I have been reading a few articles/blog posts around the subject of culture in the workplace. I’m incredibly encouraged that there is a good volume of people within technology on all levels who appreciate the importance of a workable and enjoyable work culture along with the increasing importance of work/life balance. That being said, I do believe that there is more to add on this subject with regards to just how much a company should invest as best practice in the culture of their workplace and teams and how essential it is to get this right. It’s also important to look at the balance of this focus and what can happen with too much focus on the culture aspects of a company as a whole.

So, what exactly IS a Culture Driven Strategy?

Do you drive through strategy? Do you drive to develop a culture? Are the two mutually exclusive? Should the benefits of each be a detriment to the other? I say not.

In my view, strategy is essential for structured and directed growth of a work force with efficiency and productivity as key to hit KPIs across the board. I also think that an innovative and flexible office culture of a company that is sympathetic towards work/life balance is key for retention, job satisfaction and company loyalty. By combining the two, you have a Culture Driven Strategy. There are many things to consider while building the foundations of your strategy for your working environment and how it changes to accommodate both growth, reduction and BAU (business as usual).

I have read a very interesting blog written by Leah Eichler on Woman 2.0 that talks about the shift in attitudes of candidates when looking for their next role. They are asking questions that perhaps weren’t quite so common in previous years that specifically probe the company’s attitude towards work/life balance and company culture. I am excited that people are now asking these questions. During my time of management, I have always been very conscious of the importance of work/life balance and how so many people think it’s a small concern when compared to other pressing work commitments. This is where your Culture Driven Strategy would come in…

In my experience so far, I’ve found that ChallengeInputInformation and Environment are key for motivation to deliver, deliver efficiently and keep on delivering for the Team Member as well as the Business.

Challenge can be perceived as many things. For some, it can be an opportunity to use new and emerging technologies in a commercial environment, it could be the progression presented in scaling the career ladder and experience to take them there within the company. In order to recruit and retain the best team members, opportunity to challenge them with well built and well thought out technological solutions, project ownership and progression is incredibly important. Otherwise – well you won’t retain anyone worth keeping.

Input is perhaps only half of the idea here, perhaps Recognition is just as important here. A culture that appreciates and recognises valuable input from all levels of the company organisational structure is how people say ‘I’m proud of the company I work with’. Most of the great ideas that will make your product optimised, modern and full of good ideas will be from giving your technical teams room to innovate. A weekly ‘bring your lunch and your brains’ time for your team gives them an opportunity to show off some new skills, approach new ideas for implementing new ideas/skills and share the knowledge around the team has always worked well for me.

Information is key for people to feel involved in a project. Information, transparency and involvement are crucial to get your team onside.  Without this, dedication won’t be forthcoming. How can they if they don’t know what they’re working to? Hidden agendas breed contempt in every situation.

Environment tends to be something that people are very clear about what they require now. In technology, I’m increasingly seeing people questioning the office environment along with social atmosphere. In the past, I have worked in offices where I had be suited and booted to program, not allowed to listen to music which affected my ability to focus in an office where my block out tools were not available and in offices where working from home was disallowed and frowned upon so much that if you were getting furniture delivered, you were asked to rearrange for a time where your holiday could be approved rather than carry on delivering your work. Not only does that not make sense for a dynamic efficient business, but giving people that opportunity to address life where they need to gives them motivation to give you the opportunity to reap the rewards of their dedication.

Which leaves the question:

Culture driven strategy for your workplace: ideal or essential?

As the world becomes more technologically aware, modern and up to date systems that are efficient, secure and always moving forward are the crux of successful digital and non digital organisations that need 24/7 support. In order to achieve in business, your business must support the People, I say again, People (not resource) that support it. Only then can you truly get the best from them. In that light, the Answer to the above question should be easy…. I hope I never hear this phrase again and happily have not heard it in a while:

They get paid wages to work, that’s enough.