Scaling Culture at Horwich FarrellyCase Studies

Scaling Culture at Horwich Farrelly

7 min read, by Steve Wikeley

Business Case

A legal firm of over 750 employees, Horwich Farrelly expanded by over 50% and spread across five sites, in only three years. A leading specialist provider of legal and handling services to the UK general insurance claims sector, Horwich Farrelly has always prided itself on putting its people first, winning an award for a revolutionary approach to performance management in Law and being marked as ‘One To Watch’ by Best Companies.

However, their rapid growth made it harder to retain the connection between management, senior partners and company as a whole, that had, until now, been very natural. The firm’s second annual engagement survey, in 2016, revealed that less than half of their people felt they were regularly recognised for a job well done.

Only 42% of employees responded positively to the question: “I receive regular recognition or praise for doing my job well” in the firm’s second employee engagement survey — spurring action by Horwich Farrelly.

The management acknowledged they still had a long way to go and that it was imperative to evolve their company’s culture and recognition in order to maintain the environment that had created this impressive rate of business growth. This led to reward and recognition becoming one of the seven key areas for the organisation to focus on.

During this time, Horwich Farrelly also launched their first set of corporate values. They were keen to discover a means for their employees to really live these values, to ensure that they helped shape the future of the organisation, becoming more than just ‘posters on the wall’.

"Company culture is fundamentally driven by the values of your brand; you're trying to create a connection between the brand and your people. The values of your people need to connect with the values of the company, to build a more emotional, as opposed to rational, relationship with the organisation. This is heavily influenced by the commitment of the leadership team to the values of the brand."

- Luke Fisher, CEO @ Mo

To scale a great company culture, it was identified that they would need to fundamentally change the actions of appreciation and recognition. This was achieved by creating visibility across the organisation and linking this recognition back to their 15 core behaviours, which were built out of the Horwich Farrelly Values & Competency framework. To achieve this, they sought out Mo — a fast growing engagement platform that prided itself on integrating their customisable and bespoke approach to the business objectives and cultural initiatives of the organisation.

The Introduction of Mo

Representing Horwich Farrelly, CSR Manager Eloise Sochanik and Luke Fisher, CEO at Mo, would help empower Horwich Farrelly’s people to drive a fresh and organic, cultural transformation.

Mo's vision is to help organisations create exceptional places to work, so that more people love their job. Through recognising sterling efforts, increasing company wide communication and putting an emphasis on company values, Mo weaves together, repairs and enhances the community’s culture. This makes the working life a more rewarding, encouraging and open place to be.

They provide real time, data driven analytics and feedback to help create positive action and are the only data driven solution tracking employee actions to company values.

Launching Mo

Eloise and the firm were eager for Mo to understand the organisational structure, what a working day at the firm looked and felt like, and how recognition was given. An employee steering group was developed to give the personnel a voice in actively shaping the culture of the organisation.

After a successful day of workshops and meetings with HR, the leadership team, managing partners and the steering group, Mo were able to come away with a wealth of user stories and understanding that influenced not just the launch to Horwich Farrelly but impacted the launch process they would take forward to other clients.

Eloise and Mark Davies, Launch Manager at Mo, piloted a new means of launching the program — ‘Mo Champions’.

The new scheme led with peer recognition in order to build a culture of genuine appreciation before financial incentives were introduced. During the pilot, 53 volunteers not only trialled the system to feedback to the cooperative, but were the ones driving further adoption. Sharing messages outside of the test group would instantly invite their colleague to Mo. The exceptional advocacy of the Champions caused a viral adoption and by day two, the user base had grown by 45%. This also ensured that as the system reached all corners of the firm, it was already filled with great examples of recognition — facilitating knowledge sharing of how best to live the culture that was again rooted in the Mo Champions.

The marketing team at Horwich Farrelly prepared an exciting launch campaign featuring the managing partners and board. Introducing a more informal feel, it instantly humanised the managing partners and made them more visible; it also displayed their commitment to the program and created a sense of openness that was in line with the way that people wanted to ‘feel at work’.

The core of the marketing campaign, created by Scott Neal, Marketing Communications Manager for Horwich Farrelly, was a series of photographs featuring the partners, directors and other colleagues wearing a specially designed ‘ThanksBox Head’ (after all we did used to be called ThanksBox); these photos were advertised around the firm and on the day the platform officially launched, all employees received a box of co-branded chocolates.

"I'm really proud to have been part of the launch of Mo, which achieved 82% engagement within six months. It was challenging but great fun to be given the task of creating a launch campaign that enabled our 750 people to be recognised as consistently now, as when the firm was half size."

- Scott Neal, Marketing Communications Manager, Horwich Farrelly

It is important to note that material or monetary based rewards were not included in the program until five months after the system launch; this meant people were organically participating in the cultural shift and recognising one another without the knowledge of any incentive. The staff had bought into Mo, with the real tangible aim to improve recognition and culture amongst peers, before any regular cadence of rewards were brought in alongside it.

After the scheme had been firmly adopted throughout the organisation, and the content observed in Mo had reached a consistently high level of quality, it was time to introduce ‘Mo Thursdays’ — a monthly event bringing a series of fun rewards to the desks of the most outstanding colleagues. The managing partners personally reviewed all of the eligible recognition messages before announcing them to the firm and the rewards could be bottles of fizz, additional annual leave, chocolates or vouchers — a range of rewards to fit the needs of a diverse workforce. The act of delivering these rewards in person, created a fantastic buzz around the office every Mo Thursday.


Line managers saw how effective the new system was among different teams; they became more cohesive and the solicitors felt a higher level of recognition for their efforts. This encouraged management at all grades to become more involved, securing active participation throughout the company’s hierarchy.

The members had a new found voice, which was heard at all levels across Horwich Farrelly. By the end of the first month, the number of active users had increased by more than 300%. Since the launch in Jan 2017 usage steadily grew to 11,000 messages by the end of the year, with a consistent usage of around 92% across the whole year!

The Mo values analytics revealed: Being “A strong team player” is their most recognised behaviour. Their least recognised behaviour “Speaking up”, lead to plans in 2018 to launch Ideas as part of Mo to give employees a forum to speak up to improve the workplace.

With such wide adoption, the question remains: How do people feel? Has the culture and recognition improved? 

The answer is: Yes.

The data tells us; the most engaged employees, identified through Horwich Farrelly’s engagement survey a year after this initiative begun, were found to have sent twice as many messages as the least engaged departments.

Horwich Farrelly’s recent engagement survey revealed 68% of people agreed the new reward and recognition scheme has helped to create a more positive culture.