Here at Jobsgopublic, our company culture is a great source of pride for us. Part of the reason we are able to deliver what we do is that we all trust and respect each other as colleagues and friends. However, getting any company of a significant size to this point does not necessarily happen organically and in many cases requires active thought and planning. Jobsgopublic is no different. So without any further ado, here is the Jobsgopublic guide to cultivating culture.
Before we launch into our guide I want to give a quick overview of what company culture actually means.
An organisation’s culture is the systematic way employees and leaders behave and interact with each other. It is a composite of the values, beliefs, norms, language, symbols, and habits of an entire company.
So why is it important to understand this?
Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, culture has the power to make or break a company. The truth is, colleagues don’t tend to choose each other like you would a friend or partner and we’re not linked by history and genetics as you are with family. Yet despite this we spend much more time with our colleagues than anyone else. If the culture is oppressive or the fit is wrong for the individual, it becomes impossible to perform at your best.
Secondly, none of us come to a company as a blank slate. All of us are products of various cultural environments, that we bring in with us every day. We each hold wildly different beliefs, norms and values which can make our professional interactions that much more difficult. This is why shared goals are so important. All of us must make a conscious effort, daily, to understand where we are going, what our collective aspirations are, and how we can achieve them. Cultural tone may be set from above but, much like democracy, company culture only works if we all work at it.
So what are the JGP rules for creating a fun and productive culture?
First off, be realistic about the goals you set yourself and each other. The last thing anyone needs is to be set up for failure. Doing more is not necessarily the same as performing well, but you will always do more when you’re performing well.
In order to perform well though, you need purpose. Everyone needs to understand why they’re doing something. I once heard, one of the worst forms of torture for a human is getting them to move a rock from point A to point B over and over again. Don’t let them change their process and don’t tell them why they are doing it. Then sit back and watch them fall apart. I don’t suggest anyone does this, but it does illustrate my point well. We need purpose, our ability to abstract outside ourselves is both a gift and a curse. Part of the human condition is an inability to perform without goals, aspirations and beliefs. Unfortunately though, purpose can’t be given to you. It can and should be aided by the people around you, but ultimately it has to come from inside yourself.
We also need camaraderie – like it or not, we are social creatures. Forming relationships with each other fulfils something deep inside us which is our need to care and be cared for. This process is a two-way street and an extremely delicate one at that. The moment anyone stops taking another person’s feelings into account it can all fall apart. But when it works there is nothing that inspires more loyalty. Most people will go above and beyond for the people and things they care about.
Netflix has a mantra “we are a team not a family.” Well, I don’t think that attitude is helpful for most of us. Perhaps it works in a multi billion-dollar media empire that can turn over employees at the speed of light, but it would be a disaster in most small organisations where you are expected to do more with less. None of us are made of stardust and rainbows and sometimes colleagues just rub you up the wrong way. It takes a conscious effort every day not to back bite, complain and take people for granted. But it pays for itself in the long run.
Allowing space for creativity and autonomy is also very important to the internal life of an organisation. Let us revisit the rock story. A key element of that example is not giving people the space to be creative with their task. All of us are clever and talented and it’s amazing what you can learn through a fresh pair of eyes. Talk to each other, ask for opinions and trust that your colleagues know what they’re talking about.
These may seem like obvious points but it’s amazing how many companies think having a mandatory away day will fix a company’s culture. Away days are fun and at Jobsgopublic we spend a lot of time socialising with each other outside the office. However, the social aspect of culture can only work in tandem with your daily experience not in place of it. When we feel respected and valued we tend to reciprocate those feelings to the people around us until everyone is winning. Talent is important, but it isn’t enough on its own. We are able to turn over what we do because all of us belong to a team with shared goals, mutual respect and a good dose of admiration for what others do.