Cultural values key to success - Betsy Williamson

Company culture has taken on a whole new significance as we emerge from restrictions.

Betsy Williamson is the Founder and Managing Director of Core-Asset Consulting
Betsy Williamson is the Founder and Managing Director of Core-Asset Consulting

Traditionally, pre March 2020, it would have been normal to suggest that a strong, traditional, office based culture helped to attract and retain employees.

The way that people interacted with each other, the day-to-day norm of how the business conducted itself, cemented the idea of “teamwork” and operated as a potential competitive advantage.

Industry research supported the concept that people were happier, enjoyed work more and tended to suffer from fewer absence days or stress-related issues in “happy” team-based office environments.

COVID has changed the traditional concept of culture almost out of recognition. Firms must navigate this new world order carefully, be clear on their policies and ensure they are giving due consideration to a vastly different labour market.

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For those that get their new culture dynamic right there is real hope. But how?

It starts with making sure that the business has the right people to begin with. Hiring decisions are key to the maintenance of culture, whether this be on a global or local level. Values are critical, matching the values of the employees to the values of the business, establishing a core mission statement and alignment to company direction.

Communication is next, it may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how many times over the years I’ve spoken to people who complain about their employers’ lack of internal communication, internal co-operation, or inadequate follow ups on key decision making. Consistency of approach is really important to culture formulation and cementation.

All companies will face culture problems. How these are dealt with is also critical. Company based learning aids positive cultural development, while a duck and cover, or blame shifting attitude can kill a positive culture like weed killer on green grass. It takes well-developed internal processes to foster a positive approach to problems.

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One of the pandemic’s many knock-ons has been a tilting of the power dynamic towards employees in a way it never has before. Many are willing to ask the questions that would have previously been uncomfortable to raise whether on internal cultural issues, values, green issues or diversity.

The expectation of the employer now is for more than a transactional relationship where work equals a monthly salary, employees now are seeking an almost altruistic approach, where welfare and concern for the world and a form of selflessness is almost demanded. We just need to look at the recent negative press around Facebook and its whistleblowing scandal to see these expectations playing out.

Thankfully, we are seeing a small number of firms using their strong internal practices and business models to insulate themselves from major staffing problems. Those that are broadly recognised as positive places to work, where flexibility and work-life balance and health and well-being of employees takes precedent over profit.

However those that will ride the collective wave of change safely in the future need to embrace more than just flexible working to flourish in this new world order - the focus must be on self-awareness and identity management.

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The fostering of strong cultural values is key.

Betsy Williamson is the Founder and Managing Director of Core-Asset Consulting

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