The People and Culture Club is a safe space for managers, founders and leaders to come together, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. We meet regularly to hear from those who’ve successfully supported their business, invested in their people and created a culture where everyone can thrive.
In this guest blog post, organiser and host Ally Jones shares takeaways from the most recent event. Read on for great tips on how to develop your culture…
What is culture? It’s not something that can exist solely with a single person, nor is it football tables and beer fridges. Your culture is, in essence, the unwritten rules that make you, you and are underpinned by the values, behaviours and systems you’ve built as an organisation.
It’s often a hefty old jigsaw puzzle given to the People function to solve. It’s not a People thing. It’s an everyone thing. Why? Leadership and culture are intrinsically linked; founders and senior leaders set the tone for the business and their voices are amplified, holding significant weight throughout the business.
Winnie Man, HR Director at Acquired.com, gave us the lowdown on how to codify your culture. Here’s our wrap up.
Engineering your values
Values are not simply aspirational words beautifully framed throughout the office (however nice they look!). Great values are engineered to act as guiding principles and beliefs that influence your strategy, decision making and how teams should work together. Here’s three steps on how to build meaningful and impactful values:
Lead with your vision and mission. People need to feel their work has meaning and purpose. Your values should actively support the mission you’re on as a business.
Understand how your team(s) see the business. Invite people to share their feedback on how they’d describe things right now. What do they like and care about? What unspoken values have contributed to your success so far? What values should govern the way we interact with each other and with our customers? Focus groups, surveys and 121 interviews are a great way to create a safe space for people to share their thoughts.
Develop your values collaboratively. Once you’ve reflected on any feedback and you’ve defined your draft set of values it’s time to gauge further feedback from the team before agreeing as a senior team the values you’re committing to as a business. Building meaningful values takes time!
It’s ok for values to be stretching and reflective of behaviours you’d like to embody more of. But the value (no pun intended) is in how they’re brought to life in the systems, practices and policies you build.
Bringing your values to life
To codify your culture, your values need to be seamlessly weaved into everyday life from the customers you choose to do business with to the benefits and perks you offer to the team. Here’s three things you can do to bring your values to life.
Create rituals. Rituals are a great way to start to bring your values to life as they allow you to be intentional about the output you’re trying to create. For example, if one of your values is “everyone’s heard”, what mechanisms are you going to put in place to ensure that happens? Or if you describe yourselves as ‘innovative’, what do you have in place to encourage (and give time to) innovation and creativity?
Build policies that reflect your values. It’s also important to consider how reflective your People-policies are of your values. If you genuinely care about people when they’re not at work, how are you reflecting this in your policies? E.g. enhanced sick pay and parental policies.
Involve the team. Asking your team(s) what they value can be an important step in designing policies that meet their changing needs. Be it time off for settling in a new fur baby, setting up a home office or investing in a substantial learning and development budget. Focus on the things that matter.
The role of storytelling
Whether you like it or not, how you behave as an organisation tells a story about what it’s like to work there. The stories you tell as a business – and as leaders – should amplify and bring your values to life so people can feel what it’s like to be part of your mission and team.
As humans we’re sociable creatures and we’re driven by our emotions. Think about your favourite childhood movie; how many times did you watch it?! These stories trigger our emotions and even though we’ve heard the story many times before, we laugh at the same funny bits and cry as the storyline pulls on our heart strings.
Storytelling is a powerful tool and not just for books and movies; it’s a tool for business too. It can help people better understand what you’re saying and remember the information more clearly – but importantly – it triggers an emotional reaction. One that makes us care, feel inspired and motivated. Here’s three ways to use storytelling to support the development of your culture:
Attract the right talent. It’s a tough market out there right now and attracting the right talent can be a real challenge. Storytelling through your talent acquisition processes can help people come to the realisation this is exactly what they’re looking for.
Engage the business in your mission and vision. People feel motivated when they’re part of a cause and their work has real impact. The stories you tell about why you do what you do will act as a catalyst for creating alignment and positive action.
Paint a picture of ‘this is how we do things’. Demonstrate how your values are brought to life by sharing key learning, people that have embodied the right behaviours and shouting about the successes that have come from doing right by your values.
Remember, culture isn’t the ‘fluffy’ and ‘nice to have’ things such as fruit bowls and fancy dinners. Your culture is reflective of the unwritten rules, the social norms and the behaviours adopted by everyone. Be intentional with your actions to truly cultivate and codify the culture that’s reflective of what you’re trying to build.