What does ‘culture’ in a corporate context really mean anyway? We all throw the term around with the assumption there is a common understanding of what it actually means, but I feel in its over use its lost its meaning and worth defining to set the scene.
Most people would agree corporate or organisational culture refers to the beliefs and behaviours that inform how a company and its employees behave – to the outside world and within the organisation. It is often intangible, and implied rather than expressed. It is something that is developed over time and driven by the leaders of the company as well as the corporate company they keep in the form of customers, suppliers, partners and other collaborators.
Once upon a time, culture developed without much thought, it was an organic output of an organisation’s values – spoken or unspoken. More recently, it has been left in the hands of a company’s human resources department and often not much more than an afterthought, viewed by executive teams as the ‘fluffy’ stuff and always on the cutting board when it comes to efficiencies.
In the PR and communications industry, culture has notoriously revolved around drinking and then debriefing about the fallout from Friday night, on Monday morning. I won’t mention the Harvey Weinstein inspired behaviour, or the insane working hours. I’ll avoid the unsustainable client and agency relationships and steer clear of the ‘work them as hard as you can and pay them as little as possible’ cliché. Seriously, what’s not to love about the communication and advertising industries…?
Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. Change is afoot, and as a certified B Corporation and a company that sells people power, we feel it is the effort put into our culture that defines our success. How so you say? There’s some new thinking emerging and many are starting to move on from an outdated way of working, they have begun to see that if they put a greater emphasis on setting values people care about, it ultimately drives positive outcomes. Yes, being good is good for business.
So how does one redefine success via culture?
First of all, to attract people who share your belief system, it’s important to have a system. An organisation needs to articulate what it stands for. This starts at the top – a series of corporate epiphanies need to manifest, and it goes something like this…
…companies who truly put their people front and center are the ones who will endure. They will do this by attracting and retaining the best talent, and their workplace experience will go from obligation to inspiration. A new sense of pride and enthusiasm will emerge and a culture worth cultivating will lead the way…
So how in a sea of old school ‘devil wears Prada’ behaviour, have we managed to invent a new way of ‘being’ in the workplace, establish a sense of community and create initiatives and practices that build a strong and enduring culture ….?
- By dissolving people silos and creating dynamic, bespoke ‘teams’ based on skills and personal interests
- Understanding our team members and creating a wellbeing program that adds value to their life beyond work – no obligatory fruit bowls and bike racks
- Using new language – it’s not ‘staff’ its ‘team members’
- Demonstrating a deep understanding of the issues team members are facing as humans and providing real solutions – stress and anxiety = learn to meditate course, meditation room and team meditation every Monday
- Listening and providing an environment where the team shapes their own workplace – voting on team activities and training
- Identifying and calling out unsustainable behaviour by clients. We call them ‘courageous conversations’ and we’re not afraid to have them…
- By being prepared to ‘risk the ship’ and stand firm on our beliefs, the value we place on our services and our own sanity – this may mean exiting unsustainable relationships
- Don’t just say it, be it. Nurturing new leaders who share the desire to do things differently by setting an example, everyday
Over the top of these initiatives and practices sits an unwavering belief that exceptional service to our clients depends on the high morale of our team. Yes, it costs more to come from a place where you truly put people first. Yes, there is more time involved in developing a unique program or rethinking what ‘HR’ means in your business and yes, it most definitely requires some new thinking.
‘Business’ in general does have a problem. We need to admit it. We need to clearly identify what it is about ‘working’ that is not making us all happy.
Albert Einstein put it so eloquently… “We cannot solve the problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. So, let’s all get creative and find a new way of ‘being’ in business.