The Great British Bake Off: What can employers learn?

The new series of The Great British Bake Off has shown no signs of slowing down. It is still the country’s favourite television show, with an average audience of 6.5 million every episode (Channel 4 2017). We’ve taken inspiration from the new series to explain how developing your organisation’s culture is not so different to the art of baking! An organisational culture is difficult to assess because it is made up of many different elements which can lead to a winning combination, similar to that of a winning cake.


  • Good quality ingredients are the foundation for any great tasting cake and without them you have nothing. Your employees are the ingredients of your business, they can make your culture a unique asset. Without the right people, your end result is sure to be a baking disaster!
  • The culture of a small software company will be extremely different to a corporate finance company. Similarly, you can’t use the ingredients of a carrot cake for a coffee and walnut cake, it just doesn’t work. Make sure you hire the right people for your culture.
  • If you have the right people they guide the culture and create discretionary behaviour. This is the behaviour they display outside of their job description, it is what guides your employees when they are not being told what to do. We think you’ll agree, the people are vital to making your business a cut above the rest and a truly authentic brand.

So how can you make sure your employees are the right ingredients for your overarching vision?

  1. Listen to candidates at interview – are they interested in: the bigger picture, how they can impact the business, and what your values and mission are?
  2. Go with your gut – if you feel they display personality traits which just aren’t compatible with your existing culture then it’s usually a bad decision to hire them.
  3. Value integrity over experience, in the long term this will significantly benefit your company culture.

“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” – Louis Gerstner, IBM

Balance the flavours 

  • Understanding the balance of flavours is an essential part of baking. Everything has to complement each other to produce a taste that is like no other. Take a salted caramel cake, the salt adds a sharpness to the caramel flavour which makes it less sickly. However, if one flavour is considerably stronger than the other it ruins the end product.
  • Now apply this to leaders within a business, if they override all employees in the business it creates an unbalanced environment. Employees are stunted in their opportunity to add real value to the organisation and therefore become demotivated. In times of change, it is particularly important to allow them a voice and give them more opportunity to grow and develop.

How can you make sure you keep balance in your organisation?

  1. Hand over power – give people in your business as much power and autonomy as they can handle. This will make them more engaged and productive ensuring you are more agile as a company.
  2. Let them solve – if they have a problem or question, don’t just take responsibility and do it yourself. Give them the opportunity to work it out for themselves. This means that they are always learning and developing.
  3. Open communication – show that you are open to ideas and conversations about work. The majority of time staff are scared to speak up about new solutions because they feel they have don’t have the authority to do so. Read our article on Hierarchy for more tips.

Refine the recipe 

  • Just as it is so important in baking to test and refine your recipe to ensure it produces the perfect and most palatable cake, it is the same in business. Organisational culture is an on-going project which should always be refined and improved.
  • Externally and internally there will always be change, it is important to keep up with this and ensure you are always developing with the differences that may come along.

How can you keep up?

  1. Measure and listen – surveys, questionnaires and meetings will help you hear the voice of the company and see if there is anything you need to focus on.
  2. Make sure you make reminders, notifications and posts about all of the points mentioned above to ensure that you don’t fall back into old habits.

Written by Hayley Lloyd

Published 19th September 2017