The phrase ‘workplace culture’ is often associated with start-ups and tech firms.
From four-day weeks to free in-office sushi bars, there’s plenty of buzz around the new, innovative strategies that young companies are using to attract and retain the best talent, and boost employee happiness and productivity.
But, no matter the industry, there’s a clear, crucial link between the strength of a business’s culture, and that business’s success. We’ve seen exactly that with many of our investments.
Here are 3 interesting perspectives on culture that we’ve heard from CEOs of businesses that we invest in.
1. Know Your Shared Values
CEOs stress the importance of defining the business’s values – ones that reflect the company’s beliefs and philosophies.
These must be authentic. Whilst they should link to the company’s strategy, they should also stem organically from the values already inherent within your organisation. Indeed, one CEO defined the culture of the business he heads up as “a distillation of years of behaviour reflecting the honesty and integrity of the founder, nurtured over the years by the leadership team – we care, we have time for our people, we lead by example, we give our staff the opportunity to excel and we are open and honest; none of which is ever contrived”.
When values like these are articulated, shared, and embodied in everyday lives, the culture flourishes. In turn, this provides necessary strength and stability in times of rapid growth. People feel engaged, supported, and inspired, and understand their role as part of the bigger picture. As another CEO put it, “It’s all about having the right core values and building an environment where everyone knows their importance. We want all our staff and customers to feel part of a family.”
2. Identify and Publicise Your Values
It pays to broadcast your values. They should be written down, shared and repeated. If it’s done well, the impact can’t be underestimated.
One CEO told me that when he joined his business’s management team, he was concerned about some negativity in the working culture – a legacy from the past. The solution? He sat down with the management team and agreed four positive values they wanted to foster going forward.
- The hard work didn’t stop there. Here’s how the management team publicises the business’s values, rallying around the whole organisation:
- They’re printed on the wall in the new office
- The CEO regularly refers to them in company-wide meetings
- They’re printed on everyone’s security cards
- They’re integrated into the business’s recruitment policy
- The company has launched a quarterly award for employees, giving them the chance to recommend a colleague who’s gone beyond the call of duty in exhibiting the shared values
In this CEO’s view, “Ultimately, these things need to be lived. Overall, our values really help form a positive team dynamic and strong culture.”
3. Embrace Strong Leadership Across the Company
Shared values are about community. They empower everyone to create a happy, successful workplace. But it’s all about balance. Another CEO warned against “trying to run the business from the centre”. Hiring strong local management is vital, particularly in businesses with many sites or operating units. As he put it, “let the manager manage”.
What does strong management look like? It’s engaged and entrepreneurial. Following advice he received from a now long-retired Chairman, the CEO encourages others to “Recruit the best management you can afford, pay and incentivise them well, and fully engage them in decision making. Help them believe they’re genuinely running their own business.”
It’s these people who’ll go the extra mile. They’ll be your advocates, and set a motivating example for the rest. Better still, they’ll use their initiative. Rather than seeking permission at every step, they’ll truly lead. It’s this confidence that inspires confidence in others. It also makes for a smooth-running business, even in a crisis.
So, there we have it: three tried and tested tips from some of Phoenix’s most successful businesses.