live / be / create  your own unique workplace culture

Last week, Network Group hosted one of its five key events of the year, aptly called Focus, where the spotlight was on Workplace Culture. Keynote speaker Jo Simpson spoke about leading from the inside out, and the restless executive, and one of our executives, Jon Towers - also co-founding director of one of our member companies, Grant McGregor, led a noteworthy panel session on Workplace Culture. This panel session proved to be one of the highlights of the day for all our members in attendance, as addressing the importance of workplace culture in today’s world is key to leading a business to sustainable and adaptable success that can stand apart and above. And live case studies and discussion from the panel who were drawn from fellow members proved invaluable.

The human era of the workplace

According to an article in The Guardian this year, "The UK’s savviest employers have always known that the key to a productive business is investing time and effort in understanding what makes people happy at work. Why do people love their job? What do employees want their workplace to look like? Understand and act on this and you should never have a problem with motivation or morale. Yes, competitive pay and benefits are important, but employee happiness is dependent on so much more. Increasingly, workers are placing greater value on things like wellbeing and working conditions, where flexible working, collaboration, career progression and a great team spirit are part of the company culture.

“This is the human era of the workplace,” says Mark Batey, senior lecturer Organisational Psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School. “The best places to work are those in which people can flourish and be their best selves – instead of pretending to be someone else five days a week. The perfect workplace also gives people flexibility and autonomy as to where and how they work, built on a culture of growth and trust.”

But why should I care? A question posed by the panel

Consider also these two compelling ideas around culture and competitive advantage:

“The most important thing about culture is that it’s the only sustainable point of difference for any organisation. Anyone can copy a company’s strategy, but nobody can copy their culture.” - Torbenrick

"There is a competitive advantage out there, arguably more powerful than any other…Is it superior strategy? Faster innovation? Smarter employees? No, best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, argues that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre ones has little to do with what they know and how smart they are and more to do with how healthy they are.

So, what is the unique advantage organisational health provides?

Simply put, an organisation is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified. Healthy organisations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave.” – Lenioni, The Advantage.

Aims of the discussion:

  • To better understand what business or organisational culture is…and isn’t!
  • To share relevant Member experiences with the whole Membership on why they find culture important for business health and market differentiation.
  • To discuss some of the different ways in which culture can be defined and imbued in our Member companies
  • To better understand some of the first steps that can be taken to construct and cohere a ‘system’ of culture towards shared assumptions, values and beliefs that affect and shape your organisation's collective behaviours and attitudes.
  • To understand some of the pitfalls of ‘creating culture’ and what not to do.
  • To list 3 summary Golden Nuggets for Members to take away and act upon.

Panel Members included Jon Towers from Grant McGregor and Network Group Executive; Austen Clark from Clark IT; Mark Matthews from ATG-IT; Richard Shuker from TMB; and Craig Hume, also a Network Group Executive and owner of Utopia Computers. Some of the questions posed amongst the panel and for open discussion with attending members, included:

  • What is Organisational Culture? How do you define it?
  • Why is it important to your business? What advantages do you see?
  • Is Company culture just for bigger businesses?
  • Is it just about your staff and how/who you hire? What about your customers?
  • Have you always had a great culture in your business? Why/not?
  • Where does culture come from? Who inspires/shapes it? Explore leadership…
  • So, how did you get started with creating a culture in your business?
  • What are the practices, policies or benefits you employ in your workplace that contribute to your culture? How often do you work on culture?
  • Does your culture show through in hiring? What characteristics do you seek? How?
  • Some possible topics/areas to discuss: Perks, benefits, dress code. Feedback and reviews. Personal/professional growth. Career pathing. Training. Philanthropy. Personal growth. Leadership/management. Communication and transparency.
  • How do you keep your culture institutionalized all the way through your company?
  • What advice do you have for a company just starting out on their culture journey?
  • What advice do you have for a company who has struggled to this point or who is looking to improve their organisational culture?
  • What’s the one tip you wish you had before you started your culture journey?

Some of these questions may assist you as prompts to ask within your own organisation, and to get the conversation started about your own workplace culture and how you value what it means to your business growth, success and Intrapreneurship.

In summary of the panel session, the 3 Golden Nugget takeaways were:

  1. VISION? Have you climbed the tallest tree? What is YOUR why?
  2. What are your VALUES (especially aspirational ones) and why?
  3. How can you ensure your TEAM buys into your culture?


Author - Jon Towers, compiled by Karin Dubois