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?
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 email@example.com or call us on 0203 627 7048.