The #WorkLifeShow: How to Build a Better Company Culture

Amy Roberts   7 January, 2020
Featured #WorkLifeShow

We recently caught up with Thriving Tribes Co-Founder Yssine Matola, who gave us some interesting tips on how to create and preserve a great company culture. As a specialist in the HR field, Yssine is passionate about building company culture in order to foster innovation, learning, efficiency and well being.

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Tell us a bit more about your company, Thriving Tribes.

I've been in the people and human resources space for 10 years now and I co-founded Thriving Tribes a year ago. We support businesses with everything to do with people: employee experience, team performance and company culture. We help them to set all of this up, in a way that is both tailored to their own company and their culture and it is also scalable. So, adapted to their stage of growth and their ambition.

Can you tell us what company culture is and why it is so beneficial and important to a company?

Company culture is basically what it is like to work for your company - what is the social environment? You could say that it's the values, the behaviours, routines, and expectations, that are shared amongst the team. In other words, it's the way that employees feel engaged, belong and connect to your company. It's important because in a world where the war for talent is increasing, and especially in spaces like technology and in places like London, Paris or Berlin, it's not enough to have a great product, a great technology, or to be able to attract and retain talent. It's really about your experience and what it's like for people to work for you. So that's why it’s something that companies nowadays need to be more deliberate about.

Can a business have a negative company culture and how do you think it can be changed to build a positive company culture?

Unfortunately you will find companies with negative or toxic cultures and this is often in companies where there are discrepancies between what is said and what is actually done - places where negative behaviours are tolerated or just where people don't feel safe to be themselves. It's tricky to fix this because often it all comes down to the managers, because as long as they don't realise and acknowledge that this is an issue, you can't really do anything about it. But, if they do, the best way is to ask their employees - the ones who are there living it everyday - for feedback. It can be difficult to get genuine feedback, especially if people don't feel safe to speak up. But if you can get that, then you can involve everyone in building something more positive where people will feel safe and happy to come to work and contribute to fulfilling the company purpose.

In your opinion would you agree that feedback is important - creating a more transparent and open environment for employees to give feedback to company managers?  Would this help with building a positive company culture?

Definitely. But often this is not the case in that people are already not feeling comfortable or feeling safe in your company, and suddenly you decide to ask them for feedback because you want to do something about it - they may not feel comfortable enough to actually give you real feedback so that's why sometimes it takes a little time to be able to get on with a more positive approach.

What is culture fit?

Culture fit is something that you will hear about around recruitment. It is the way that a candidate's values, attitude and behaviour aligns with the company’s one. But there's a common misconception around it because often people, when they recruit, look for people who are similar to them. They think that to find the perfect match, they need to find people who think like them, who have similar backgrounds in terms of education, similar ways to solve problems. But this is not the case, because when you have only clones in an organisation, it doesn't bring much value. In terms of culture, it's much more powerful to have individuals who are aligned, with similar values, attitudes and behaviours but with different backgrounds, different visions of the world, and different ways to approach and solve problems. Teams are much more powerful this way. So this is something to have in mind when trying to hire for culture fit - what are their values, not if you would get along with the person and have the same interest and if you would be happy to have a beer with them! Because that's not what's going to bring value to your company.

On the back of that, what about solving conflict? If you hire someone who's not similar to your culture, you might experience culture clashes or different approaches. What would be the best way to solve this kind of problem?

I think what's really important if you want diverse teams is to be able to work together - to be aligned on what you’re trying to achieve. The company vision. If everyone is working towards the same goals and is wanting to achieve the same thing, then it's going to be easier to accept people who have a different approach, because as long as what you have in mind is in the interest of the company and what you want to do for your customers, know what are the problems that you're trying to solve, you'll be able to collaborate a bit more, even if people are a little bit different.

Can you give us an example of a company that's really good at creating or preserving a great company culture?

I have a few examples of companies who really are deliberate about preserving their culture. For example, there’s a company which has a culture of transparency. They really want to allow people to  collaborate, work together, and not to have silence. They've put in their settings: transparency by design. This means that instead of wondering what they need to share, they ask, 'What do we need not to share?' For example, emails or calendars or shared folders. Everything is available and visible to everyone, by default.

Then, there's a company that is really good at making sure that they encourage a continuous learning culture, so that people are focused around innovation and lifelong learning. So for example they have awards to celebrate people who have achieved something or who have been able to exhibit a specific skill. When they give an award for a specific skill, they also give a plant, which symbolises the skill - you have to nurture it and to make sure they look after it. So, just a little reminder for people - to keep continuous learning. 

Culture is also very individual to the company - it’s not about going and seeing what other people do and doing the same. You really have to build it, to develop it and to make sure that whatever you do - for example, if you decide to implement a new tool or a new process in your company - always have in mind what you are trying to achieve and what's going to be the impact of this on people and the way they behave. I think that that's the best way to go about it. Just to always be very deliberate whenever you do anything in your company and understand the impact that it's going to have on your culture and on the people who are working there.

What would be your special tip - a secret weapon - that you could give to a company who's looking to build or preserve a better company culture?

A few things. Be deliberate about it. Always go back to the ‘why’. Whenever you launch something new in your company, ask yourself, 'What am I trying to achieve and what kind of behaviours am I encouraging?' Do not copy what others do. Each company is unique. Culture is unique by definition. It's a little bit like a personality so there's no point just doing what everyone else is doing. Really think about what's unique in your company and what will be a reflection of that. And then involve the team, involve the people around you, especially when we are talking about culture. It's about their experience so just make sure that they're part of the discussion as well.

Amy Roberts

Content creator forever living out a suitcase, eating vegetables, and ogling over indoor plants.

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