The first thing I received when I entered the office on my very first day at Spektrix was a hug. As far as first impressions go, I couldn’t have expected a much warmer welcome.
The first week in any new job is always a little bit nerve-wracking. But as my first couple of days passed, I began to wonder why I felt so motivated in my work. I was looking forward to starting each new day, and I still felt productive even as I reached the end of a busy day. I asked some of my new colleagues if they felt like this at work, and realised they often felt the same. Why was this? But then it hit me – it’s the company culture that makes all the difference.
We all know how important ‘culture’ is in an organisation (or at least, we do in theory). The equation is simple:
Happy employee = productive employee = successful business
But how do you achieve that? In her article about the best companies to work for, Erika Andersen offers a simple definition of what a great company is: “a great company is a place you can do great things while having a great time, with others who want the same”. Simple! Of course, it’s not always that easy to achieve.
One of my favourite definitions of company culture focuses on shared things – sayings, doings and feelings that everyone you work with understands. These values need to be made open to everyone in your organisation and embedded in your shared understanding of what’s most important to your company. Make these values part of the daily life of your company, and create a culture that’s rewarding to be a part of.
I want to share some of what I’ve learned from working at Spektrix, but I think these rules apply in any work environment – not least in arts organisations. Here are a few suggestions for shaping your company’s values and embedding them in your workplace.
1. Create a bio-friendly environment
You work with human beings. They’re your company’s fuel, but they need fuel too. Do you think a sterile workplace with no natural light, no break area, no coffee or tea and no greenery will get your people going? This isn’t just about office design. It’s about how much you take care of your most important resource – your people.
2. Admit you’re having a bad day
If you approach your manager with a new and exciting idea, it can be really disappointing to realise your idea won’t be welcome because your manager is having a difficult day. As much as privacy is important, sharing what mood you’re in will help your team to understand what’s wrong, if they can help, and remind them that tomorrow might be a better day to ask for that difficult task to be completed. Get to know the people you work with, listen, observe and ask; you’ll soon see that communication works miracles.
3. Get everyone engaged
Whether it’s contributing to your company’s newsletter, writing something for the blog, suggesting changes to the layout of your website or getting involved with your social media output, get your employees engaged in your company’s daily life. People have many talents and can help you in ways you might not expect. Create a supportive and collaborative atmosphere where your employees feel encouraged to bring new ideas to the table. Learn to celebrate and reward successes at all levels of the business, boosting motivation and productivity whenever you all achieve something great.
But remember to acknowledge failures too. You and your team should embrace them, learn from them and (most importantly) share them. Because without failures, there can’t be any successes.
4. Provide everyone with opportunities
Don’t let your team feel like they’re stuck in a dead-end job, with no hope for ever getting somewhere with their work. Make sure there’s space for everyone to learn and grow within your company. Let them work across teams, rotate in different departments and learn about exciting things different teams are working on. Provide them with coaching, mentoring and training opportunities and, most importantly, make sure you communicate these opportunities to everyone.
5. Let everyone take breaks
Another (and equally vital) equation: no mental hygiene = no productivity. Make sure your employees take breaks, go out for a five minute walk, go to the gym or do whatever will make them feel refreshed and hence more productive. Don’t forget to be sociable too. The strongest work relationships don’t happen at your desks – they happen on a team lunch, at after work drinks, at an away day or even at a small birthday celebration in the office. You’ll be surprised how much difference it makes when you realise that your colleagues aren’t just a group of strangers who happen to work together, but are actually your friends.
Your business needs a soul. And your soul needs to be nourished. To get more interesting ideas on how to build a great company culture, have a read of Jon Gordon’s Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture. Ideally over a bowl of soup.
Some other interesting reading on this topic: