chance to go through the usual induction process which helps them to get a feel for the company and the culture that we work hard to build.

Fortunately, we had already begun a piece of work prior to Covid that would serve us well when it came to thinking intentionally about our culture, and how we would communicate this to staff.

First, we realised from the start that this process would only be successful if it involved everyone in the business; it can’t just be a top-down directive from the Senior Leadership Team. To truly embed a culture into the way people work and how they feel about their workplace, they need to make an active contribution to defining that vision.

That’s why we first set about asking all of our people to tell us what the company means to them. We asked a number of questions in group surveys, got everyone’s feedback, and then looked to identify recurring themes and words.

Vision and values

Creating that key vision statement from those workshops wasn’t a simple process. We went through several different iterations. We even produced one statement, and used it for a while, but we realised the vision needs to be one that everyone will connect with and remember. That early version was too long, so we needed to simplify it to make it more impactful.

In our case, the wording we ultimately chose is this: “Transform Places and People Through great products and great experiences.”

Our values statement is that ‘Our customers and people are at the heart of everything we do’. (Heart is an acronym for our values and the attributes we seek in our people: Happy, Excellence, Reliable, Attitude, Team.)

The vision and value statements aren’t the end of the process. They’re the beginning, as you continually need to bring the vision and values to life and help people understand what they truly mean.

We created a number of impactful videos that show how our products transform places and impact people’s lives. These videos show our paving and walling products in outdoor spaces, with friends and family connecting while enjoying barbecues, creating leisure areas for people to enjoy, areas for young children to ride their bikes, and providing wheelchair accessible spaces.

This also helps to embed the idea of meaningful and purposeful employment with staff as they can understand how our products make a positive difference to peoples’ lives.

Embedding the ethos

We also put the statements on walls throughout the building, in every single office – either the ‘heart’ values or the vision statement. They’re on people’s screensavers so it’s the first thing they see when they log in every morning. We also had cups with the vision and values printed on them. Our values are further embedded through one Performance Management system and monthly one-to-one meeting which every employee receives.

People might see a video once, and it’s soon forgotten. Our idea is to have constant, visible reminders because repetition is key to understanding. We want our staff to be proud to work for Tobermore and know we do more than just produce and sell world-class concrete products. We also make an impact on communities locally and internationally.

The biggest benefit to having a healthy culture is retaining staff, but other benefits flow from that. Our customers recognise the great culture in the business and, when we have visitors to Head Office, they often remark on the incredible culture within the business. Also when people are coming to work happy, they are contributing in a positive way.

Everyone in the business has ideas, and we encourage them to contribute and add value to what we do. Some recent innovations in the business are the direct result of this culture. We launched an augmented reality app, called ‘Picture It’ which enables consumers to see Tobermore products on their patio or driveway via their phone.

We have also launched a new digital project called ‘constellations’, which helps time-poor architects to incorporate various product mixes into their landscape designs.

In summary

Every business evolves, especially one that’s grown as quickly as ours. There will always be new people joining and others who have been in the business for a long time. So it is important that everyone understands the culture and lives and breathes the vision and values.

Embedding culture is a journey – it is something which requires continual focus and attention. But it can be done – and more importantly, it is worth doing.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me at