How to Build a Fit for Purpose Culture – part 2

In part 2, I’ll move on to how we look at culture and the responsibilities we feel we owe to our employees.

Propelling our people further, faster

This is Slingshot’s core internal purpose and it drives our people and culture strategy. It points to the behaviour we need to demonstrate as leaders when working with our employees. Externally, our purpose is “propelling brands and people further, faster,” which is also important in communicating to stakeholders what we do, but without the employee-first focus of our internal culture, we wouldn’t be able to achieve that mission.

Last time I touched on our performance in the latest Media-i industry mood and sentiment survey, which was conducted during the first coronavirus lockdown we experienced in Australia. The survey itself points to the importance of culture in the questions it poses to agency employees. 

People are asked eleven questions. I am very proud to say that Slingshot ranked 1st for people understanding what their agency stands for, for internal values being clearly communicated and respected, for leader communication that is clear and effective, for feeling that they’re valued by the business, and that the agency is committed to developing its people/talent. 

Different, but same-same

Overall, Slingshot ranked as the number one independent agency for culture for the second survey in-a-row. At a time when employee engagement in the industry was declining due to pandemic uncertainty, our ratings rose. Let me make the point that this isn’t an exercise in chest beating. If it was, we’d publish our scores relative to others. What we’re really looking to convey is that an employee focused culture succeeds, no matter what’s happening outside the four walls of our (now remote) workplaces. 

As leaders of the business, we feel we have a responsibility to do three things for our employees which go far beyond providing them with a job and an income.

Purpose-guided strategy

Firstly, we are responsible for providing a safe, and fun, place for our people, known as “Slingers,” to learn and grow. By safe, we mean an environment where employees are comfortable being themselves. Pretending to be someone you’re not, in order to fit in, sucks. Big time. We talk openly with each other, not only celebrating our strengths, but also seeking feedback about our weaknesses (leaders too), so we can embrace them and improve ourselves.

Secondly, we are responsible for teaching our people values and skills to develop them both professionally and personally. We say better people make better Slingers. Our core value is empathy which we all practice regularly. Employees are encouraged to ask questions so we can have transparent and honest conversations with each other, thus building trust and resilience. We’re all learning to simplify our communication, and we truly believe that is a profound gift to give to people in business and in life.

Thirdly, we are responsible for ensuring that our people thrive and that every working day is a memorable one. This isn’t as unlikely as it might sound at first. Like the New Zealand All Blacks, we have a strict no dickheads policy for all of our stakeholders. A job candidate might have all the skills and experience on their resume, but if we feel in their interview, even for a second, that they might not contribute positively to our culture, we won’t hire them. 

So too for clients, both prospective and contracted. If we think a prospect’s values and culture are poorly aligned with ours, we will remove ourselves from the selection process. Nor will we tolerate bullying or disrespectful behaviour from contracted customers. We have deliberately parted ways with clients who have treated us poorly or been disrespectful. 

The importance of a working culture filled with positivity instead of negativity cannot be understated. If we hire ill-fitting colleagues or sign inappropriate clients, our employees will not thrive and will remember their working days for all the wrong reasons.

Purpose-guided program

The leadership responsibilities we maintain for our people and culture strategy filter down into the deliverables of our people and culture program. Within that program are seven key motivational drivers we seek to provide to Slingshot’s employees, and it’s those that fulfil our core purpose of taking our people further, faster. 

I’ll talk to those motivational drivers in the next article, but to conclude I’d like to reiterate another point from part 1 about how a good culture doesn’t need to adapt itself to external circumstances. So while the communication mediums we use with our people have changed in our working from home situations, the purpose and attendant responsibilities that motivate our messaging, remain the same. 

Until next time.

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