To Create a Successful team, Focus on Workplace Culture
Imagine your dream workplace.
We’re willing to bet that you’re not picturing a physical space, but the types of people you’d like to work with, how you want to feel at work, and how valued you are.
To be happy and fulfilled, a positive workplace culture is more important than financial rewards or the type of work you do. And if you want to build a winning team, that’s what you’ve got to focus on.
In an article for Forbes, Laura Kozelouzek talks workplace culture. She argues that what matters more than anything else is the individuals (yes, individuals, not just ‘employees’) and how you lead them. All the rest – credentials, skills and experience – is secondary. However, it’s frequently these attributes that are focused on in the hiring process.
In this article, we talk to experts from some of Australia’s leading technology companies to get their views on workplace culture and what workplaces can do to build strong teams.
Why culture matters
Culture plays a critical role in how teams perform. This view is neatly summarised by Jason Fischer, VP of Engineering at ELMO, who says “How teams interact with each other and how they problem solve is all driven from the cultural makeup of the business.”
The freedom to make mistakes is critical to creating a healthy workplace culture. This is especially true in fast paced technology environments. Daniel Coyle, in his book The Culture Code, distills strong workplace cultures down to three key elements:
- Safety – feeling safe and secure
- Vulnerability – being willing to take risks which drives cooperation and builds trust
- Purpose – clarity on common goals and values, and organisational direction
For Fischer, this means ensuring “everyone understands they are in a safe space, where there is no blame. We all take responsibility for what we do, but we are always looking at learning and understanding more about each other and our customers so that we can better meet everyone’s needs.”
This view is amplified by Liz Crawford, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Flare HR. She advises job seekers to “join a company where there are lots of opportunities to learn. You want to be working with great engineers who can help you grow. And you want it to be a place where engineers are empowered to influence the product, and make technical decisions.”
Fischer’s colleague at ELMO, Product Owner Asha Nair, agrees. “Workplace cultures have a huge impact on how teams work and perform. It impacts everything within the organisation: company revenue, profits, sales, and also employees work ethics and morale,” she says.
“At ELMO, it’s always people first! What that means is that ELMO cares about its resources and the people that make ELMO a great workplace. We have training plans for people who would like to up-skill themselves . We have social clubs for people to socialise with one another. We have meditation and yoga classes. People at ELMO know how to get work done and have fun,” continues Nair.
Cultivating the right attitude
Our experts agree that hiring with cultural fit in mind is an important starting point to creating a cohesive workplace culture. Commonly shared attributes include:
- Being comfortable with fast-paced environments
- A willingness to learn new things
- Being self-motivated to achieve results
- A desire to have fun at work
But cultural fit doesn’t mean hiring the same type of person all the time. Shared attitudes matter, but shared backgrounds, life experiences and skillsets are less important.
Linda Huynh, Software Engineer at Objective, says she’d like to see companies “looking at the concept of ‘culture add’, instead of ‘culture fit’ when hiring. It’s more important to find a candidate who’s motivated, and whose values align with the company culture and values, than merely by matching each technical skillset.”
Celebrating successes at all levels throughout the organisation is also critical to keeping teams motivated. At online marketplace group hipages, for example, this can mean recognising team members on its ‘Values Wall’, as well as monthly town halls and social media. Talent Development Manager Suhagna Nundeekasen says the team also regularly comes together to support causes that encourage teamwork, like Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, RUOK Day and Steptember. Plus, they actively put in place programs that support people to focus on their social, financial, physical, mental and environmental wellbeing.
Fostering diversity and inclusion
For some people, ‘workplace culture’ can be interpreted as the practice of only hiring people who have similar beliefs, traits and values. Yet an important element in building a strong workplace culture is allowing and encouraging different experiences and viewpoints. Diversity and inclusion has been shown repeatedly to lead to organisational success.
hipages understands this, with Nundeekasen asserting that “we are committed to diversity and inclusion with some of our areas of focus this year on women in leadership and technology, as well as endorsing great flexible work practices. It is this focus on diversity and inclusion that allows us to bring in the best people who share our values and ways of working.”
Bingshaung Han at Objective agrees that diversity can bring increased productivity and innovation. For Objective, Han says this means “creating an environment where different perspectives are valued and acknowledged. Regardless of other people’s culture and background, we should treat them how they want to be treated.”
Of course, attracting diverse talent in the first place can sometimes be a challenge, especially in the technology sector. There are some common mistakes you can try to avoid when aiming to attract diverse talent. Objective’s Linda Huynh says these include:
- A recruiting process that may accidentally discriminating against a candidate’s age, gender, sexual orientation and other personal characteristics that are unrelated to the job requirements or qualifications
- Use of gendered language in the job advertisement
- Inadequate insights into the company’s working culture, mission and values to help make prospective employees feel this is a place where they can thrive
- Lack of flexible working options
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