Cultural innovation is the new kid on the block. According to some commentators having the right business culture is the key to success and growth.
Unsurprisingly, major corporations are taking note and reviewing the culture of their organisations but a recently published report suggests it is in fact small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) that are leading the way. The whitepaper by Great Place to Work looks at the experience of the top 50 SMEs in the US and makes the link between the importance they place on their culture and their continuing success.
So what lessons can we learn from these cultural innovators?
Highlight your values
In essence, values are what a business stands for. They are a code or framework that guides everything the organisation does. For employees, they create the culture of the workplace and have the power to motivate and inspire. For clients, they are an indication of what to expect in terms of customer service. Some examples of typical corporate values might be integrity, accountability, loyalty, diversity and creativity. Most organisations will have between three and six. Successful SMEs use their values and company culture as a unique selling point. It is what sets them apart from the competition and can attract like-minded others, whether that’s people who want to work for the organisation or customers who want to do business.
It may seem obvious but everyone in the organisation should be involved with agreeing the values of the organisation. If the values are imposed from on high employees may not buy into them and ultimately they won’t quite ring true.
The Great Place to Work research reveals that a trend linked to success is the refusal to compromise when it comes to the values and culture of the business. This is, perhaps, most sharply in focus during recruitment especially where growth is rapid. Hiring someone who does not fit the culture is seen as counter-productive, better to wait for the right person who aligns with their values than recruit in haste.
Opportunities for growth
Cultural innovators tend to place great emphasis on creating opportunities for their workforce to grow. Professional and personal development is important within these organisations and they invest in things like training and mentoring. This was highlighted in a report by Growth Accelerator about hyper growth companies in the UK – SMEs growing at a rate at least three times higher than the accepted definition of high growth. The study found that leaders of these organisations value their teams and foster ‘a culture of creativity, empowerment and ambition.’
Sponge is a rapidly expanding elearning company and has gone from a tiny business to leading UK provider in just 10 years. Founded by Managing Director, Louise Pasterfield, Sponge has retained its family-owned feel despite working with major organisations on an international stage. The company’s values were drawn up by the whole team and are important drivers in everything Sponge does.