Creating a culture with people at its heart

Local cancer charity, Big C, is developing a new People and Culture Strategy, which is the evolution of an action plan to develop people practices and culture across the organisation positively. Here Caroline Roberts, Big C’s People Manager, explains their approach.
Published in Norfolk Director Magazine Autumn|Winter 2022

Charity: Big C

Recognising that our people are central to everything we do, our cultural development journey began four years ago using feedback from the 2018 Best Employers Survey. Culture can be described as “the way we do things around here”. We focused on increasing organisational learning and ensuring a positive culture exists in which staff are effective, productive, happy, and service-user focused.

Big C’s core values are Respect, Empathy, Support, Trust and Honesty. These values provide a benchmark for conduct and are used in recruitment assessments, performance reviews and in recognition of great performance.

We have 85 staff and over 300 active volunteers across the head office, seven cancer support and information centres or hubs, and 12 charity shops throughout Norfolk.

Sadly, many of us will be touched by cancer through friends, family or even personally, and it is this, and knowing our work makes a real difference, that unites us. Many of our employed staff also volunteer and fundraise for the charity.

We have developed and integrated a range of communication methods across the organisation, responding to the differing needs of our staff. A weekly update email is sent to all staff and volunteers, including important updates, celebrating successes and detailing staffing changes, ensuring they hear all news before it is shared externally. We also have a Staff Wellbeing Hub on Sharepoint where we post useful blogs and signpost to additional services.

Our Executive Team also commits to making more regular face-to-face visits to staff based away from head office.

Recognition from Best Employers

These achievements were reflected in the Best Employers Eastern Region survey results 2021, where Big C was recognised with Gold Accreditation and received the ‘Most Improved Award’ with a 25% increase in culture and engagement scores. Additionally, 94% of staff said that they felt “cared for” during the pandemic.

Some of Big C’s accomplishments include enhanced wellbeing support and mental health first aiders, investment in mandatory training for all employees, ongoing commitment to being “disability confident”, and the introduction of hybrid working practices. All Big C employees have completed Motivational Maps, enabling them and their managers to identify and feed their core motivators. As a charity, we know that our team’s cluster of motivators is Growth, so their motivation comes from achieving their full potential and being the best they can be.

Because of this, we try to involve staff in new and creative developments, providing freedom and meaning to their work. Furthermore, I have recently trained to become a Motivational Maps Licensed Practitioner to enable personal coaching and support for managers regarding peoples’ motivators.

People are the reason Big C exists, and we can’t operate and help many local people affected by cancer without our amazing employees, casual staff, volunteers and Trustees. Therefore, we decided to bring everyone together, uniting HR and Volunteering support as one People Team. This ensures best practice, fairness, inclusion and equality in our processes. People was also added as a fifth Big C pillar, alongside Support, Research, Equipment and Education, to recognise they are at the heart of everything we do.

A positive culture can help attract and retain talented people who want to be part of a great place to work and who will thrive and help the organisation achieve results.

We know from applicant feedback that our Best Employers Accreditation appeals to candidates. Our aim is always to become the employer and volunteer organisation of choice.

As part of the team’s continuous development, Big C employees are enthusiastically championing matters that are important to them, such as mental health, LGBTQ+ and Autism, sharing their knowledge and helping to ensure that Big C is as inclusive as possible, both internally for our staff and volunteers and also in relation to our support services available. From these discussions, Big C was proud to march in the Norwich Pride parade this year and had a fantastic day. Charitable Operations Manager Tonia King explained: “It was great to be part of the Norwich Pride March. At Big C, we know cancer doesn’t discriminate, and neither do we. It is so important to Big C that anyone visiting our centres or accessing our support feels welcome and included.”

Big C has continued to engage with Thriving Workplaces, Norfolk’s free workplace health provider, benefiting from free Mental Health First Aid training and support in implementing a wellbeing charter, that develops and evidences excellence in relation to employer standards.

How Big C helps

Big C is one of East Anglia’s largest cancer charities, having raised £40 million since it was founded 40 years ago. Today, Big C’s loyal supporters help the charity raise, on average, £3 million every year to help those in our community who are affected by cancer.

Seven Cancer Support and Information Centres and Hubs, located in Norwich, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, Wells Community Hospital, Thetford Healthy Living Centre and the Peartree Centre in Suffolk, provide friendly, specialist, practical and emotional support for those with a cancer diagnosis and their families in a non-clinical environment. Services include professional counselling, complementary therapies, group therapy, wellbeing programmes, ‘Ask the Nurse’ and welfare advice in partnership with Citizen’s Advice.

Support is available via the Big C virtual centre, offering video 1:1 support, virtual support groups and over the telephone, too, for those who can’t travel to Big C’s centres or who prefer support from the comfort of their own home.

The charity has helped to fund internationally significant research projects, greatly benefiting local people and having a global impact on our understanding of preventing and treating cancer.

Creating a culture with people at its heart 1

Caroline Roberts (pictured left with Dale Colemna, is People Manager at Big C

For Big C support: 
T: 0800 092 7640
Or visit
For Fundraising visit

Share This


WHEN RELEASED WE WILL SEND YOU THE latest digital version.