Workplace culture: what the creative industry has known all along

The pressures of the COVID pandemic have raised more people-related questions than they’ve answered, particularly in the corporate world. However, to attract the right talent, survive and thrive in the future, big businesses would do well to learn what the creative industry has known about work culture for years.

Although not every business gets it right, certain parts of the creative industry have led the way on ‘big topics’ like employee mental health, satisfaction, retention and personal development for years. Yet, even after the pandemic, corporates aren’t catching on to the fact that a work environment needs to be inspirational, incentivised and flexible to attract and retain the best talent.

So, what are the big workplace culture questions that need to be answered and what could corporates learn about them from the creative world?

What really makes a positive workplace culture?

There are plenty of buzzwords and statistics flying around about workplace culture and the benefits businesses can gain from creating a positive one, including:

The Great Attrition, the name given to the record number of employees quitting or thinking about leaving their jobs since April 2021.

• Culture can be a 20% to 30% differentiator from competitors that are ‘culturally unremarkable’.

According to IBM, CEOs report creativity within a culture as being the number one factor for future success.

Deloitte reported that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is key to business success.

What these numbers and facts don’t answer, however, is how exactly do you create a work environment that’s a breeding ground for positivity in individuals and teams alike? Here are the most important elements you need to consider.

Set your goals, mission or vision.

Whatever you decide to call it, having a direction of travel in mind for your business, people and wider community will give you and your team focus, particularly when it comes to your work culture. If you all know what you’re collectively aiming for, then you can remain cohesive around that objective and ensure it drives all your internal initiatives and processes.

Prioritise what your people want.

Whether its benefits, better onboarding or training, any changes within your workplace culture should be driven by your people. Key areas that you need to consult your employees on include:

• Diversity and inclusion: from championing minority voice to making the workplace more accessible.

• Rewards and recognition: 69% of employees said that they’d work harder if they felt appropriately recognised, this could be with bonuses, benefits or a rewards system, but must be created and improved with your people in mind.

• Education and training: to fulfill their aspirations and potential, employees may require some additional learning or coaching, providing this in a form they can access is key.

• Health and wellbeing: from developing bespoke mental health support modules to providing premium health insurance, keeping your employees’ in a positive physical and mental state is key to maintaining their happiness and productivity.

• Workplace processes: from daily catch-ups to monthly performance reviews and day-to-day ways of working, making sure your employees are working in the way they want to will help them stay productive.

Setting up advisory boards, taking surveys and running focus groups are just a few ways you can ensure that your internal culture is driven by the people who make it.

Create a healthy, comfortable workplace.

Ergonomic furniture, good lighting and a healthy airflow all help to maintain colleagues’ concentration, focus and creativity. Even if an employee is primarily working from home, making their office a place where they want to be will ensure they perform at their best there. It will also make your employees more likely to stay with you for longer.

Encourage openness and flexibility.

Open communication is key to making progress as individuals and as a team. Finding appropriate methods of communication that don’t leave anyone out, foster collaboration and offer support where needed is key to keeping team operations open, honest, efficient and effective.

Giving individuals the tools they need to communicate well and empowering leaders to feel confident enough to listen will also ensure your culture is psychologically safe.

Choose practices that match your values.

As well as being driven by your people, any initiatives, changes or processes you put in place need to match your business values. Without that, any practices won’t hold true to your business or be carried through effectively by the team.

Who are the corporate culture change success stories?

By focusing on the points above, some corporate businesses have managed to achieve a positive culture that even their employees are shouting about. Here are some of the most inspirational examples of culture-building brands.

Twitter.

Twitter is one of the largest global tech firms in the world that definitely knows how to keep employees happy. Known as being part of the Tweep Life, employees can’t stop raving about the platform’s cool company culture.

United by ‘serving the public conversation’, dedicated to putting people first, focusing on flexibility and equity and creating Business Resource Groups (BRGs) that shape their culture, they really take care of their Tweeps. So much so that they should about it themselves, sharing posts of warm and smiling co-workers, rooftop meetings, open dialogues with executives, free food and onsite gyms.

Nike.

A company that’s fully aware of its own culture and history, Nike is a powerful example of a corporate culture that’s as strong for its employees as it is for its customers. ‘Just Do It’ isn’t just their slogan, people at Nike live by it. It encourages employees to push themselves and go all out in their jobs and personal lives.

The shared culture of an athletic mindset doesn’t just lead Nike to provide onsite sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, gyms, physiotherapy and benefits such as health insurance. Just as their products are led by their customers, their innovation and culture is driven by their employees.

As Nelson Farris, Nike’s head of corporate education says, “Figure out where you want your career to go, and when you see something that would help you get there, ask us for it.”

Google.

Just like their wider business, Google’s internal culture is built on data. From researching the elements that make up great leaders to what makes an effective team, Google have positioned themselves as a thought leader in internal culture and built their work environment on these findings.

This hasn’t just led Google to build a work environment that’s dog-friendly, has gyms, games and even laundry services onsite and which employees love, but a culture they never want to leave either. Benefits like free meals, employee engagement trips and parties are just some of the ways that Google focus on their ‘people operations’.

Adobe.

Adobe enjoys the reputation of being one of the most creative companies in the world. Just like its products, Adobe goes out of the way to provide a thriving work culture for Adobians to grow and flourish. Here, micromanaging is a thing of the past. Instead, leaders have complete trust in their colleagues’ abilities to come up with ideas that are innovative and out of the box.

As a mark of their level of engagement, Adobe employees happily share their personal and professional life successes under the hashtag #AdobeLife on social media. It was also recognized in Fortune Magazine’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ for the 16th time in 2021.

Brand and culture work hand-in-hand.

Just like your culture, your brand should be more than paying lip service to values or creating initiatives and benefits that don’t fit with what your organisation is trying to achieve. In short, brand and workplace culture are two sides of the same coin: your identity.

Whether it’s operating sustainably, championing diversity or doing the best job you can for your customers, your identity is true to who you are as a business and should underline every brand campaign or workplace culture initiative. That way you can remain authentic to your customers and your employees and make a real difference to them and your business.