Why does culture matter?
They say it takes less than five seconds to create a first impression and a workplace’s culture is no different. From the moment you step into a workplace you can start to ‘feel’ it. Those non-tangible signs and symbols you pick up on will give you clues about what it’s like as a place to work.
At first this will be just the outward-facing stuff: the physical environment, the types of people walking around…but the more time you spend there, the more you understand what it’s really like.
Among other things, you’ll wonder:
How empowered are people?
How connected are they to their organisation?
How passionate are they?
How are people treated and how do they treat others?
How much does the culture reflect the brand?
All of these elements make an organisation unique & provide the building blocks for a great culture. If you have ever met a truly inspiring person face-to face, you’ll know how powerful this feeling is, and the impact it can quickly have on other people.
Let’s get emotional… yes we’re saying bring the E-word to business, so brace yourself Brits!
Many people think of an organisation’s culture as a fluffy, emotional subject that’s best left to ‘tea and sympathy’ types, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Culture is about introducing passion, trust, respect and empowerment, and it allows you to create an ongoing connection with your direct reports.
We know that if you get this right by aligning your brand with your people, your business’s productivity will soar. Employees with an emotional connection with your company will not only want to achieve success for themselves but will strive to make your business a success. And the same goes for having an emotional connection to their manager!
Your Cultural Values must be authentic
Cultural values should reflect what your organisation is like as a place to work. Many companies spend a lot of money coming up with these values, and plaster them over their walls only to find that they make very little difference day to day.
Culture is not something you can control or enforce. Instead you have to encourage, guide and empower people to live and breathe their culture.
The key to creating a successful set of company values is to make sure they are authentic and genuinely reflect your unique culture. We spoke to our friends at Ella’s Kitchen a little while ago, and they’re a great example of this. As an organic child food brand their philosophy ‘think like toddlers, act like toddlers’ is embodied in their values of Genuineness, Imagination and Inspiration.
These values are so fundamental to the success of Ella’s Kitchen that they told us they take great care to make sure they run through EVERYTHING they do as an organisation.
As the team has grown they have started to hold ‘Ella’s-ness sessions’ for their whole team to help them really ‘get the values’ and crucially how they live and breathe them through their day-to-day decision-making and behaviour. This is a fundamental starting point for culture.
Make sure your culture runs through everything & everyone
Once you have identified your culture and your values it’s so important that they run through every facet of your organisation, and not just the marketing or HR departments.
At Ella’s they have taken this seriously. Their Accounts Team are aptly titled ‘Sums Team’ and their Marketing Team are called ‘Making Friends’, plus they don’t conduct performance appraisals or reviews. Instead they have ‘my big chat’ and ‘my little chat’ at mid-year.
Introducing your culture doesn’t have to be as cute and charming as this: yours will probably look a bit different! Just think about what really represents you as a brand and make sure this becomes the DNA of your company. Think about every touchpoint you have with your people and think about whether these represent your culture.
For example, if you view your company as especially entrepreneurial, then challenge yourselves to give people the space and inspiration to live & breathe this. Make this something you use as a test to recruit new people, use it as a benchmark to measure & reward performance, and use this belief to inform the way leadership behave every day.
Lead by example
‘Lead by example’ is undoubtedly an over-used phrase, but it’s never more relevant than when it comes to your company culture. Your leaders set the tone for the rest of the organisation, so they need to embody what you stand for, and reward & challenge others on that basis.
The rest of your organisation will take these cues and behave in a similar way. That’s either a blessing or a curse, depending on how clear your brand message is.
Create Purpose & Passion
Finally, you need to create purpose & passion at all levels, in every role, through your organisation’s culture & vision.
Ensure you make the importance of each role and the effect it has on the success of the company very clear. While many business owners question the cost of investing in this type of program, Ella’s Kitchen have a different view. This view contributes to making them the fastest growing food brand in the UK today.
“We always try to ensure that our team know how they fit into the company and how their job contributes to what Ella's is trying to achieve in the bigger scheme of things. Our people and culture is what has made us the success we are today...”
Tips to build a strong and authentic company culture
Start building today. Too many companies think building culture isn’t important. If your business is to reach its real potential, it’s time to take action.
Decide who you are. What are your brand personality and values?
Work out what is unique about YOUR company culture. What makes it stand out from your competitors?
Bring the right people into the organisation. Make sure they have the right attitude and mindset to live and breathe your culture.
Make sure it flows through everything you do. From recruitment to decision making - don’t just pay lip service.
Create purpose & passion. Surprise and excite your team by showing how deep your company values run.
Lead by example. You’re the torch-bearer, so show people how important your culture & values are by demonstrating them yourself.
If that isn’t enough (for those non-fluffies out there!)…
Building a strong culture and engaging your people with your internal brand reduces absence, produces more efficient ways of working, generates ideas to grow the business, and helps you keep hold of your top performers.
Basically, building a strong culture allows you to do all the important things that salaries and bonus schemes can never do. Don’t delay – it’s time to get emotional!
By Imogen Pudduck & Carla Cringle, founders of brand employee engagement consultancy FizzPopBANG