Why do myths persist and what are the existing freelancing myths.
After addressing a group on the importance of team culture at a conference about diversity in tech start-ups, we opened the floor up to discussion. Below are some of the best bits from the event.
A key part of a good culture and its ability to adapt is good communication
For many of the people we talked to, the main factor which helped develop a positive company culture, was communication. It’s so important, in any healthy relationship, to communicate clearly. If people aren’t willing to talk to each other about what they like and don’t like about an environment, there’s no way others will be able to help them change and improve it. If people are worried about calling each other out on mistakes (in a constructive way), then they have to wait for the mistakes to be caught by the client. This reflects badly on the company and wastes a huge amount of time.
It’s better to force communication than not have it at all. One manager trialled a system whereby everyone was given cards with the good, the bad and the ugly written at the top. The team were asked to submit what their thoughts were in the three categories. At the start of the week, she found that people were very unwilling to put forward any sort of negative feedback. However, within 4 or 5 days everyone was volunteering constructive criticisms which immediately made the team much more efficient and happy.
A happy team is a productive team
Everyone agreed that a team who enjoy work in a good environment will be the most productive. This ties back into the importance of communication. An environment needs to exist whereby individuals feel they are able to express where they want to be and what they want to do.
For example, in a tech start-up, an individual might find themselves always involved in projects where they will be coding, and their manager knows this. However, they may want to expand their skill set and work on a project where they can improve their skills in Python. In a company with a healthy culture the individual feels able to ask and is put on the project they prefer, to develop these skills. This results in a happier employee who would be more productive as well as be well rounded.
It’s important to have values which are published and known throughout a company but these values need to be shown, not told
Most companies understand the importance of having values and ensuring that everyone knows what these are. However, many employees found that although their company’s values were plastered everywhere, none of these values were reflected in how their colleagues worked on a day-to-day basis.
If the culture isn’t ingrained into the employees, it isn’t going to stick. This all starts with management. If the managers follow the values and show their team what those values look like in practice, then the values will filter down through the company much more effectively than by just advertising them.
Values and adhering to them also need to be flexible
Values need to be clear and well defined but they shouldn’t be set in stone. As the world, and particularly technology, continues to grow, the workplace will continue to change too. The workplace can also vary as the direction of a company changes slightly, or the size of a team grows. As this happens the culture of a workplace needs to change too. For these reasons, it’s key to sit down with the team and re-evaluate how they’re going to work together going forward.
Culture and values will also sometimes need to be flexible on an individual basis. For example, perhaps a company has a culture of starting early and finishing early because they feel that’s how they’re most productive. However, a new team member might have children they need to drop off at school and they can’t get in at the same time as everyone else. Our discussion concluded that the culture needs to be flexible enough to allow this, as it feeds back into the requirement for individual happiness.
Different teams need slightly different priorities and ways of working
In large companies, culture and values can be much harder to manage than others. The idea of managers leading by example is still key, and should still work, but there will always be cracks.
The problem is that not every team within an international corporation is going to work in the same way. They will have different priorities, they are different sizes, operate in different countries and have very different outputs. It’s critical that there are some overarching values but they need to be adopted alongside a local flavour of what each specific team needs.
Although forced culture is not optimal, it can be useful for short-term projects
Forcing certain aspects of a culture can be necessary. It’s much better for these values to be shown, not forced, but in short-term projects, it’s impossible to show values in the short timeframe you have.
In this set of circumstances, it’s crucial that everyone lays out in the open how they work best. For example, at the start of any project, a company could ask everyone to take a quick Myers-Briggs personality test and share their results with the group. This test doesn’t give a total overview of an individual’s personality, but it does give a guide to how they work. Additionally, if everyone communicates at the beginning any specific requirements they have (eg they have to leave at a certain time on a particular day each week) then everyone is on the same page and will understand better how to plan their work around this.
Our group all agreed that values and company culture are up there with the most important factors in any successful workplace. Focusing on team happiness and ensuring the team is working in consistent ways, in a positive environment, needs to be a priority. This will drive the productivity and work style which will lead to successful results and a happy workforce.
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