My latest career move has taken me from one of the UK’s most traditional businesses to my current role as Operations Director at Convosphere. The difference between John Lewis, a 154-year-old institution with a team of 85,500 co-owners and its own constitution, and Convosphere, a three-year-old rapidly growing social listening and digital insight agency, is stark – and I’m not just talking about having no-one to call when the printer breaks.
I am not alone amongst my peers in making the move from large ‘tortoise’ traditional organisations to more ‘hare-like’ small enterprises. Whilst millennials are well-known for their appreciation of flexible working practices, the appeal is growing amongst the older generations too. It’s not just the flexibility of a ‘get the job done’ approach, rather than a ‘be at your desk’ culture, that appeals to those of us balancing the demands of family life and work, but also the dynamism and agility of these organisations that offer us fresh energy at a point when many of us are at the halfway point (or so we hope) in our careers.
But what are the things that matter to most employees? The vast majority of the posts collected under the hashtag #workculture on social media features food and drinks, so it seems safe to assume that having a work social scene is high on people’s list. But developing a culture of socialising with colleagues should matter to employers too as it turns out that getting your employees together for a team lunch or an after-work drink delivers benefits well beyond that of individual employee happiness. Fostering an environment where people want to help each other out boosts teamwork and ultimately productivity. A Stanford study in 2015 found that even the mere perception of working collectively on a task can supercharge our performance. Participants in the research who were primed to act collaboratively stuck at their task 64% longer than their solitary peers, whilst also reporting higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels and a higher success rate. What’s more, this impact persisted for several weeks. Fortunately, here at Convosphere’s headquarters in London, we have our resident Swede and blog editor Moa to encourage us to partake in the Swedish culture of #fika. In Scandinavia, the concept of the coffee break is first and foremost a moment to slow down and enjoy life, to contemplate and gather. Those of you who follow us on Instagram will be familiar with our predilection for a mid-morning caffeine boost!
Something else we experience at Convosphere, along with a growing number of companies, is the challenge of creating a workplace culture across a global group. There are ten of us here in London HQ, but 150+ talented analysts spread across the world. We host a weekly Monday team call with the whole team and the global management group get together once a year with country managers from each of the major regions. Last year, we rented an apartment in Lisbon where we enjoyed some great team-building days. We also use technology, such as Zoom, Proof Hub, Google Drive and WhatsApp, to ensure we are constantly connecting and collaborating.
A strong and distinct workplace culture can enhance your overall brand and people’s perception of you. Google’s positive external brand perception as a market leading innovator is supported by their widely known unique workplace culture – free breakfast, lunch and dinner, free gyms, video games and nap pods to name but a few of the benefits available to the tech giant’s workers.
For us smaller players with a limited corporate budget, it’s about making the most of the talents and interests in your workplace to foster that feeling of belonging. We’re based in Hammersmith, right on the River Thames, so a couple of us have taken to running (slowly) at lunchtime. Those of us who love to cook get chance to show off our skills at the monthly potluck lunch and our health-conscious CEO Jackie encourages us to drink shots of wheatgrass juice to boost our well-being. Oh, and anyone into singing/embarrassing themselves in public will be thrilled to hear we regularly organise karaoke nights out. I’ve done more karaoke in the last three months than in the previous 30 years!