By Gloria Lombardi

“It is everywhere around us, and in every piece of communication we do. Our tone of voice is about being informal, friendly, warm, and playful,” says Tom Fraine, People Team Leader at innocent.

The company employs 350 people across Europe, and ensures that all of their staff members learn, understand and communicate in the innocent way both externally and internally.

As part of the induction, employees undertake the innocentification. This is a training course run by Dan Germain, who has been in the company for 14 years and pioneered the tone of voice. All the new joiners must also meet with the consumer-facing teams “to understand how the company communicates with one another, with the outside world and with our consumers.”

The best employees for social media

As important as it is, tone of voice permeates all the digital communications. Employees who belong to the social media teams have embraced it entirely. Each person ending up to work in these teams was previously part of another department inside innocent, rather than coming from the outside. “To do social media you have to understand our language and culture first; less important for us is the technology because you can learn it the more you use it,” emphasises Fraine.

On top of that, people joining the Digital and Communities team “are absolutely the best employees that we can find inside the company.” To identify the ‘best’ individuals “we read what they write. As part of the interviewing process we set them a task, which requires them to write in a way that is creative, engaging and surprising. That helps us to make sure that they are the right communicators.”

Demanding leadership in everybody

“If you can improve the quality of the leadership, then you can have a disproportionally largest effect on the business.”

To keep communications coherent, the organisation ensures that senior leaders are clear on the important messages. To help with this, they run courses focused on making their leaders better communicators. “At innocent leaders must be very good strategic thinker, inspiring managers, and fully embody our values.”

Having said that, the company demand leadership in everyone. Entrepreneurialism is part of the organisation’s DNA. “You are expected to ask for forgiveness and permission, to experiment with your ideas, go ahead and be the entrepreneur you want to be.”

This approach leads to greater innovation. One of the best examples is the creation of the successful Big Knit marketing campaign. Generated from the idea of an employee, the Big Knit encourages consumers all over Europe to send innocent a hand kitted wholly hat that the company will put on top of their smoothies. For every bottle sold, the company gives money to a charity. Last year they sold one million drinks and made their largest donation.

Collective and equal dialogue

Being a relatively small company, innocent still relies on verbal communications to send big messages across the organisation. “Having collective dialogues, talking with employees and listening to them is where we put all our focus.”

Twice per year the company brings everyone together at Christmas and in the summer. These are two important pieces of communication for the company.

The summer meeting is about looking forward. “We spend time talking about the future, the company strategy, the direction of the business, as well as generating new ideas.” The whole event is organised around workshops and break-out groups. They also invite speakers from outside the company to tell employees inspirational stories. One of them was Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day. From having a small idea Gilley created a campaign called Peace One Day which led to one day of the year when organisations and governments from all around the world sign up to have no conflicts. “For example, in Afghanistan on that day the Taliban stopped fighting.”

The Christmas meeting is all about looking back, updating everyone on the last twelve months as well as celebrating and recognising the best results of the year. Five teams from across the business present the stories of their achievements, and one of them is awarded a prize. The Christmas event also sees the celebration of the Golden Bottle, an employee Awards ceremony.

Benefits that stretch you

“We give our people the opportunity to do something different, to stretch themselves, move beyond what is expected of them.”

This philosophy is reflected in the benefits and perks offered to employees. For example, under the innocent scholarship, four times per year innocent gives 1,000 GBP to three employees to do something that they always wanted to do. The money can be used for a life ambition such as travelling abroad, or a sporting ambition such us cycling around the world. Some members used it to become film-makers, others to learn to teach Yoga.

Staff can also set up their own clubs, which unite colleagues around recreational activities like playing football or baking cakes.

Employees have also the opportunity to do volunteering work, an activity that has been playing an important role in engaging employees. Many initiatives help to raise money for the innocent Foundation, the 10-year company’s charity that gives back to the community 10% of its profits annually. Each of the charity partners has a member representative of innocent that looks after that relationship. Once per year they provide a piece of communication to the company on what is going on with that charity. They also inform colleagues on a regular basis on how to get involved. Twice a year one employee gets the chance to visit the charities they support.

An engaging workspace environment

“We are an open plan. We are believers in the power of open spaces.” innocent’s buildings encourage collaborative relationships. They are designed to maximise the opportunity to bump into one another and have conversations. Fraine believes that to be a great innovator at Innocent it is enormously important for everyone to understand the cross-functional work that happens inside the business. And this “would not happen if you sit all the time on your own.”

Although innocent has a hierarchical structure, it is difficult when you walk into the building to tell who the managers and directors are and who the employees are. They all work on shared desks and they don’t seat in teams.

The communal kitchen area has been also playing an important role. The company offers free breakfast every day for everyone, which means “each morning the kitchen is full of people talking to each other and interacting. That is a great way to start the day.”

Growing the innocent way

The future for innocent promises to be about growing the business. “We want to become the biggest juice company across Europe within 5 years.” Expanding outside Europe is also on the plan.

This will most certainly change the culture “but its key ingredients – our values, purpose, what we set up to achieve and our tone of voice…those will stay the same.”


This article originally appeared on simply-communicate