Company Culture Lessons – Six Months In

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At Workio we engage with many companies and industries, at all levels, in discussions and analysis about company culture. We’re fortunate to have such a broad overview.

This being the case, and since we just past the six months trading milestone, we thought we would pause for breath to share some of what we have learned in the hope you can put it to good use within your company.

To get started a quick overview of the Workio context…

The vast majority of companies we speak to agree that company culture is one of the most important drivers of success in their business.  So whilst our customers are a good cross-section of industries, it is also worth noting that they are typically more engaged in the conversation about culture than some others.

While we talk to people at all levels of the organisation, the majority of the time it is with Senior Teams, HR Managers, Directors, C-Level executives, so they have a real mandate for change.

The majority of companies we speak with are in knowledge service industries – finance, retailers, FMCG, and entertainment. These are mostly white-collar businesses and they are generally based in developed countries such as the UK, USA and Australia.

Right context done; let us look at some themes…

Culture can be a subject of extremes

We repeatedly hear that people believe the culture of the company they work in has a highly positive or highly negative impact on company performance. Very few people believe the impact of culture is minimal or neutral.

Feedback ranges from statements such as “Our company culture is incredible” to the other end of the spectrum… “Our company culture is destroying the business”.  The takeaway here then is that when discussing company culture one can expect it to generate strong views, positive or negative. It seems that company culture is something people feel passionate about because they have experienced its direct impact on them as individuals, their teams and/or their customers.

While this is true… it is interesting for us to zoom in and study this from the midrange.  As we gather more insight, the nuance here is getting clearer and we are able to pull out themes from different diverse groups in companies i.e. male vs female, millennials vs gen x.  We will publish this information, anonymously, in due course.

Everyone we speak to has a story and data makes this actionable

As we’ve written in a previous blog post, everyone we talk to about company culture has a story.  Good, bad or indifferent, the stories people tell are one side or other of the employment relationship. They’ve either hired someone who they thought would be great, and it didn’t turn out that way, or they’ve experienced the difficult friction of not fitting within a company they have joined as an employee.  

The stories people tell are broad, varied, full of life, and usually very impassioned.  Whilst passion is brilliant in a workplace, it can also sometimes cloud reality, or at least distract management teams from taking positive action.

A key theme we are seeing is that when companies deploy the Workio solution, they are able to step away from the conjecture and move towards an objective data-driven version of reality.  This, in turn, is helping change insights into real-world action which is prioritised against employee preferences.

Most companies are not actively defining or managing their company culture

We sometimes hear the view that you cannot create company culture, it just happens.

Maybe that’s because until now there has not been good ways to measure and manage company culture, or maybe it’s that it can be scary for management teams to see what their culture really is in black and white.

We believe that avoiding looking into company culture leaves you adrift in a sea of assumptions and guesswork as to how your employees are really feeling. Sometimes this results in some pretty clear signals, such as a spike in employee turnover, but more often it goes under the radar, acting as an unseen drag on your company results.

Culture is a competitive advantage (just ask those companies with strong cultures like Patagonia, Google, Apple, and Amazon), so leaving it to chance is a wasted opportunity. The most forward-thinking companies recognise this and are joining with us to make the most of their culture.

Diversity and inclusion is impacted as much by managing culture as by managing recruitment

Diversity is a hot topic right now, and rightly so.  Despite positive moves in recognising the importance of diversity, one of the big challenges we see is what companies can do practically to move the needle here.

As we wrote in relation to the gender pay gap reporting earlier this year, a bigger issue than who you recruit into a company is who you retain. If you are losing, for example, women in their 30s at too high a rate so that they do not rise up the ranks of your company, then hiring more women is trying to fill up a leaky bucket. A better tactic is to identify the leak and plug it first.

By understanding what different groups of employees like and value most about the company culture they work within, managers can take steps to stop their culture driving away those employees from under-represented groups and instead help them feel at home. This stems the leak of diverse employees out of the company, and so positively leverages any efforts made on the recruiting side of the issue.

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Our first six months have given us insight into these areas, but it’s still early days. As we grow and gather insight on more company cultures, we will be putting together trend reports and benchmarking company cultures against each other (always anonymously of course!).

If you want to take your company culture to the next level, please get in touch or join the beta. We’d love to help you.

Photo by iam Se7en on Unsplash

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