If I could have bottled the team spirit and positive atmosphere at our recent Christmas party, I have no doubt that I could make millions. The party in question was undoubtedly fuelled by alcohol and Christmas spirit; it was also a celebration of a team that enjoys not only working (hard) together, but playing (hard) too.
This came through loud and clear in the end of year employee reviews. One consistent thread of feedback– from new recruits to more established team players – was that people really like working here. They like their colleagues, they like their work and they like their clients. A veritable win, win, win.
Thinking about this over the Christmas break, it became clear to me that our company culture has come about by design and definitely not by luck. We laid the foundations more than three years ago in a strategic review of the business. Creating ‘a good company culture’ was not a line item in the planning. However, we did plan to invest in a few key areas that would enhance our culture:
1. Clearly articulated vision and values
There’s a lot of talk about businesses having a vision and a clearly defined set of values, but we set out to turn that talk into action. Everyone had a say in creating a vision that would be simple and easy to remember. That vision is to be ‘the tech marketing agency on everyone’s lips’. We still talk about the vision today and it drives our communications and initiatives internally and externally – it was even at the heart of our client Christmas communications this year:
We created our values to express how we should behave as individuals and to create a one-team culture. Again, these were easy to remember thanks to a simple mnemonic GROUP (genuine, results-driven, original, unrelenting and passionate). Everyone is aware of our values and we recognise them monthly through our AcknowleDGe scheme where people vote for colleagues who are living and breathing them. They also act as a yardstick in the early stages of recruitment to help us bring in people who fit with our culture. The values are incredibly important because they unite a diverse group of millennials, Gen Xers and even a Boomer or two.
2. Open and regular communication
We have always encouraged a free and open flow about company matters from the top down. As we’ve grown, it’s been even more important to stay committed to regular company communications. We do this through a mix of all-company gatherings (quarterly breakfast meetings, Friday huddles) and monthly internal newsletters. Through these forums, we openly share financial updates, new initiatives, successes and challenges. We also acknowledge big and small contributions.
3. A collaborative environment
We are bang in the middle of quite a substantial building refurb to lay our office space out in a more open fashion for a more fluid style of working. Our aim is to carve out more meeting and creative brainstorming spaces where our people can come together ad hoc. Meetings with the creative marketing agency should be a fun part of a client’s day and we want our environment to be as welcoming as possible for our clients. Creating a modern, airy space is key to a happy work environment and collaborative working.
The work hard, play hard thing is important to us. We want people to have fun doing their jobs and to promote a real sense of camaraderie. When your team genuinely like and support one another, you see productivity, communication and collaboration increase. And all this affects staff and client retention rates. We joke that we can’t get rid of people. Luckily, this applies to our clients too, many of whom we have enjoyed long and productive relationships with. And that’s primarily because we have a good cultural fit with them. We also make the time to socialise together away from work through things like quiz nights, lunchtime pizza sessions and family sports days.
Jack Welch identifies employee engagement as one of the three most important metrics to measure a business’s health. I whole-heartedly agree. Yet a good company culture is as elusive as it is powerful. I can’t offer you the solution in a bottle, but I hope you can learn from some of the building blocks we have used in our business to great success.
I’d love to hear other examples of strong company cultures. What do you think are the key ingredients?