Putting leaders at the heart of company culture

By Richard Bridge, founder & CEO, Top Banana

Culture in business has never been more powerful, especially if you create one that is centred around trust, transparency and collaboration. But even though it’s made its way onto boardroom agendas, there’s still a big gap between creating a plan and making it a reality.

I recently had the privilege of chairing inVOYAGE’s C-Suite discussion where we discussed managing and maintaining growth which naturally led to an insightful discussion on culture.

I always reference a well-known saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast” which really rings true at Top Banana. In our 20 years in business, strategy has of course been important but it’s people who deliver strategy. It’s not a coincidence that the top performing global companies are also the ones that are culture driven.

For me, culture is a feeling that comes from the combination of many factors including behaviour, values, rewards and environment. It is the leader’s responsibility to identify a cultural vision for the company, live and breathe it themselves, and then help to steer the rest of the company in the right direction. Yes, culture needs to be driven from the top, but it’s the employees that keep it alive and create the unique culture of your business.

In this industry, we know all too well how important communication is, but seem to forget that when it comes to our own business. A one-off employee communication over email just isn’t enough for the continuously increasing expectations of our employees. Communication needs to be consistent, clear and through the right channel for the right audience.

I believe that the foundations of creating an engaging culture is to ensure that everyone is on the same page and regularly kept informed on what is going on within the business. Strategy, vision and values needs to not just be communicated to the management team, but to the whole business.

Whether it’s an annual staff conference, monthly staff meeting, intranet update or sharing huddle, you need to make sure that each and every employee it kept up to speed. In order to stay engaged and focused, employees need to feel part of something big and understand what role they play in the success of the business.

When employees feel part of something, they are more likely to buy in to the company and stay with you rather than move to a competitor. Attracting new talent that is right for your business is hard enough, not to mention then retaining that talent.

Offering employees, a larger pay packet just doesn’t cut it anymore, as employees are looking for a place that reflects them and their values. Research suggests that millennials, who are known for their job-hopping tendencies, aren’t always just looking for more money and are even willing to take a pay cut to find a company with the right positive work culture.

Whilst you can’t create a culture that appeals to everyone, creating a feedback tool where you are able to listen to your valued employees is crucial. At Top Banana we created a ‘culture club’ which is a group of people who get together and discuss any feedback from employees, plan social events and arrange charity support activities throughout the year.

We found this was a great way for employees to take responsibility of the culture and give them the power to make decisions and drive change within the business. As we’ve grown as an agency, the culture club have been more important than ever, as we are careful not to outgrow our family feel and want our culture to grow with us.  

Culture doesn’t happen over night and isn’t the responsibility of one person. It takes leadership time and effort to create a culture where people enjoy coming to work, feel valued and like they’re contributing to something bigger than just their job role. 

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