A company is a microcosm for a society; it retains its own implied rules, and expectations beyond the actual physical contract. You can gain a semblance of understanding the dynamics of your workplace through observing the behaviours of your colleagues.
In a retail environment, it is unlikely you would be allowed to go to the kitchen in the back and brew a mug of tea, however, in a corporate setting, leaving your desk in pursuit of caffeine will either be clearly acceptable or the opposite. You learn this through observing how many colleagues abandon their posts for a trip to the coffee machine. Maybe it has to do with confidence, position within the company, longevity of employment.
Just as in school you may see Year Eleven students receive less sanctions for the lengths of their skirts due to the unspoken rule that if a student is in their final year, their parents needn’t concern themselves with purchasing a new school skirt when there are just months left. This is due to longevity and the imminence of a departure. Why waste at least ten pounds on a skirt for just a few weeks if it’s merely the length that is against regulations. This was a norm for my school, as well as many others; an unspoken rule of the organisation.
This is, similar to workplace culture.
The culture of the workplace is often regarded to be more of an impression or “vibe” from which people can gage the attitudes of staff. It can relate to the level of formality regarded with dress code, the use of profanities, cigarette or bathroom breaks, and pilgrimages to the coffee machine.
If you were asked to describe your company, with the hopes of appealing to a prospective employee, would you focus on the informal and almost casual dress and whether you are allowed to go and have a cigarette on the clock, or, instead, would you focus on a broader, but vaguer depiction of your workplace; describe how your colleagues interact with one another, how departments collaborate, and whether the company is a “high-stakes, fast-paced” environment, or something else entirely.
People talk. The rise of websites such as Glassdoor, as well as the prevailing force of social media, means that information about companies from the employee perspective can be given to someone interviewing for a role with just a few clicks. This can, of course, be just as detrimental as it can be beneficial for a company. Everyone wants to see the company brand in lights, but having access to stories, from disgruntled employees past can provide a besmirched perspective on the company culture, especially if they attack it directly.
Social media can provide a vast platform to expose the extent of poor conduct revolving around a company or brand. For example, many people who follow alternative fashion subcultures, will be aware of the brand, Dollskill. This company frequently gains traction for their expensive collaborations, most recently with Bratz, Sanrio, and Care Bears. However, this brand is also infamous for their prevailing racism, art theft and cultural appropriation. It is frequent to see artists on social media flag to the wider world that their designs from their small business have been copied explicitly by this brand, and for social media influencers, or just people with large followings, to be contacted by their followers and subscribers, telling them of the things that Dollskill have done, in order to discourage them from making further purchases. This means that they are less likely to curate an increase in revenue, despite attempting to keep up with the newest trends. Because, rightly so, the behind-closed-doors nature of art theft as well as the aforementioned racism and cultural appropriation have been met with the consequences.
On a less extreme note, company reviewer websites such as Glassdoor, allow for individuals to share their experiences with a company with the web, meaning that others can find out more about the personal aspect of a company by scrolling through the reviews.
We encourage the sharing of feedback, due to it providing a channel to improve a product, service or company practice, but, these websites are worth being aware of; as exaggerating the appeal of your company culture in an attempt to sell it to that one specific applicant, will not work if they have seen however many posts on Glassdoor saying that the company does not allow internalised feedback, is stressful, or contains departmental friction.
Unfortunately, company culture is not a self-fulfilling prophecy, without instigating change, you cannot create the workplace you try so hard to sell your new recruits, which can often leave them feeling frustrated or mislead. Try as you might, adding salt to your tea won’t make it sweet.
But how can this be rectified?
The easiest way to do this, is, of course, to be explicit when describing what sells your company on a personal level to prospective employees. However, if you have noticed that your own company may have a few reviews on such websites that are not glowing, you ought to consider making a change to address them.
Implementing gradual changes toward agile practice in the workplace may offer the opportunity to provide a healthier and more proactive work environment. By easing your way into the transition, it means that there may be less friction. After all, would you rather be told that a company was going to transition subtly to new practice than be told at 5pm on a Friday that as of Monday morning things would be, significantly different?
Starting the process by tackling any places that current and former employees may have flagged during water-cooler-chat, post-resignation surveys or on a website like Glassdoor will provide you with a scope of practices to change. Of course, some people just clash with a concept within the workplace, but, if there is a way to make practice more accessible and friendly for the entire company, then surely it is worth the effort.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, making your company a great place to work in, is just like developing a new product or service. You just need to keep trying to tackle the issues from new perspectives. It pays off to be flexible and adaptable.
Providing an agile transformation within your organisation may be exactly what you need in order to make your ideal company culture a reality.
Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.
He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.
The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.
To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: email@example.com