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Why culture matters in an SME

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I have witnessed the two sides of company culture in the last two weeks, both good and bad. It was a great reminder of the importance of having the right culture in your company. 

Firstly, as part of my 50th birthday celebrations, I was lucky enough to eat at Le Gavroche in London's Mayfair. It has a prestigious status in the culinary scene with 2 Michelin stars.

The feel of the place was fantastic. The staff were warm and attentive without being overbearing or interfering. They also gave something of themselves during service, which added to the whole occasion. I noticed how long the average tenure was, with most working there for over ten years and some longer than 20. It was very apparent how much they enjoyed working there.

What amazed me was Michel Roux went around to every table, checking the guests were okay and ensuring they were well looked after. In our case, the ladies wanted the air conditioning turned off, and he came back personally to check we were comfortable, not delegating it to his staff. His genuine care shone through right from the top down to all the staff. I have never seen the actual master chef in any 2 Michelin star I have ever eaten at. To cap it off, the bill has no option to give a tip… It's all included in the food prices.

Secondly, a construction company that a close friend works at has shown the other side of the coin. They have a beautifully crafted culture statement and principles, and regularly profess to put staff and people first.

In this case, an executive member of the organisation exhibited consistent bullying towards my unfortunate friend in meetings where her boss (and their boss) were also in attendance. This happened on more than one occasion over a week, so my friend complained to her boss and their manager.

Sadly, she got no resolution with excuses made about the behaviours and stress of the executive employee. My friend had no faith that HR would do anything, so she decided to leave the organisation as soon as possible and is currently signed off by the doctor and on leave for stress.

These two examples demonstrate unequivocally why the culture of an organisation matters.

The benefits of creating a great working environment are:

  • It encourages high performance in staff
  • It increases staff retention
  • It is statistically proven to reduce sick days
  • It allows you to attract top talent
  • And finally...this shines through the whole organisation and is felt by your clients.

So, how do you create a great culture in your company?

Define Your Company Values: Ensure you are clear on what matters to you and your company. Be clear on how you treat your staff and customers, as this is the foundation of your culture.

Clearly communicate these to your staff: Having great principles is only the start. Make sure you regularly talk about the culture with new and existing teams.

Lead by example: As displayed by Michel Roux, the leaders and management team must lead by example and live and breathe the culture.

Encourage open communication: Another critical building block is encouraging an environment where anyone in the organisation can discuss the culture and ensure managers mention it in their 1-2-1 meetings with staff or employee reviews.

Monitor and adapt: Regularly assess your workplace culture through informal feedback, surveys or feedback groups. Use this feedback to identify areas of improvement and make necessary tweaks as things change.

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In conclusion, creating a positive workplace culture requires ongoing effort, dedication, and commitment at all company levels. However, suppose employees feel valued, supported and inspired. In that case, this effort will return enormous rewards for your company, leading to a thriving and successful business that retains and attracts top talent.

If this resonates with you and you are interested in change, don't hesitate to contact me.

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