How to capture culture

– originally published on on 22nd November 2017

Stephanie Brady, HR Director at Retail inMotion, explains all about our Culture. How do we define it? How do we maintain it? What makes it special? 

“Employee engagement” was a massive HR buzz topic for many years. This seems to have turned into the much broader topic of “culture”. Culture is one of those catch all terms that can mean absolutely nothing but can also mean something quite concrete. It all depends on how it is approached and if there is a full understanding of it. Everyone who visits RiM comments on the amazing culture….but what does that mean?

It’s probably of no surprise to you that I am both fascinated and passionate about culture! But let’s be clear how I define it. There are many definitions but these are my favourite: “Culture is what happens when the manager walks out of the room” and “Culture is a shadow”. In other words, we can’t control the culture, what we can control is the ways of working and behaviours that are acceptable in RiM which then cast the shadow that is culture.

When I arrived in RiM, the culture intrigued me. It was obvious that there was something different about RiM. We have the best bunch of people there who love what they do and what they are trying to achieve. I decided that one of my first jobs would be to define it. I’ll refer you to my first blog and one of the key pieces of my ethos: “Name it! If we can define it, we can do something about it – everything from culture and values to unhappiness and complacency.” The first step during my initial few days in RiM was to speak to everyone in the company (all 40 of them!) to find out their opinion of the culture. The next step was to have group sessions where I gave everyone long lists of descriptive words and asked them to pick the top 5 positive and 5 negative words which could describe our culture. I collated these words and there were very clear front runners. The senior team agreed on the final list.

Next stop…our amazing Graphic Design Department turned these words into icons that truly said “RiM!” They were a hit internally and became the first step on the journey to creating our employer brand. As I said above, Culture is a shadow – it should change shape as the organisation does. One of the original 5 words was “Unconventional”. As time moved on and we “grew up” the feedback was that this did not fit us anymore, so by group consensus we changed that word to “Expert”.

You may be thinking, what happened to the negative words we collected. We did something about each and every one of them! They all pointed to clear gaps in communication and good people management. Again, once we named it we could do something about it.

I am often asked how we will keep the RiM culture as we grow and become more a part of the LSG group. Here are my top five ways to do:

1) Be clear what culture is. Culture is not to be confused with vision or ethos. They are very different things! The vision or mission describes a positive future. Ethos or values describe ways you want to or should be behaving. Culture is the now and the truth.

2) Be utterly intentional about culture. A great one doesn’t tend to happen by accident. If you take your eye off the ball, bad behaviours can creep in. When the business changes, that shadow then follows.

3) As a senior team, we need to be relentless about our culture. We must constantly talk about it, advocate for it, demonstrate it, hire for it, reward for it etc., etc. However, we are also responsible for checking in and ensuring it still fits. I have our culture poster above my desk. I literally look at it daily to see if it is still relevant for our company. It doesn’t have to be, it can and should evolve, but my job is to ensure that we are constantly naming any changes, dealing with the negatives and consistently reinforcing the positives.

4) Sounds simple, but communicate it (internally and externally) in an understandable, meaningful way. We use our culture definition everywhere: employer branding, interviews, induction, performance reviews, etc. If you change it, communicate the “how” and “why” behind the changes well!

5) Create a movement around the culture. Hire managers who believe in it and love it as much as we do. Help them to keep the culture alive in their departments. Hire people who want to be a part of it and will live it.

I’m focused on keeping a pulse on where our culture is and where it’s headed. Maintaining a fun, attractive and healthy work culture is a journey, and one that never stops! But, our team believes that if we stay honest about what our culture is, and follow the five principles above, we can make sure that Retail inMotion remains a place where people love to work!

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