How to Build a Fit for Purpose Culture

I’m a massive fan of workplace culture. And fully convinced of the benefits a good culture brings to a business. Not can. Does. 

Cultural approval

The Business Roundtable is an association of CEOs of the top 200 or so US companies by market capitalisation, and for most of its almost five-decade history its principles have preached their “paramount duty” is to serve the interests of stockholders. However, in August 2019 the Roundtable issued a statement updating its doctrine, making a “fundamental commitment” to all stakeholders, specifically including employees, the environment, and suppliers. 

The Roundtable recognition makes it appear that internal culture or employee engagement is a new concept. In fact, they’re lagging behind by more than a decade.

In good company

Eleven years ago I was working for a good company that was profitable, did amazing work, and consistently dominated industry awards. The truth is, we worked like dogs. I felt there was a better way. We had a bigger duty of care to our people, but it fell on deaf ears, so I left to start a different culture.

Working for a good company has a different meaning to it these days. A name, size, profitability, awards and the potential for opportunity used to attract applicants in droves. Now the goodness in a company is more likely to lure and retain the best people, with that goodness embodied in the company’s purpose.

With a value-driven purpose, the work has meaning to it. Importantly, the values behind the purpose must be clearly defined by leadership so they communicate how the company makes a positive impact through its operations.

Contributing to a good purpose keeps good people engaged.

Purpose outperforms

Harvard Business Review study found that, globally, the highest-growth companies over much of the last decade had moved purpose from a strategic add-on to their strategic cores. It meant those businesses had been able redefine their offerings in a changing world, while also maintaining high levels of stakeholder engagement, from the supply chain, through their employees, and to their customers. High growth became a natural result.

The 2018 Global Leadership Forecast found purposeful companies outperformed the stock market by 42% compared to average companies that had purpose statements, but which didn’t have their purpose at their strategic core. Average companies had lower growth and lower employee engagement.

This may be broken record stuff, but I don’t care. Purpose outperforms.

The best place to work

In December 2019, the global recruitment company, Glassdoor published a Best Places to Work study and the 2020 winner was Hubspot thanks to long-term investments in a culture of belonging, the professional and personal development of its people, and their clearly-stated purpose to “help other organisations grow better.” Hubspot’s workforce was dispersed, with over 30% working from home permanently, and growing. They publicly stated that remote working was the future and other companies should, “…dive in.” As we know, the pandemic began and everyone was pushed in, but Hubspot was ready.

So were we. 

Consistency is key

I love that story because it speaks to a belief, which we share at Slingshot, that a strong culture doesn’t need to change according to external circumstances. For many years now, we at Slingshot have passionately lived our own purpose of “propelling brands and people further, faster.” 

Our leaders and our employees understand and are fully-invested in that purpose. We have an internal People & Culture strategy that is clearly communicated to employees and puts the onus on us as leaders to:

  1. Provide a safe, and fun, place to learn and grow
  2. Teach them values and new skills to develop them both personally and professionally
  3. Make sure “Slingers” thrive every day 

Although forced to adapt some business practices due to COVID, those fundamental values remain unchanged. I believe cultural consistency is a strength which guides us through any external situation. 

Media-i mood and sentiment

Media-i is Australia’s most consumed media trade portal and each year it conducts a mood and sentiment survey of industry participants across both media owners and media agencies. In 2020 the survey was conducted during the peak of the COVID lockdown (May). Slingshot retained its ranking as the number one independent media agency for culture – 100% of staff saying they enjoyed their agency’s culture. Externally the circumstances have changed, but from last year to this year, our culture and our results are consistent. 

In my next post I will expand on the key motivational drivers that have helped to put us in this position, but to conclude, internally we feel it validates our long-term investment and belief in developing a purpose-driven, employee-first workplace culture.

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