8 Tips to build a world class culture

Every business at some stage is going to need to hire at some point and with that, comes many challenges including managing a productive workplace, making sure employees love coming to work and are always inspired.

For Annabelle Davidson, founder and CEO of Social Playground, in just a short five years she has developed a workplace culture that has retained staff and has allowed her even to step away from her business a couple of days a week to spend more time with her young family. We have been lucky enough to get some fantastic tips on how she has developed a world-class work culture at one of Australia’s most prominent event tech businesses.


1. Culture starts with your attitude (from the top)

Creating a positive work environment takes hard work and a commitment to being a positive role model 100% of the time. Every action and reaction that you make as a leader or CEO filters down through your team. The way you talk to clients, suppliers and your team set up the culture in how you communicate and how every representative within your company informs too. Leading with empathy and conducting business with compassion will go a long way in building mutual respect with your team and creating a positive environment to do business.


2. Recognise great performance, and pull up the not-so-great

The millennial generation has grown up with an abundance of praise and appreciation. From being applauded for merely finishing the race in school to the instant positive feedback by way of social media likes. We’re a generation used to being recognized for participation. Can this lead to a culture of entitlement? Certainly. For this reason, it’s important to recognize achievements but also to provide constructive feedback when KPIs aren’t being met. Frequent appreciation of great work – whether that be “Rockstar Awards” or “Hey Taco” recognition schemes – sets the groundwork for a positive environment so that when negative issues need to be addressed, the response is constructive and enables your team to grow.

3. Culture is being united around shared values

Having a solid vision and mission that unites your team in their work is the first step. The way that vision and mission are bought to life is through your values. Company values shouldn’t be written merely up in the company handbook. Live and breathe your values in the way you conduct business, and your team will follow. Measure performance against values regularly. These should be just as important as other performance KPIs in assessing how well an employee has contributed to the team and the culture. Ask employees to rate themselves from one to five against your values. If they’re not assessing themselves with 4s and 5s, it will be a big wake up call that they need to reassess their attitude and how they are contributing to the team.


4. Be a boss, not a best friend

Providing your team with flexibility plays a big part in employee satisfaction and job happiness. However, flexibility requires boundaries. It’s ok to say no to some requests for time off or other perks. At the end of the day, you’re running a business that’s striving to achieve your vision. If you’ve brought your team on board with believing in your vision, they ultimately want to share the success of reaching it. The right employees will understand that sometimes there have to be boundaries or that the answer might be no. In the long run, they’ll support and respect that if you’re reasonable. Building a great culture is about treating your people as humans; with respect, fairness and some flexibility. But also knowing when to put the “boss” hat on and lay down a few rules.


5. Create shared rituals

Rituals might be as simple as a monthly team lunch, an activity every time a new team member comes on board or an inside joke shared with the whole team. Company rituals create a sense of belonging for your team. Work with your leadership team or management to ensure that rituals are always company or team-wide, to ensure they are inclusive and benefit of everyone. Celebrate the rituals and what makes your company unique. Creating a sense of belonging will not only build culture but also make it less appealing for people to leave.


6. Stop and listen

Create an environment where people feel their voice and ideas are being heard. Encourage contribution from all levels of the organisation. Sometimes the best ideas come from junior staff on the front lines of your customer engagement. Foster a culture where every idea is welcomed and make the time to consider any idea that’s brought to you. In listening to your people, you’ll not only make your team feel important and heard, but you’ll gain valuable insights that you wouldn’t otherwise get. When employees feel they have a voice or have been heard, they feel more invested in your organisation and more motivated to work hard to achieve your shared goals.


7. Inspire your team to praise each other

What better way to make your team feel encouraged than allow them to hear it from their colleagues. Integrate “praises” into your weekly catch ups and allow your team to recognise each other. This focusses everyone on the achievements of the past week and enables the team to recognise some things that you as a leader may not have seen. Weekly praises don’t need monetary or other rewards, being acknowledged in front of your peers is enough to make someone feel appreciated.


8. Invest in learning and growth

It’s all well and good to create a great environment to work in, but if your employees don’t feel they are progressing in their career, it will foster resentment. Invest in the continued growth and education of your team. Value the time you have with them and the contribution that they will make to your organisation as well as the contribution you can make to their career. Be realistic – they aren’t going to stay with you forever. Give them the best opportunities you can to grow and develop and you’ll keep your employees for longer, and when the time does come for them to move on, be confident that you’ve taught them and given them the opportunities to become the best version of themselves.

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