How Improving Organisational Culture through Engagement Leads to Profitable Growth

By Linda Meade, HRD, Dreams Limited in partnership with Karen Jones Denison UK

From Administration to
Industry Leading

Dreams is the Most Recommended Bed Company, having been in business for over 30 years, now with over 183 stores.

Historically, Dreams was founded in 1986, but unfortunately went into administration in 2013 and was purchased by Sun European Partners (Sun). Later that year, Mike Logue was appointed as the new CEO, tasked with leading the Company back to profitable growth.

In the following three years, Dreams has been successfully restored from administration to impressive profits, revitalising the Company’s health and re-establishing the customers’ trust.

Where do you begin when faced with the challenge of breathing new life into the remains of a failed retail business—especially one having been recently acquired by a private equity firm that believes in its potential and rightly expects swift improvement with tangible financial results?

Dreams adopted a multifaceted approach to achieve this success. The new management team championed an uncompromising and relentless focus on putting the customer first. In addition, the brand was refreshed with a better in-store customer experience, improved products, innovative marketing campaigns, a revised Company logo, and a fleet of new delivery vehicles.

However, although these changes were essential, Dreams knew that, fundamentally, to change the culture is to change the business. Therefore, an intensive drive was needed to build a high-performance culture within the organisation, setting the foundation upon which the value of all other changes would be realised. And so, the journey from administration to financial success really began in earnest with a data-driven look at the whole organisation. As outlined below, the Dreams story shows that financial success really does come from building a clear and aligned culture that brings the people with you.


Searching for Evidence

Mike Logue and his Management Team understood the importance of creating a winning culture, with the aim of transforming Dreams into the most profitable and recommended bed company in the industry. However, from initial observations around the various business functions, they quickly developed concerns about a disengaged workforce. Initially, the greatest unknown was the depth to which this pervasive negative culture extended across the organisation. Fortunately, Sun requires all its companies to carry out the Denison Organisational Culture Survey (DOCS), and Linda Meade (HRD) set about carrying out the inaugural survey in 2014 to gain insight and to establish a baseline from which to move forward. Never having used DOCS, Linda openly acknowledges that she was initially sceptical and unsure of its merit. But after four years, and seeing the value DOCS has brought to the business, she is now one of Denison’s strongest advocates.

Only 51% of employees elected to participate in the initial survey—which suggests, at this stage, that employees had misgivings about the motives of the Management Team.

Still, the results provided Dreams with convincing evidence to verify their early observations about the established culture across the organisation and, more importantly, its negative effects on the attitude of the workforce and consequent damaging impact on the business.

To determine why people felt this way, a series of “One Team One Dreams” workshops was held across the Company, where colleagues were invited to speak honestly about their views of the Company—with the promise that Mike and his team would listen to, understand, and act upon the information provided.

As a result of the workshops, it became clear that much work would be needed to transform the prevailing ethos into a winning culture. Mike and his team were determined to reintroduce trust and a positive team spirit back into the Dreams culture. This approach began by demonstrating mutual respect at all levels, and building open and honest relationships with all employees through constant communication.

Creating a Winning Culture Through a Highly Engaged Dream Team

Communication, communication, communication…It became apparent that this was, at worst, absent, and at best, inconsistent, across the various functions of the business. Therefore, many felt detached, isolated and neglected. The Dreams Leadership Team needed to create a culture with a clear strategy, mission, and vision—where employees understood where the Company planned to go over the next 3 years, and the value of their individual personal contribution to this journey. However, it was clear that this could be achieved only when all colleagues felt equally involved—whether they were located at “Bedquarters,” a store, the factory in Oldbury, or on the road delivering orders to customers. So, they focused on a strategy of “listen, understand and act,” and began strategically investing in specific actions to help create the high-performance, engaged culture they needed.

As well as ensuring that all employees have easy access to the intranet to receive all day-to-day operational content and changes as they happen, several initiatives were implemented that were designed to reach out to everyone. Most importantly, it was recognised that, when sharing information with colleagues, much more can be gained through personal interaction. Therefore, regular road-shows meeting all employees across the business, quarterly listening forums, Monday briefings at Bedquarters, and an annual conference for retail employees were introduced. These events allow the Executive Team to personally update all areas of the business, but, of equal importance, colleagues at the “coalface” are encouraged to speak candidly about issues affecting their part of the business so that remedial actions can be implemented where necessary.


In addition to the roadshows and forums, Dreams has adopted a culture of saying “thank you” across the business, with various awards and simple gestures, e.g. management serving lunch to the factory colleagues, and awards for those whose actions go Above and Beyond the Call of Dreams (ABCD). Such support further diminishes any perception of a faceless and inaccessible management team and demonstrates that colleagues are valued. Furthermore, Dreams has selected as it’s chosen charity, The Fostering Network, and a significant number of colleagues are continually demonstrating their engagement by giving up their free time to volunteer and raise funds for this charity through fun events. Thusfar, 180 children have benefited from their ongoing involvement.

Dreams recognises that sharing the financial success of the business is important—in fact, the success of the turnaround strategy has allowed a bonus to be paid in the last three consecutive years.

Dreams also offers a staff discount scheme to all employees and their families, to ensure that all colleagues get a good night’s sleep. The scheme has been very popular, realizing £2.6m spent to date. However, more importantly, initial colleague feedback showed that they need to feel valued, and Dreams understood the benefits that would be unlocked by investing in training for its people. Therefore, Dreams demonstrated its commitment by implementing structured training and succession programmes across all areas of the business to identify and nurture talent. The ongoing training programmes embrace all colleagues, including comprehensive induction of all new employees, management leadership training, Senior Management leadership training, video-based delivery driver training, store-based colleague training, and “Passionate About Winning”—a programme that was introduced specifically to enhance the performance of store colleagues by encouraging them to identify their own strengths and weaknesses and support each other.

Measuring Engagement

Research has shown that there is a significant increase in ROE for companies with a high performing culture. The Dreams Denison engagement survey is carried out annually and the results shown below speak for themselves.

The DOCS not only allowed the Denison Leadership Team to establish a baseline and measure progress, it also gave them a tool that empowered them to drive change. Using the survey, Dreams can measure and track its engagement to drive honest conversations about how the business operates, leading to appropriate, considered actions across the Company with the aim of achieving higher performance through clarity and alignment.

When Mike and his team reflect on the improvement in their culture scores, and on Dreams being named as the Speciality Retailer of 2017 at the recent Retail Week Awards, they can look at the survey and feel that “this is where the magic started.”

Connect with Insights from Denison

If you’d like to be kept up to date when we release a new TRANSFORM article or important piece of research, we can notify you so you have immediate access. Yes, please let me know.

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing, you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Private Equity
As a CEO of a private equity firm, you know that firms with a strong, vibrant culture perform better in a highly competitive marketplace. Denison can work with you to build effective culture in all of your portfolio firms. Our assessment tools enable you to capture a clear picture of your current state. Our consulting expertise supports you in making the changes necessary to achieve superior financial performance. It’s about how you work as a team, how your policies meet practice within the culture of the organization, how performance aligns with your investment criteria.
  • Delivers a consistent assessment of your portfolio companies
  • Gives you an unambiguous picture of the culture
  • Provides a disciplined process and measureable action plan for
  • Offers hands-on strategic consulting to address gaps and affirm best
practices currently being used by your portfolio companies
Our approach:
Financial Services
In the financial sector, you are active in a wide variety of client environments that need to support accountability and the highest ethical standards. The trust that your customer places in your organization is dependent upon the culture that your employees exhibit every day.

You need a clear understanding of how your culture and the people in your organization function within the midst of the complexities of the current financial institutional marketplace. The Denison Model can give you that clarity. From brokerage firms, to retail banking, to institutional banking to insurance, Denison has specific, measurable benchmarking that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. With this baseline diagnostic, our consulting team can support you to put in place action plans to sustain your high standards and see financial performance improvement.
The manufacturing environment is constantly being tasked with improvement in quality and delivery while maintaining the highest levels of safety. The Denison Model equips you to reach from the senior leadership team to the shop floor in a globally networked manufacturing environment to build a culture oriented to continuous improvement in these mission critical areas.

Through our consultancy services, we work with a broad cross-section of your technical and operational staff to align around the goal of producing the highest quality products in the world--on time and on budget.
Within the healthcare market, high performance is measured primarily in patient outcomes. The marriage of the institution with doctors, support staff and operational teams is key to achieving best-in-class patient outcomes. Denison works with you to achieve these outcomes by building a culture that is tuned to the unique ecosystem of support that patients require.

Our organizational culture assessment based on the Denison Model is a proven approach that has supported healthcare providers with actionable feedback for decades. Against four core drivers of cultural high performance, the assessment identifies what is going well and clarifies challenges you may be facing. Then our consulting team is able to support you in addressing these challenges with action plans tailored to your inclusive and diverse environment.
Case Study
The management of culture in an organization whose members are always on the move.
At Denison, student outcomes are well understood as the goal of every educational organization. Our consulting expertise and diagnostic tools allow your team to more fully understand, articulate and implement your mission. You will gain a collective understanding of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses and challenges benchmarked against other peer institutions, all targeted toward providing students with the best learning environment.

Then, through Action Planning, we will work with you to improve your academic and operational excellence to support the diverse student learning environment of higher education, K-12 schools and related associations.
As a retailer, you know that culture drives the customer experience of your organization. The hospitality, support, and follow-up lived out by your staff all make the difference in each interaction with a consumer. It's that experience that really drives what your behavior should be.

Denison allows you to understand how your organization can support the customer experience. We provide you data that helps you understand your organization all the way through checkout. And we provide sustainable support programs that enable you to address the challenges you face to attract and retain loyal brand customers and to ensure superior financial performance.
Smart restaurant owners know that the patron experience is driven by the culture of their organization. The hospitality, support, and follow-up lived out by your culinary and waitstaff all make the difference in each dish you serve. You know that it is the patron’s needs and expectations that really drive what your team’s behavior should be on the floor.

Denison allows you to understand how your organization is positioned to support the patron experience. We provide you benchmarked data from across the food industry that helps you understand your organization right to the final after-dinner mint. And we provide sustainable support programs that enable you to address the challenges you face to attract and retain loyal brand customers and to ensure superior financial performance.
To achieve high performance in a government initiative requires a different understanding of metrics of success. Typical financial results of business, like sales growth or ROI, are not the KPIs measured here. Rather it is advancement of the mission.

For example, Denison supports military men and women in action through our work with the Defense Logistics Agency (DOA). We provide core culture assessment and an improvement program that helps this department maintain a strong culture to fulfill their mission--addressing everything needed to support fighting men and women in combat through readiness preparation.
Case Study
A transformation that didn’t require thousands of dollars, but a new way of interacting.
Because of the ever-increasing pace in the introduction of new technology and shortening of technology life-cycle, having a culture fluent in adaptability is critical. These factors all drive the need to recoup costs and show profit more and more quickly. Being able to seamlessly change business models to drive market expansion, product acceptance and superior performance is absolutely critical in this high-potential return but volatile market. Talent is also at a premium.

Based on diagnostics structured through the Denison Model, our consultancy team will help you build a culture that knows who it is and who best will fit your organization. With this alignment, you gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining the engineers, researchers and innovators you need to lead in introducing market-changing innovation.
Whether you deal with business travelers, tourists, or products in the supply chain, safety and schedule reliability are two of the key deliverables. For decades, Denison has worked with leaders in the transportation industry, helping transform organizations in the face of changing markets and technologies, to ensure consumer safety and satisfaction, as well as bottom-line business success.

When you bring Denison on board, our experienced consultants help you make decisions and plans based on data benchmarked against the global industry. We put your organization on the path to high performance, with measurable benefits to your bottom line.