You Can’t Fake Culture

You Can’t Fake Culture

Not so long ago, I noticed a couple of posts pop up on my feeds encouraging workplaces to create “Culture Books”. Essentially, a published declaration of employee benefits, fluffier perks, and assumed personalities. And it got me thinking, can a company’s culture really be that defined?

My belief is that your culture grows organically over time. It’s not as simple as deciding who you are as an agency and writing it down in a rule book for all to follow, because I don’t think it’s something that can be forced on to people, either.

I’ve also noticed a flurry of new titles appearing across LinkedIn: Head of Culture, Manager of People and Culture, Director of Happiness even!

I’m torn in the thinking here, if I’m honest. On one hand, I can see the benefit of appointing someone to take charge of nurturing the company’s culture, because it can be something that gets lost in the fast-paced agency world where those big ideas and client deadlines can be all-consuming.

However, I do think that every single member of the team needs to be bought in to it right from the start, and be part of championing it day-to-day. Plus, if you’ve got your culture ‘right’, it should be so ingrained into daily working life that it’s simply happening naturally, right?

And that’s why your workplace culture can’t be faked, glamourised, or fixed by throwing money at it. Because often, it’s the little things that don’t cost a penny that can have the biggest impact.

Like spending time together working and not working, and actually enjoying the company you’re in. Whether that’s walking in the park at lunchtime or out on Friday night for a couple of gins. It’s having the flexibility to work from home whenever you like, but instead, actually wanting to be in the office to bounce off each other and be part of the buzz. It’s being treated as an equal, being trusted to do your best, and always being supported.

In short, culture is what you do, not what you say you do. It’s the people and their relationships with each other. It’s probably one of the hardest things to get right in any organisation, but it’s also probably the most important thing to keep on improving and evolving.

So, while I guess I can see how these “Culture Books” could be an interesting recruitment tool, I personally like to approach hiring a little differently, not looking for someone who’s a “culture fit” but instead a “culture add”. Because I’m not here to mould people into my version of a happy team member. I’m here to give them the freedom and support to simply be happy at work.

Jo Whiteley, Creative Director