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Building a Positive and Empowered Culture at the London School of Economics

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Fostering a strong sense of belonging amongst staff supports a shared sense of purpose and encourages a supportive and enabling environment. This can provide the foundation from which to build on an organisation's institutional and departmental strategic objectives.

The brief:

The London School of Economics (LSE) commissioned Strive Higher to undertake a culture audit to understand and enhance culture within the Residential and Catering Services Division (RSCD). This division has ambitious plans to transform the number of student beds, build and refurbish halls of residence and to reimagine the current catering offer across the LSE. A positive culture to create the conditions for this change is paramount. The division is made up of hugely motivated and talented professionals dispersed across LSE’s offices, outlets and residences. A key objective for this work was to capture the health of the culture based on staff experiences and make recommendations so that all staff, regardless of their personal circumstances, had a strong sense of belonging and felt proud of their contribution to delivering the division's goals. 

Our approach:

We examined the culture of the Directorate using various methods, including focus groups with staff at different levels, 1-2-1 interviews and site visits. To examine cultural aspects to make impactful recommendations for change, we adopted a consistent question frame, including: 

  • What are the most noticeable features of the culture today? 

  • What are the most important features that we should hold onto for the future? 

  • What needs to change in the culture if we can be at our best? 

The outputs of these engagements were mapped against Strive Higher’s 'Index of Belonging', which explores culture through lenses of belonging. Concrete recommendations were then shaped to enhance cultural strengths and extend positive cultural factors across the division.  

These included: 

  • Community: Celebrating positive aspects of culture already present within the division and their impact on colleagues and students, elevating role models at every level. 

  • Communication: Enhancing directorate communications, both across teams, from the centre outwards and from staff engaging with students on the ground.  

  • Leadership role-modelling: Senior leaders being more visible, providing clarity on proposed changes to student services and inclusively engaging staff on the changes they are leading. 

  • Growth: Recognising the diversity and strength of skills and aptitudes across the division and deliberately developing transferable skills as roles evolve to reflect the changes to student services. 

  • Collaborative working: Partnering with other areas of the institution to deliver change so that mutual expectations are clearly understood and well managed. 


  • An index of belonging with a common language to support the evolution of culture for the division to thrive as a community. 

  • A network of culture champions with concrete plans to respond to feedback from across the division and the motivation to make changes that positively impact working lives at LSE. 

  • A division specific people manager toolkit and associated training for all supervising staff that mirrored the culture audit feedback around strengths and gaps to close.

Read more about our Values & Culture and Transformation & Change service offerings.


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