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The most essential ingredient to your company’s success is your team, remote, hybrid or office-based. For their happiness, you need an awesome team culture.

That successful team culture is very different in a high-growth SME to traditional businesses and a million miles apart from a massive corporate giant. I talked to a fast-growing entrepreneur about his team culture and two experts on the subject.

The Entrepreneur

Bhupinder Sidhu (Sid) is the founder of Business Butler UK, a fast-growing platform that offers a go-to service for startups and SMEs looking to grow.  They can match you with vetted experts in a broad selection of fields such as accountancy, human resources, and customer research, and confirm real-time appointments. Sid felt that the current networking and recommendation systems were failing to deliver the best results for entrepreneurs.

Sid grew up watching his father leverage the power of his local community to run a successful corner shop in the face of severe competition from a new supermarket. He has also worked for large corporates with aggressive team cultures. This combination of experiences has left Sid exceptionally passionate about running his business in a different way, with a determination to provide value to all involved. 

Sid describes the team culture as “work hard, live well” where diligence and hard work are rewarded. He says he has learned to recruit for attitude rather than experience and wants the team to view the business as theirs and something to be proud of.  This means that working at Business Butler is not a 9-5 job, and people go above and beyond.  He tells his team that if anything is troubling them, however small, to come to him, because “if it is important to them, it is important to him.”  Everyone’s views count, and people are encouraged to speak up. 

His vision, values, and team culture are clear and shared.  The team culture includes having a safe work environment, respecting others’ time, positive thinking, being accountable, not sweating the small stuff, no agendas, and meeting deadlines and targets. Then in gigantic type, two more are emphasized. “Judge each other on the quality of the work produced”, that is fundamentally why we are together. Play your part in delivering the solution to the best of your ability. 

  • “Judge each other on the quality of the work produced”, that is fundamentally why we are together. Play your part in delivering the solution to the best of your ability. 
  • “We respect each other – we are all equal!”

Sid says that team culture plays a massive part in the rapid growth of Business Butler.  They plan to double again within the next twelve months, and he recognizes the challenge of maintaining it through growth.  They monitor continually to quickly identify issues or unrest and then set about acting on them.  He says that when they recruit ‘Butlers’ there needs to be a synergy with what they are about and their ethos. Community is hugely important and they want everyone buying into that and contributing. Business Butler only wants the right fit, so they can maintain the thriving team culture that is driving success.  Leadership, behavior, and approach, set the tone for everything.

The Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Expert

Jackie Handy is an inclusive leadership consultant at Runway Global Ltd.  She is also an author, TEDx speaker, and recognized diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist.  She describes culture as the personality of an organization, which demonstrates the organizational values.  But it is made up of those values and also unwritten rules and social norms of a business.

The Great Resignation is happening worldwide, with people leaving or considering leaving jobs on a scale that hasn’t been seen for over 20 years. A Microsoft study found 41 percent of workers globally are considering leaving their employer this year.  Jackie believes this is partly rooted in the lack of clear communication from some businesses when it was needed most; when the pandemic hit. 

It made people question workplace cultures, and change made them uneasy.  Some companies compounded the anxiety that people were already feeling by using monitoring systems for homeworking. This monitoring was construed as a lack of trust, once again just when compassion and trust were most needed.  Management skills were often lacking, and organizational values faded away.

Jackie finds even now, some managers only reach out to staff for work project discussions and reports, which doesn’t promote trust or cultivate human connection.  Empower them with autonomy and include well-being updates that focus on how they are feeling as this will lead to a sense of being valued.  As people increasingly want to be their authentic selves, employers need to create an environment where diverse groups thrive. 

This means clear communication and an openness to feedback – and responding to it. Jackie says signs of toxic cultures can be those whose leadership has a do as I say, not as I do mentality.  Out-of-date management may not have invested in training in equity, diversity, and inclusion.  Staff turnover is high, but no ownership of underlying problems is taken. A well-being program is just a band-aid without ensuring staff welfare. Companies may be enforcing the return to the office without consultation

Positive workplace culture starts with defining what it should be and what values people should bring to life with behavior, language, and service.  You can choose to ask your team to contribute to these, but either way, ensure you gain agreement.  Only then can you compare what you want to what you have.  Ask for honest feedback and receive it graciously without being defensive.  People need to feel safe to open up and say what they think, something missing in many businesses.  Without it, all strategies flounder.  Focus on trust underpinning everything you do.

We have always done it this way must go out the window.  Be brave, make changes.  The ways we do business have changed with the pandemic.  Culture is not an HR task. It is a leadership task and should be represented by everyone in the organization. 

Team members want to feel valued, trusted, that they belong. They want flexibility in terms of when and how they work. They want benefits that reflect the demographic of our society, and they want a voice that is heard. Businesses must adapt and change their culture fast to engage and retain a productive workforce.

During the pandemic, many companies used well-being apps and platforms such as Slack to engage with colleagues.  Jackie says for her tech is an addition to culture, not a replacement for.   As we continue to work with hybrid, home-based, and global teams, the key must lie in finding new ways to engage with the workforce online. “Culture does eat strategy for breakfast” (Pete Drucker), and, in Jackie’s opinion, human contact devours tech for lunch.

Great team culture

The team culture specialist

Natalie Lewis’s company is Dynamic HR Services Ltd, award-winning for its HR and Culture Strategies.  Natalie believes that culture starts with strong company values and a positive vision and that both have to be communicated clearly to everyone.  The values form a picture of the team culture you want to create, and everything follows on from there.

Part of great team culture is valuing your people and being seen to do so.  Saying thank you might seem small but, in reality, is enormously relevant in creating happiness.

In-boarding, which we touched on briefly in recruitment, is also critical to make people feel wanted and welcomed from the start of the relationship.  In addition to the advance-introductory packs, during the onboarding, new people should meet not just the people they will be working with but senior members of staff as well and the values and vision re-enforced at every stage.  Expectations need to be clearly set on both sides, too, so that people know how well they are doing.

Part of Natalie’s aims with her clients is to minimize rules, regulations, and handbooks.  She feels they create a team culture of fear and control. An obsession with job titles can also be a sign of poor team culture. She is also a fan of flexible working, hybrid working, and no playground level rules.

Culture in a small start-up is relatively easy, but Natalie sees it often become weakened as companies grow.  The fun side is sacrificed for rules.  Micro-managing sets in rather than celebrations of joint tasks achieved.  Before long, the workplace turns toxic, and in extreme cases, the whole business is destroyed.

Natalie also warns against fire-fighting recruitment.  Getting someone fast when you need them may seem to make sense, but desperation leads to poor hiring, and poor hiring can also lead to someone destructive to the team culture.  The most outstanding performer is wrong for you if they do not fit the team culture.

HR departments have ignored rebels as hires in the past, afraid that they will not abide by the rules.  But there is a big difference between a rebel who will do things their way and come up with new and innovative ideas that will drive your company forward to a rebel whose goal is to destroy your company.

People who foster a great team culture have a sense of responsibility and accountability and are excited to be part of the solutions in the company.   Leaders need to stop micro-managing and trust people to do their jobs.

Conclusion

I hope this illustrates what I set out to do; the vital balance between hard work and dedication that a fast-growing company needs and that this is achieved by focussing on getting the team culture right. With total inclusion, and everyone feeling needed, valued, important, and relevant, And excited to be a part of it.

Someone else who is fascinating when it comes to team culture is Craig Knight who shared knowledge and advice in my chat with him.

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