It’s a commonly held misbelief that company culture is just a bunch of motivational adjectives (brave, creative, innovative *delete as appropriate) graffitied on the walls of funky/industrial looking offices with pool tables, Nespresso machines and beers on a Thursday at 5pm (look how relaxed and fun we are)…. However I’m afraid I’m here to burst this bubble. If culture really was that easy to nail, every company in Shoreditch would be winning the Best Company’s award and constantly turning away the cream of London’s talent pool.
So what is a company’s culture?
In its most simple form, a company’s culture can best be described as the way you do things as a team and how you behave towards each other. There is no point having ‘be bold’ emblazoned across the wall in flashing lights if every time someone takes a risk at work they are chastised by senior management for not seeking several layers of approval first.
How do I define ours?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I passionately believe your organisation’s culture is the backbone of your business and what I’m about to say next is probably my best piece of advice on the topic…
*** It’s OK not to be Facebook, Google or Airbnb when it comes to culture ***
In fact, it’s more than ok, it’s mandatory (unless of course you are Facebook, Google or Airbnb in which case, as you were!). Culture is about being true to who your organisation is, stating what kind of company you are and working out what it is about your company that makes people join (and more importantly, stay!) then singing that tune from the rooftops!
The best way of working this all out is to…. ask people
It’s that simple. From the co-founder who’s been by your side since day 1, to the newbie who kicked off their induction yesterday and the leadership team who make critical decisions about the business every day. Everyone will have a view and you’ll probably find a handful of similarities running through what they say – that’s the foundation of defining your culture.
Once you’ve got this key information from your team, it’s time to decide if it’s in line with what you really want the culture to be. If the answer is yes then great, good work! You can now focus your time on how you’re going to spread that message to both current and potential employees (employer branding, your recruitment page on the website and sure, why not paint those words on the wall in the canteen, after all you know they are true now!)
But what if my view of our culture is different to everyone else’s?!
There is of course the chance that what employees currently say about your business, doesn’t really align with how you want to be perceived (for example: I was told at interview that this company values work life balance but if I leave my desk on time then my manager makes comments about me being a part timer).
Look for the trends in what people are saying
It’s tempting to dismiss these views, ‘oh the manager is just mucking around’ or ‘god, she’s being way too sensitive’ but this isn’t advisable. Whilst it’s important not to dwell on every negative piece of feedback you might get (that’s a pretty destructive and depressing way to live your life after all), the silent killer of culture is saying one thing, and doing another.
Take definitive action to get things back on track
So, armed with the definition of your ideal culture and this knowledge of what reality may well be like, it’s time to address the way you do things and how your team behaves so that it’s more in line with what you want your culture to be.
I won’t lie, this can be challenging and will probably take a fair amount of time. You won’t change people’s deep set behaviours overnight. A few tips from me on the topic? Lead by example, call out people when you see them acting in contradiction to the desired culture (but do so in a way that’s in line with it too!) and of course, reward people who do demonstrate the company values – this will encourage more people to follow suite!
Here at The HR Hub we’ve worked with a wonderful array of businesses at every stage of culture definition (from the head scratching start up phase of ‘who do we want to be’ to the exciting growth phase of ‘how do we scale our business whilst keeping our culture strong’) and we love nothing more than helping a business to align its actions with its words. So, why not give us a call to discuss how we can help your business to define, manage or enhance your culture?
Within SMEs, career development opportunities can seem few and far between. And within a small team, their impact can be huge. Here are our top tips on how to go about promoting from within – whilst keeping your team intact.
Succession Plan For All Roles
Take it from me, any time taken away from the coal face to think about the development of your people will never be wasted time. Think carefully about who will be the successors for all roles – including yours – and don’t just go for the obvious. This strategic thinking could impact not only on your recruitment over the next few years but also on your team’s engagement and business strategy as a whole. As a small business grows, many early team members will be concerned that their impact may be diluted by a whole new senior team being recruited externally, so be open with the team about what opportunities there may be in the future and how they may be a part of this.
Be Realistic About Skills Gaps
Where possible, I would always try and recruit from within. If an internal candidate has 70% of what’s required to do the job and that extra 30% can be learnt in house – what are you wanting for? Give them a chance. Witnessing hard work and talent being rewarded can have such positive effect on the whole team. But sometimes, particularly with technically specific roles, to keep ahead of the competition you’ll need to bring the talent in. This can be huge investment, so make sure you do it properly with a well thought out recruitment campaign , carefully considered on boarding programme and (crucially) with the buy-in and/ or involvement of some of your existing team.
Create A Personalised L&D Plan For Each Individual
For every potential internal promotion, think carefully about how you as leader can help individuals get the skills they need to move up. Sometimes this may involve investment in external training. But in my experience some of the most valuable learning opportunities can be provided in-house. Mentorship programmes and job shadowing for example can be hugely valuable, for all parties involved. Empower the team to take ownership of their own learning too. One of my favourite ways to do this is to let each employee expense the odd ebook/podcast/periodical relevant to the business or their function and share their learnings with the team.
Bin The Annual Review
For me, yearly reviews have always seemed pretty pointless. Meet once a month if you can, but at least once every few months. Whilst catching up on operational issues and where team members are vs targets, check in on where they are at with their own development too to make sure it’s moving forward. There’s little point in having an personal development plan if that’s all it remains…. If you demonstrate to the team that their personal development is a priority for you (and action anything you’ll say you do promptly) it’ll be a priority for them and become part of the culture at your organisation.
Be Conscious Of Those Left Behind
Seeing a close team member move up to a new role without you can be hugely demotivating whether you were in line for the role or not. Communication here is so important – and you must be in control of the messaging. The last thing you want is for your employees to find out about an internal promotion through the office jungle drums. Once you’ve made the decision, let them whole team know asap – ideally at the same time – what is going to be happening and why. And where possible, try and turn what could be a perceived set back into an opportunity for everyone, positioning it within the context of a team re-structure with enhanced roles/responsibilities for all. If you’re aware of a particular individual who might take the news especially badly, take them out for a chat to discuss specifically and head this off. Making sure its you they vent to (rather than others in the team!), will give you the chance to offer some explanation, words of support and help those sour grapes taste a little less bitter.
For help or advice on any HR issue get in touch today at email@example.com or call 0203 627 7048 to speak to our team direct. We’re offering a free initial review to help you understand how to make the valuable changes to best support your business.
Whilst the everyday discussion of performance does not (to most I hope) harbour potential disasters of such epic proportions as the explosions common to any one of the Mission Impossible series of films, confidence and success in this area for many businesses can seem as unattainable as overcoming a threat against the annihilation of all humans or being able to recreate ‘that’ memorable heist scene which saw Mr. Cruise landing just a couple of inches from the floor. And be just as sweat inducing too…..
Over 60% of our clients here at TheHRhub in the last year have had concerns and challenges with their team in the area we’ll collectively call (for the purposes of this post) ‘performance management’, reflecting our experience as in-house practitioners that this is one of the most common areas of concern for business leaders and showing that despite its many evolutions or size of company, most have just not cracked it yet.
Most leaders instinctively understand that being able to share what they’re trying to achieve, what they see each person bringing to that party and that having a transparent way of checking progress against this is going to be key to keeping everyone’s performance on track, yet far from providing clarity over a way of doing this, somehow wrapping it all up in the term ‘performance management’ and creating a process around it serves only to confuse matters.
So before people lose the will to live over finding the perfect ‘process’ (there isn’t one btw) in what is too important an area not to take seriously in a business, we share what we feel are some fundamentals to bear in mind in this area.
Purpose matters when it comes to any new process, so be clear on why you’re you’re spending time having these conversations. Is your vision clear to all and will this help? Trying to give the team support? Are you you trying to get alignment? Trying to build communication? Drive accountability? Transparency? Or all of the above and more. You may not get it right initially but by being clear to the team over your expectations in any performance management process, you’re taking a very important first step.
Timing is also important (but don’t let it drag you down…). I’ve always been a fan of the little-and-often approach and you’ll have no doubt read countless articles in the last year or so on how the annual appraisal is ‘dead’, not applicable to today’s workforce and not a thing which millennials would dirty their hands with….. However if once a year is currently the only time that you meet with your team members, then for goodness sake make sure you keep that diary appointment!
There’s nothing wrong with starting with the basics. If you don’t feel you have the dedicated time, skills or energy to pull together a bells-and-whistles program, then start little (and often) with every manager having 1-2-1 conversations to build on. By talking to your team members regularly and agreeing what they’re going to be focussed on, how you’re going to both communicate progress and what you need to do to remove any blockers in doing so, you’re doing better than about 70% of businesses.
To ‘rate’ or ‘not to rate?’ is a much debated question. And to be honest, there’s no real right or wrong here. Personally speaking I find that when discussing how someone is developing in their role, understanding what motivates them and how they can deliver more of what they do well in a business, that then distilling said efforts and the results they’ve achieved into one single number doesn’t exactly elicit the spike in motivation for the majority of cases. True, being given a ‘high’ rating is probably likely to a smile inside many, but then the same can be said for some well thought out feedback which shows encouragement and recognition. And if you are going to go with ratings? Maybe stop shy of having the 15 (!) levels one particular business I know constructed in their process….
Online tools can help manage the consistency side of this for you too (nudging you when it’s time to chat just in case you forget, giving you tips on how to discuss issues) but I’m afraid that nothing is going to replace good old fashioned practice and regularity in this regard. Manage this and your teams will be flying. Because whilst many may complain about form filling or query what their objectives were, I’ve never ever heard an employee say that they didn’t appreciate spending time with their manager and discussing how they can do better.
Like many sound practices, it’s not impossible to achieve results in this area in a reasonably swift time, but it does take focus, persistence and regularity.
Think you’ve cracked it? Congratulations. And now might just be the time to answer that advert for MI6 you saw encrypted….
For others who want help in unlocking your team’s performance, give us a bell for a free chat to discuss how we can help you via firstname.lastname@example.org 0203 627 7048.
You may have noticed that over the past few weeks, the nation has been gripped by ‘Bodyguard’ fever: the television series most watched on the BBC all year, which has been the topic of numerous ‘water cooler’ conversations at work. Centred around the ongoing threat and execution of terrorist events and the impact of these on the Government, Security Services, Police and Armed forces, at the core of this drama is the concept of ‘loyalty’: who has it and to whom are they faithful?
So far, no different to a myriad of other dramas attempting to draw viewers. Here however the storyline is brilliantly balanced (and just a little bit too close to real life events we’ve seen to be dismissed as never-gonna-happen-here…), the acting even better and the ending…..well, far be it for me to unlock any spoilers for those who haven’t quite caught up on iPlayer, but suffice it to say it strikes again the right proportion of the believable and the shocking. And that’s because across all the goodies and baddies we meet in the series, across all the multiple plot lines, flaws and strengths are presented to us which are uniquely human and recognisable, with many coming from the type of loyalties which we see in ourselves in everyday life.
Of course, before we take the analogies too far, most of us after all aren’t likely to ever need or want to ‘take a bullet’ for our leader (it would bring a whole new meaning to ‘taking one for the team’…) however people take all sorts of action and inaction in the name of loyalty: they defend, attack and work hard for those they are loyal to. If your team are loyal to you, they’re going to care if you win the deal or not and put in the hours to help you secure it. If your team are loyal to you, they’ll travel to the ends of the earth for you (or even to that meeting in Bognor Regis someone’s slipped in their diary for 4pm on a Friday night…). And if your team are loyal to you, they’ll think twice about replying to that message received from a recruiter who’s been stalking them on LinkedIn…..
There are many ways to inspire and earn the type of loyalty which will transform your business but we’ve cherry picked our favourites below to give you a headstart:
- Include others in the conversation. Listen to what your team are saying ( and also to what they’re not saying) as a healthy team is one where constructive dialogue and challenge is welcomed. So if your team is tight lipped or never offers anything more than a murmured ‘whatever you say boss’ to everything you suggest or ask, then now might be time to do a bit more listening than telling. Not sure how to do this?
- Be a little bit vulnerable yourself: you certainly don’t need to take the lead from Hawe’s character in Episode 3 and have a ‘pre-conference’ moment yourself with a member of your team (in fact please don’t unless you want someone to take the lead in bringing some sort of harassment allegation against you) however disclosing information about yourself, including how you feel and what challenges you also may be up against, helps others to feel that they themselves can open up themselves a bit more too. It helps build trust and cement good relationships.
- Stand back. People will not show you their best selves if you are looking over their shoulder constantly or lurking in that Google doc you’ve shared with them watching every keystroke and willing it to populate (yes, they can see you doing this – that’s why they’re called ‘live’ documents!). They will instead show you signs of anxiety and (probably) frustration. But never the flourish you are looking for. Period.
- Treat people with respect: this includes not hiding bad news when it surfaces and not avoiding difficult conversations. Many years after I left one particular company I would have gone out of my way to recommend them as a brilliant place to work, despite the fact that my exit came shortly after writing my own redundancy letter*. The reason? Despite the P45, throughout my time with them, they had always been upfront with the bad news and treated me like an adult. And you’d be surprised at how uncommon that is….
But the biggest way to inspire loyalty? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the people working for you who should be taking on the role of Bodyguard. As their leader, it is you who should have their back. The one who should support and look out for them. Any team who doesn’t feel they have the support of their leader is not one which will feel loyalty. And in turn, all honesty, performance and discretionary effort flies out of the window along with all those ideas which may just help you become the next Apple, Google or Amazon….
For help in inspiring your own brand of employee loyalty in your team, drop us a line via email@example.com or 0203 627 7048.
Image: Photo by Paulius Dragunas on Unsplash
*It’s very common in HR-land to do this I promise. I mean, who else are you going to ask?
If you’re anything like me, you don’t have to scroll far down your LinkedIn news feed to stumble across a blog, article or company talking about employee wellbeing. It’s become the buzzword ‘de jour’ and my usually cynical self can’t help but feel rather excited about this. Let me tell you why.
Wellbeing Benefits Us All
It isn’t a mysterious concept. Put into plain English, it means looking after your physical and mental health, or the health of those you employ if you’re coming at this from a business owners perspective. Quite frankly, this is something we should all be doing anyway, right?
So Are Employers Really Doing Their Bit?
Ask a room full of people if they think it’s important to be healthy and I’m sure the majority will say yes. Ask them if they want their employer to care if they are healthy, again, it’s probably a yes. Ask them if they feel their employer actually does care if they’re healthy…I suspect the answers will be less favourable.
Modern Life Can Dehumanise Us All With Wellbeing Taking A Back Seat
You see, somewhere in the midst of hyper growth tech unicorns, the burnout culture perpetuated by Silicon Valley and the constantly blurred lines between work and life; we forgot to acknowledge that people are not robots. You cannot ask for 200% effort from them every day and not expect someone to topple over at some point.
Burnout Is Particularly Prevalent In The Technology Sector
Work ethic is a perennial topic in the tech industry (where I’ve spent most of my working career), which has its own blinkered take on the American dream of bootstrapped socioeconomic mobility. Parables of extreme devotion — like the story of Elon Musk sleeping on a bean bag near Tesla’s production line — are recited faithfully by entrepreneur acolytes and established VCs alike. And this kind of thinking is bad news for the ‘average’ employee. Apparently, we are living in generation burnout, with the once desirable burnout ‘badge’ seen only in senior execs being achieved at a much younger age and with much more regular frequency. Our social media obsession comes with an abundance of pressure to ‘have it all’, ‘do it all’, ‘buy it all’ and for goodness sake, ‘don’t be AVERAGE’. Combine this with the expectation to work like Elon Musk and it doesn’t take a genius to work out this is only headed in one direction, and it ain’t a pretty ending.
But Reports Show Tech Firms Are Starting To Put Wellbeing Strategies In Place
Thankfully, some smart companies (around 69% according to a recent Towers Watson survey) are already clocking on to one simple fact; healthier employees = happier employees = productive employees and have decided to put employee wellbeing at the top of their agenda over the next 2 years.
Great for Apple, But What About Me?
So, you’re probably thinking, that’s all very well and good for the big corporates who have money to throw at these problems, but what about us, the SME with our modest budgets and countless ‘priorities’ to spend it on. And I get it, it’s far easier to justify spending money on things that are obvious and the benefits are clear to the business right now. New systems, IT equipment, marketing collateral, sales events – there are countless needs when growing a business and unless the ‘people’ are screaming and shouting at you everyday, they are not going to be the number 1 priority. But that is the problem with stress, wellbeing, health issues and the like; they can creep up on you or even come completely out of the blue. Before you know it your top sales guy is signed off work for a month and you’re facing a huge gap in your targets for that quarter.
Wellbeing Starts With Getting To Know Your Team
I’ll let you into a secret, wellbeing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You’re a human too (I expect!) so think for a second about a time when you felt happy, healthy and generally ‘well’. Was it because your company was spending a ton of money on gurus coming in to teach you how to meditate and expensive staff trips to Ibiza to practice Yoga? It’s possible that the answer is yes, of course, but it’s also possible that it was because you just felt like you had enough balance in your life. Time to spend with family and friends, a meaningful job where you got acknowledged for your contribution, the ability to manage your own time and work around your own life priorities, and the feeling that your employer cared about you as a person, not just a bum on a seat churning out work. That’s employee wellbeing at it’s finest. Putting it bluntly, it’s giving a sh*t about how your staff feel day to day, and supporting them when how they’re feeling is, actually, a little bit overwhelmed.
Practical Solutions Can Be Simple, Cheap & Easy To Implement
Perhaps Dave would love to leave early next week so he can pick up his kid from school. Sarah might really appreciate the opportunity to have some coaching around achieving some of her life goals. Aarthi might really value a team lunch or drinks after work. James would love to just be told he’s doing a great job and thanked for his contribution (and a cheeky Amazon voucher would go down well too).
Wellbeing is not a black art. It’s also not a one size fits all exercise (despite their being a ping pong table at the back of every single tech office I’ve ever worked in!). It’s taking the time to listen, get to know your team and spending whatever budget you have on something that matters, to them.
Here at the HR Hub, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the very ugly when it comes to wellbeing strategies and we’d love to have a pragmatic chat with you about what might actually work for your business. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0203 627 7048.