It's well documented that a positive company culture is crucial for driving business growth; companies with Best Companies star ratings tend to outperform the FTSE (see Figure.1.)
Here are a few tips written by industry experts – from the Headteacher of an outstanding school to a scale-up expert - to help you drive an exceptional culture in your business – and reap the rewards.
1. Inspiring collaboration will prepare your workforce for the future.
When it comes to developing the workforce of the future, digital competence matched with exceptional soft skills will characterise the team of tomorrow. Emma Cerrone, co-founder of Freeformers, suggests the Future of Work relies on creating a workplace that inspires teamwork, not isolation.
“Soft skills must come first. Communication, teamwork and empathy all contribute to an effective collaborative culture. Then come the hard digital skills. Given the extent to which technology will be integrated into the future world of work, every company needs specialist skills, but not everyone has to be an expert.”
2. Don't underestimate the importance of working environment.
Your office is the biggest physical manifestation of your culture, so you need to put thought into making sure it reflects positively on you as an organisation. CEO Coach Dom Monkhouse believes strongly in the importance of office environment to facilitating culture: "If an employee, future employee, customer or future customer thinks you do the small details well — like creating a nice tidy, friendly, fun workspace — then they’d be more than happy to work with or for you."
3. Make learning a fundamental part of the culture, at every level.
High-performing organisations are five times more likely to have learning cultures as a key tenet of their organisation. Lawrence Hay, Group Director of Talent and Organisational Development at Photobox, recently launched a new development offering based around the philosophy of 'life-long learners' – which in his words, is 'not a "program," more of an ongoing development culture that will build and grow over time.' This rejects the 'off the shelf' training in favour of personalisation – 'choose what you want to learn, when you want, how you want.'
4. Bear in mind that the most effective changes may not come from the top-down.
A positive culture can only be achieved if employees at all levels throughout the organisation are engaged within it. This means you need to make a conscious effort to involve them from the outset. Liz Robinson, co-head of Surrey Square primary school, did this by making her staff responsible for their own assessments. 'We have created a more "horizontal" approach to accountability, with colleagues having open conversations about aspects of their practice, rather than being subject to judgements made by others. The increased professional respect and engagement goes a long way to support teacher retention, and is something I urge others to consider.'
5. Remember that maintaining culture in a high-growth environment is a hard task – but it's worth fighting for.
Keeping your company culture alive in times of change is a challenge for businesses at all stages. And it’s a challenge that our team at La Fosse is all too familiar with. Simon La Fosse started La Fosse Associates 10 years ago to prove that treating people with care and respect was the right thing to do, and a better way to do business. Treating people well has been at our heart from the beginning - but it has taken commitment, resources and a few learning curves along the way to maintain throughout our growth.
La Fosse hosted 'Culture: Building, Maintaining and Changing', a panel event held in collaboration with Photobox, which discussed how organisations should use culture to drive business success.
See below for details on the panellists who are featured in this article, and if you're interested in attending other events with La Fosse, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call on 02079321652.
Facilitator: Jonathan McKay
Chairman with exemplary track record of scaling and internationalising world class technology business to create and realise outstanding shareholder returns. In addition to being the Chairman of La Fosse, Jonathan is also a Chair of Forward Partners CBNL, Driftrock and ISG Technology Ltd. His former Chair positions include JustGiving.
Emma co-founded digital training company FreeFormers, supporting individuals working in corporates, and broader society, including less advantaged young people, to be successful in a digital future. With 18 years' experience for FTSE 100 brands, she is a fellow at the Forward Institute and was named the Duke of York New Entrepreneur of the Year at the National Business Awards 2014.
Dominic is a scale-up expert and tech business coach. He has held executive positions at companies including Peer 1 Hosting, IT Lab and Rackspace, and has won many awards for creating great places to work. He built Rackspace from 4 to 150 staff, and under his management the company was recognised as one of the most outstanding workplaces in Europe. Dominic is a regular public speaker on creating great places to work and achieving continuous client satisfaction.
Liz Robinson is co-head of Surrey Square Primary School, co-director of Big Education Trust, Trustee at the Literacy Trust and former Chairman of the Board of Governors at the International Academy of Greenwich. Surrey Square was rated outstanding by Ofsted and featured in The Guardian for their policies which help the school's struggling families as well as receiving national recognition for her innovative policies on staff self-assessment.
Simon La Fosse
In 2007, Simon started La Fosse Associates with the vision of creating a co-owned, technology recruitment firm that treated clients, candidates and each other with care and respect. 11 years later, this simple ethos has driven growth from a one-man band to a team of 180 people with offices across the UK + US. La Fosse has won numerous awards along the way, including being voted the Sunday Times Top 40 Best Small Company to Work For in the UK for six years in a row.