6 November 2018
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With the demands of meaningful work increasing and the importance of culture becoming more evident, we’ve seen companies transform themselves to prepare for the future and to lean further into their identity; what matters to us and how can our culture be a true representation of the impact we’re aiming to make?

Keith Price, Head of Culture & Brand at The Lead Agency shares their experience of going through a brand transformation and creating a culture book that’s both a guide for employees and brings clarity for important decision-making.

Disengagement at work

One thing all entrepreneurs have in common is a passion for the businesses they run. So, it can be frustrating to have employees who are disengaged and coasting along. ‘Why don’t they care?’, ‘Why aren’t they happy?’ and ‘Why are they underperforming?’

According to a global report by Gallup, 87% of people feel disengaged or unfilled by their work. That’s a disheartening statistic for anyone in a leadership role, but is it really surprising?

In the past, I’ve seen young colleagues arrive into the digital industry with boundless energy and ideas only to wind up frustrated and stressed within the first year. Others have maintained their early excitement for longer but eventually reached the same point in their careers when they wondered – is this it?

As an industry, digital and tech does more than most to invest in and paint the picture of a positive work culture; one that is as fun as it is exciting. But are fun and excitement all they’ve cracked up to be? Should they be what the business is aiming for?

Moments of happiness

There are many things that can create feelings of happiness, fun, excitement or pride at work – from winning a new client to finishing a great piece of work to taking advantage of the free bar on a Friday. But while all of these are positive things, the feelings they create don’t last, and we ultimately need more of them to replicate the feeling.

Author, speaker and self-proclaimed optimist Simon Sinek said: “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”

Go back to the example of my former colleagues who were swallowed up by the industry within that first year. Their early enthusiasm never turned into passion. In their case, no amounts of perks, successes or happy days were going to make them love what they did.

A culture of fulfilment

It’s not that the investment made by companies is unappreciated. Pool tables, free drinks, cake and gym memberships are all nice-to-haves. But like a child who receives gifts from their parent rather than quality time, the excitement and happiness is short-lived.

Companies need to switch their investments towards more meaningful areas – namely, building cultures in which employees can find fulfilment in what they do.

Unlike happiness, fulfilment is lasting. Employees who believe in what they do can withstand the odd bad day and still love their jobs. (Not indefinitely, I should point out, but any company that creates bad days on a frequent basis has much bigger problems than this article could hope to solve.)

Life at TLA

Achieving a team of fulfilled staff is easier said than done, of course, and I’m not here to claim that TLA has the perfect culture. Like any organisation, our culture is a work-in-progress – something we must invest time and energy to improve and build.

In the last year, we’ve spent time looking at who we are and what we stand for and understand it better than we ever have. We’ve articulated a clear purpose, mission and vision off the back of this process as well as defining our values so that they’re meaningful and actionable.

That in itself isn’t new. Almost every company these days has some variation on the ‘mission, vision, values’ theme. Their success is in the execution. How they’re embedded into the fabric of the business and that’s exactly what we’re doing at TLA.

Our values, in particular, are now core to how we recruit, induct, appraise and reward the team. They’re also a framework for consistent decision-making and action from the top of the business right the way through – ensuring that our brand (the other side of our culture coin) is recognised for all the right reasons.

The latest piece of the puzzle (but by no means the last) is our first ever Culture Book, which was produced collaboratively by TLA staff and Liverpool company Wordscapes. Everyone in the business has their own copy of the book and it’s given to all new starters on arrival. It provides a guide to life at The Lead Agency, detailing the many components that make our culture what it is.

Everything we’ve done and are doing with our culture has been about giving employees more insight into what they’re part of and what we stand for beyond the day-to-day tasks we carry out. We want everyone in the business to feel a strong sense of purpose for how what they do matters, ultimately creating lasting fulfilment and engagement.

One of our values is to help each other succeed. Investing quality time and energy into our culture is one of the ways we’re making it happen.

Article by
Keith Price
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