Idea

The Power of Company Culture

Michelle Ahern Bevans

It might be the most critical ‘c word’ of our generation. And it’s not COVID. We’re talking culture.

Often defined as a set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterise an organisation, company culture, is a shared ethos of a group within an organisation.

The Harvard Business Review’s The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture outlines the importance of the role of company culture, acknowledging strategy and culture among the primary levers at top leaders’ disposal in their never-ending quest to maintain organisational viability and effectiveness. “Strategy offers a formal logic for the company’s goals and orients people around them. Culture expresses goals through values and beliefs and guides activity through shared assumptions and group norms.”

While Harvard cites strategy as having equal weight to culture, according to Peter Drucker, the Austrian-American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

It seems it is nearly impossible to overstate culture’s importance, especially when thinking about not only recruiting and retaining talent, but also in meeting business goals. 82% of the respondents to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage.

By 2021, this sentiment has only grown with many organisations recognising that changing their culture is a critical factor in addressing the pressures of a rapidly changing world in a sustainable manner.  In their 2021 prediction series, Deloitte note “Culture is a measurable presence that flows and emerges from the interactions between individuals, organizations, and their environments. As such, culture must be crafted by the entire organization, which must have access to the proper tools in order to do so.”

It’s important to not confuse material perks with wellbeing though. According to research, while some companies have established great material benefits for their teams, employees prefer wellbeing to material benefits and wellbeing comes from one place and one place only – positive company culture.

The research has shown that creating a positive and healthy culture for your team boils down to six essential characteristics:

  • Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
  • Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.
  • Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.
  • Inspiring one another at work.
  • Emphasising the meaningfulness of the work.
  • Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.

With the weight of so much research and a strong societal pull toward positive company culture, it is great to see global organisations like Bumble leading the way with a culture-first prioritisation and particular focus on supporting female employees. The office maintains a flexible understanding of work hours, parents are able to bring their children to the office and the company’s holistic wellness offering include reimbursements for gym memberships as well as therapy sessions, meditation memberships or even acupuncture visits.

Marketing software firm, HubSpot, are also putting culture at the forefront of their operations, treating it as a product. Several years ago, as the company began to scale, the leadership group recognised the critical value in ensuring culture remain a focus of the business during its growth trajectory. “We thought about our culture truly as a product,” explained Katie Burke, Chief People Officer. “How would I develop this if it were a product? What would be most important? What kind of customer feedback would we care about? How would we make sure it had a point of view?”

OK, so culture is important and a positive company culture has a wealth of research to show its value in terms of engagement, productivity and retaining talent. But how does that all translate in a post-pandemic world? Or even in a world of remote and hybrid work?

In 2018 the UK Government appointed the world’s first Minister for Loneliness. In the same year, Swinburne University published a report recognising one in four Australians are lonely. The research highlighted stress and anxiety around loneliness across all age brackets and genders with young Australians especially prone to anxiety about socialising and 30% acknowledging they don’t feel part of a group of friends – and that was pre-pandemic.

While there are many aspects that can contribute to loneliness, the way we work is one of the main contributing factors.

Enter ‘remoteliness’. “Remoteliness is a feeling of loneliness experienced when working remotely. In absence of the bustle of the office, workers can begin to feel isolated and disconnected from their colleagues and organisation.” Says Isabelle Comber, People Specialist at Employment Hero.

This is surely one of the most globally-felt challenges of 2021.Leaders recognising how ‘remoteliness’ can impact teams and organisational culture and how to work, inspire and lead in this new paradigm is surely one of the biggest challenges modern leaders face.

Comber reports a number of ways leaders can tackle this issue within teams highlighting regular communications, face-to-face contact and virtual activities as key ways of keeping teams connected and allowing individuals to feel a part of a group they may have been separated physically from for months and months now. Starting digital clubs and getting together in person are also highlighted by Comber. “When we’re working remotely, time spent together in-person takes on a whole new value. Physically present get-togethers become exciting, novel and fun – a great chance to interact with colleagues and socialise.” She says.

Changing work and social landscapes call for adaptive leaders, agile spaces and innovative thinkers to harness good culture within shifting landscapes. As the longstanding home of TEDxSydney, Work Club Global has been on this journey for a number of years now. With a long-established culture within the organisation and the spaces they create for other individuals and businesses to operate within, they hold collaboration and connection at the core of what they offer. Without these, there is no wellbeing, and therefore no positive culture.

“Now more than ever, I think being a leader in any organisation requires a wholistic approach. Authenticity and communication within teams and communities are more important than ever.” Says CEO and Founder of Work Club, Soren Trampedach.

He added “These days individuals are looking for more than just a nice space to work from. They want an experience, a place to belong to, somewhere that supports their personal growth journey. The same can be said for organisations who are adapting to rapid market changes and employee expectations”

From Work Club’s carefully curated spaces, to the wellbeing benefits they offer and their business philosophy, Work Club is well-positioned to support our changing work environments, offering the essential support and connections individuals and teams need now more than ever. They were built to support remoteliness.

This is what they have been working on for almost a decade. And which they are now translating to their 5th and newest site in Canberra. They’ve learned, while developing spaces across Sydney and Melbourne, that doing so with a people-first mindset helps to foster a heartbeat for the everyday experience of a community – places where serendipitous connections, conversations, stories and inspirations begin and grow through the contributions made by its members.

More ideas like this