Lessons I’ve Learnt About Creating Company Culture

Apr 27, 2022

After more than 11-years running social-impact organisation Hancock Creative I learnt a thing or two about creating a company culture. 

When I talk about company culture, I’m not taking about the early noughties rubbish of fuseball tables, bean bags or a free breakfast bar. Let’s face it – that stuff is just lip-service to making your work ‘cool’. 

I am talking about creating a team that is bonded, supported and feels valued.

I don’t think I even realised how strong our company culture was until I had to cut my team’s hours during the early days of a pandemic … and they kept showing up to work.

 Even when we closed the doors on HC… my team kept on working anyway. Why? Because they cared about me, each other, what we’d built, our clients and our purpose. They wanted to see things through.

This all comes down to team culture.

 Good Hiring (& sadly firing) Practices

It all starts at the beginning. When I hired, I hired on culture first. Before I even book in interviews, we did a 10-minute ‘culture call’ with questions that quickly helped us identify if the person would gel with our workplace culture or not.

For example, in one interview I asked a candidate to describe what her ideal working environment would be. She explained she liked to work in a quiet space, away from others without interruptions. That instantly told me, she wouldn’t gel with our outgoing, fun-loving team with an open-plan office.

I’ve always believed in hiring slow and firing fast. Take your time to find the right person, do personality testing so you can see what they will be like, talk with them a few times if you need to. But if you do make a mistake in hiring, and we’ve all made them, it is best for them and you if you make that decision quickly and release them to something that is a better fit.

Transparency & Honesty


While I don’t mean you have to hand over your entire financial records to the entire company and discuss every decision as a team (productivity would be terrible), I do think you need your team to know:

  • Where you are going
  • Why you are making the decisions you’re making
  • When things are tough or going well
  • What they can do to contribute to the team

 I know a lot of people who are or have been working in toxic environments and it comes down to fear. If people are constantly sharing rumours, gossip, worried about their job or frustrated because they have no idea why they are doing a given task … they aren’t going to be connected. If everyone feels like their managers are being honest and open and giving them all the information they need – they can focus on their piece of the puzzle.

Communication

Some of the worst workplaces I’ve seen are the ones where people don’t make time to talk. Meetings are over structured or don’t encourage ideas or discussion, there aren’t scheduled contact points with managers or teammates (so when they do happen, they are scary), there is no free discussion of ideas or places to connect outside work.

For our team, we had a weekly ‘wow’ meeting, which was our one time the whole team from around Australia came together as one on Zoom to connect, talk about what we were working on and discuss issues and ask each other for help.

We also had What’s App channels for smaller teams, discussion and yes – even threads just for random chat about daily life.

Of course, there is a line between under and over-communicating and it’s not always easy to find – but if people feel like they can be heard and their words matter? It goes a long-way to building a team.

Lastly, make sure you communicate your purpose to your team often and in different ways. If you feel like you’re part of something bigger than you, it can help you get through an awful lot.

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