Talent, qualifications and skills will only get you so far in business, but to really succeed you need to have a team that shares common goals and beliefs. That’s what I call culture. So where do you start and what are the main areas to focus on if you are going to maintain and nurture that culture?
Right from the outset
No amount of culture will help you if you don’t have the right people in the first place. So start your drive for a success culture with the recruitment process. Take time to make sure that new employees will fit into your organisation and help strengthen your ethos. Don’t rely on the old one-hour interview – you are making a major investment, so make sure you adopt a layered approach to recruitment.
Once you have found the right people, don’t think you can sit back and watch as they transform your company into an overnight success. Too many companies follow the latest fad and hope that it will somehow miraculously deliver a culture. Some organisations feel that confrontation is damaging to culture and go to the other extreme; letting staff get away with murder. A culture is created but it is one of missed deadlines, broken promises and lost customers. In short it’s a culture of failure. People need challenging goals and guidance on how to achieve those aims. By explaining how their actions have a direct effect on the success of the business, you ultimately provide your staff with a certain amount of ownership. And if you own something you are more likely to look after it.
Engage members of your team as individuals; they have different skills, needs and attitudes. Some may respond well to a Gordon Ramsey style of management, while others would disintegrate faced with such a robust approach. If there is any conflict within the group, break the group down by engaging with individuals rather than addressing them as a whole. This will not only be less intimidating for the minority, but problems will be highlighted more quickly and ironed out by one-on-one discussions.
If your staff are going to be putting in 45 hours a week, cut them some slack on things like lunch break times. Let them go when they get a natural break in their work and don’t impose a mill-owner style lunch hour. Without getting into the quagmire of flexitime, you should reciprocate with time off when people work late to complete a project. Allowing employees to manage their own time will help motivation and usually means staff adopt a more responsible attitude to taking time off.
Getting people to give their own creativity
A well-managed company culture has a benefit that delivers value over the medium to long term, through creativity and innovation. Young people in particular realise that they are not in a job for life; as a consequence they will save up their best ideas for an employer who deserves them and will reward them for their contribution. If we can create a culture of belonging, staff will feel they owe it to their colleagues to share ideas. To achieve this staff feel that they can have an impact on the direction of the business and a share in the ultimate rewards. It means letting go of control and encouraging a sort of inverted pyramid of decision making. It’s a risk, but the alternative is for staff to take the pay and wait around for a more enlightened employer to come along.
Now we are getting down to the core reason for developing a strong company culture: the rewards. When you have created it, use the status as a selling aspect and a point of reference. However, awareness of a successful establishment frequently increases through word of mouth. People are coming round to the realisation that a company can be fun and exhilarating. If your employees are satisfied with their job, they will not be in a hurry to move, so staff turnover will be reduced. Motivated individuals want to be involved in an establishment where they are surrounded by success.