Lisa Sweeney, Head of People and Culture
Culture is an often overused and underestimated word in the business world. It isn’t simply about dress code, office décor and the staff social. It’s the DNA of your organisation – it defines how you interact internally and externally – and, if cultivated and nurtured appropriately, flows from the top of an organisation throughout every part of it – making your employees feel valued, motivated and part of something special.
At Neueda, we are unapologetic about our commitment to company culture. The tech sector is a particularly competitive marketplace. We must not only attract the best people, but continually nurture, develop and retain that talent to keep our business growing – a challenge with which most Ambition readers will be familiar. Put simply, to set us apart as an employer, we need to be a great place to work – and that is where culture comes into play.
The power of a positive culture goes far beyond the office doors. We receive regular feedback from customers that our commitment to culture differentiates us as a partner of choice – it makes good business sense.
If you’re defining or fine-tuning your company culture, it is essential to not only have the buy-in of your senior team, but also that of key individuals throughout the business who best demonstrate and inspire behaviours that reflect what the company is about.
We think of these individuals as our ‘culture architects’ – the role models and leaders who can influence and bring culture to life. From the outset, Neueda’s leadership team had a clear vision of what type of company it wanted, and importantly, didn’t want to be. That for us was the first step in shaping and building our culture.
Culture flows from values – so let that be your guide. One of Neueda’s core company values is ‘challenge, decide, commit,’ – in other words, we want people to have a voice and to challenge – and when a decision is made, we fully support it as one team. We also want our people to take risks and our employees are told from day one, ‘if you fail, fail early and learn from it – don’t hide it’. Operating by these values creates a high trust, high performance culture and when it is combined with the talent and passion of our people, it creates a thriving, learning environment.
There is a traditional view of Human Resources as the team in a company that manages policies, handles interviews and deals with issues and problems. Whilst those are indeed elements of HR – its function goes way beyond that – hence why our People & Culture team is so called. We operate an open-door policy so staff know they can approach us on an informal basis as well as for more structured sessions as required.
Staff wellbeing is a crucial ingredient of our success and forms a massive part of our approach to People and Culture. The new generation of talent place particular importance on work/life balance and value recognition. We offer staff initiatives such as social outings, yoga and health tests to help them maintain a healthy mind and body.
Worth noting is that the little things are often more impactful than grand gestures for employees. Providing timely, valuable feedback and recognition whilst encouraging idea and opinion sharing, goes a long way.
Another important cultural aspect to consider is how socially conscious your company is. Being socially responsible is not only the right thing to do, it has real value for your employees. Through initiatives such as our Neueda Code Club, where staff volunteer their time to teach primary schoolchildren how to code, or our recent staff trip to Malawi with Habitat NI, we are giving employees access to experiences that enrich them both personally and professionally – and in doing so, in turn, garners loyalty.
It’s important to remember that culture can and should evolve over time. Transferring the right values and behaviours amongst your people is key to developing a culture that will grow with the company and those who lead it.
Neueda has international staff with whom we need to engage regularly so that our culture travels. We host regular web meetings and video conference calls and bring people from our various bases together as often as possible in different locations to share ideas, recognise successes and share company plans.
A recent survey carried out independently with our staff revealed that 95% of our employee base would recommend Neueda as a great place to work. We’ll never take that figure for granted- and have to keep working to maintain it.
For organisations of all sizes and scales, in all sectors, I would emphasise that culture is absolutely made, not born. Here are my key steps in implementing and maintaining one that best works for you:
Develop a clear vision for your company culture based on shared values
Establish buy-in from the top down and identify ‘cultural architects’ to help drive it
Engage in open and regular two-way communication with employees
Don’t underestimate the little things – listen, say thank you, recognise good performance