Building a thriving business and running successful teams requires a well-written strategy, robust planning, and a thriving culture. All three need to be in place, but your culture might just be the most integral part.
We spoke to Craig Winterton, Head of People at computer vision start-up, Scape Technologies, and former Product Owner at Lloyds Banking Group (where he was responsible for transforming the end to end people experience) to find out his advice for small and large businesses wanting to improve workplace culture.
The importance of a good working culture in business
“Without the right culture you may hit short-term goals, but sustainable success will be a significant challenge,” says Craig. “Company culture isn’t just something that appears either, it grows and evolves over time. You need to attend to it because if it turns toxic it could cause rot that spreads throughout the business.”
Craig has worked in high-growth start-ups (Groupon.com), a scale-up (asos.com), and a large corporate organisation (LBG), but for him the same principle of culture rings true: “In all the businesses I have worked in there has been a growing emphasis on culture,” Craig says. “Regardless of size, businesses believe, as do I, that people should feel free to enjoy themselves at work. When companies treat their employees like adults, the workforce is happier, more engaged and free to produce their best work.”
With so much importance being placed on the working culture of modern business, we asked Craig for his tips for businesses wanting to build an environment their teams love:
1. Never stop cultivating trust in your team
“How many rules do you currently have in your organisation and do you really need all of them? When you start treating people like adults they tend to act like adults,” says Craig. “I was hired to be a disruptor at Lloyds - to build digital awareness and skills, challenge traditional ways of doing things. Doing that in a 250-year-old institution is hard but the way we approached it was to build trust, test a few things, and prove nothing has to ‘break’ to make strides forward.”
2. Empower the team to have influence over the culture they want to be a part of
“It isn’t just about ping pong tables, dogs in the office and your dress code,” says Craig. “Culture shouldn’t be designed at the top in this way. It’s about how well information is communicated upwards, downwards, sideways and diagonally, and how valued it is. This freedom emphasises trust, builds relationships across departments and encourages personality and creativity. It is then up to you as a leader to encourage and allow this culture to develop, facilitating the needs of your employees wherever possible.”
3. Role model culture from the top
“I know I just said that the culture shouldn’t be depicted from the top, but it should absolutely be role modelled from there,” says Craig. “This is particularly important for smaller businesses looking to grow, where everyone knows everyone already. How leaders act and interact with the business sets the tone, so think about your conduct inside and outside the office, because you may not be aware of the impact your actions are having on the business. Leaders’ behaviour should be consistent with and reinforce cultural goals, behaving in a way that is at odds with this can not only undo any progress made, but risk dismantling the belief the team have in the culture they thought they had.”
4. Find a way to measure your culture
“People tell me all the time that culture is fluffy, intangible and impossible to measure,” says Craig. “But, it just simply isn’t true. Give yourself a two hour workshop and I guarantee you will come up with numerous ways to measure it.”
You can read more about improving your working culture in the culture section of our blog.