Why is culture so important in business?
In this guest article, Nicola Saner, Managing Director of Chorus, discusses the importance of culture in business and what organisations can do to develop their own.
Why is culture so important in business?
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of organisational culture in business. Every company in the world has its own unique culture, which is specific to that organisation, and reflects the collective ‘personality’ of the business and interactions both internally and externally with customers.
Since I became Managing Director at Chorus, enhancing and developing our culture has been a key focus for me and something I’m passionate about, for culture is the heart and success to every business.
What is organisational culture?
To me, culture defines the way we behave and conduct ourselves in business, shapes our methods of interaction with peers, and affects our output and presentation of our work. All of this influences our enjoyment of work and motivation to do what we do. Let’s face it, a significant portion of our time is spent working, so it’s vital that the culture is given an appropriate focus, in order that it enhances our enjoyment of the work environment. In return, the work delivered will be of a higher standard.
Overall, the culture of a business defines the atmosphere, environment and output of that business. It’s like an undefined rule (or unspoken code), the mindset of how the business operates day to day.
Why is a strong culture important, and what are the benefits?
It helps employees understand the dynamics of their organisation, find a common purpose between colleagues, adapt to working practices, share ideas and communicate feedback and concerns. A strong culture can also have an external impact, and it can influence an organisation’s brand perception. Therefore, it’s important to consider what type of culture your organisation currently portrays, and if that’s something you are proud of, or something you’d like to change.
A strong positive culture, where employees believe in the company values and feel part of the business, can drive employee engagement and productivity, improve decision-making, boost wellbeing and increase employee retention.
On the other hand, if you don’t prioritise or focus on culture, the ripple effect can be damaging. For example, if a business has a toxic culture, those negative attitudes and behaviours can spread. In such situations, high employee turnover and low morale are common. Without addressing the root cause (a toxic culture), new employees will continue to be influenced by those around them, and the problems will persist. That’s why it’s so important for senior members of an organisation to focus on developing a strong positive culture, to provide a safe, engaging and positive place to work where everyone is working towards shared goals.
How has Chorus developed its culture, and what influence has it had on the business?
Our culture has been formed through our history of 22 years. Many of our people have been in the business for over 10 years, so there is a strong sense of companionship, as well as curiosity to learn and lead in tech. We have focused on creating a supportive environment that is fun and exciting.
The challenge of having a strong culture in a fast-moving industry with a rapidly building business is to ensure we invest time in our culture and give it the attention it deserves. One of the ways to promote this is transparency, allowing people to be part of the business, part of decisions, and giving them autonomy. At Chorus, we do regular employee surveys to ensure everyone has a voice, and frequent company updates to keep everyone informed of our progress and any changes within the business.
We have developed our culture by living and breathing our company values, which we developed through a series of workshops between colleagues from across the business. It was important for us to develop our values organically, with the input of employees, as we didn’t want to dictate values to our people if they weren’t true to us, and representative of the voices of those involved and dedicated to Chorus.
Since then, we have continually referred to our values in meetings, during collaboration, and in our decision-making. However, when we are busy and the pressure is on (as every business has those times), I like to check in and make sure we aren’t deviating from our values and culture.
It is important to ensure that we maintain a strong identity and are true to our values in the way we conduct ourselves and in the decisions we make. This can be achieved through strong communication (for us, this is done through Teams updates, internal newsletters, and monthly video company updates) and the promotion of the voice of our employees – because it is the team that makes things happen. For us, we stand out from our competitors not only because of our industry expertise and quality of services, but also because of our culture and brand, which we cherish.
How might company cultures need to adapt to support the next generation of employees?
This is where it gets interesting in terms of culture. The workplace has changed a lot since the pandemic. People’s requirements and drivers have changed, and business leaders need to listen and be willing to change.
You have to be prepared to ask the questions you may not want to ask, listen to the answers you may not want to hear, and then look to how to move forward with positive changes.
We also need to be aware that Generation Z is entering the workforce, and that they have different expectations, and rightly so. Employees are increasingly empowered to pursue what they want and believe in, so we need to be ready to listen and inspire them.
Nowadays, more and more people want to be part of an ethical business that supports its local communities, has environmental and sustainability goals, and supports charitable causes. Therefore, leaders need to be aware of factors like these, get people involved, and ask their people what interests them.
Finally, I think it’s important that organisations ensure they have the right benefits in place. Benefits that motivate and excite your teams, show recognition for excellent work, and challenge people to the next stage so they are excited by their potential growth.
How can we make people feel welcome and respected in the workplace?
Today, it’s vital to be flexible and respect that people have their own lives, so work life balance is key. I think it’s important not to get stuck in the old ways of doing things. After all, what’s wrong with change? If a job is done well, surely that’s what’s key? Focusing on building strong employee relationships and positive employee experiences is also crucial, with effective communication and transparency at the heart of this.
I think this is also about being open and accommodating to everyone and making reasonable adjustments to cater for whatever our people need to feel comfortable, be themselves and do their best work. For example, we recently created a prayer & relaxation room, which provides a quiet and private space for those who might like to use it when working in the office. It’s also so important that senior leaders don’t forget the importance of mental health and should ensure that measures are in place to support their people.
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion must also be a focus for businesses, not to tick a box, but because everyone deserves equal opportunities, and because diversity, at a minimum, brings a more balanced mix of thoughts and ideas to a business which everyone can benefit from. For those who don’t understand why this is so important, it’s worth finding out more, or you’ll miss out and face being left behind.
Overall, I think now is the time to be innovative and willing to take risks, and step into a new way of doing business when building culture. It’s worth taking a moment to ask employees questions through employee surveys and be willing to listen and discuss the findings. There are always new ways to adapt and engage people, but it’s not an overnight exercise. Based on my experience and the progress we’ve made, I’d strongly encourage others to invest in developing a positive organisational culture. It really does pay off, and it’s something we’re especially proud of at Chorus.