Culture First, Always

Two people exchanging a high five in a virtual meeting, Frankli performance management and engagement software

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There is no shortage of definitions of culture. Google has scores of them - most referring to national and societal cultures, which I think are actually interesting food for thought into how we think more fundamentally about culture in our workplaces.

  • “Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group's skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated“
  • “Culture is the sum total of the learned behaviour of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people.”
  • “Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.”

Everyone seems to be talking about Culture at the moment.  Scaling culture. Culture is our most important company asset. Culture wins the war for talent. Culture eats strategy for breakfast and several other well-trodden Culture truisms. And of course, one of the most familiar (in fact almost a cliche these days) is “culture is what happens when no-one is looking.” 

Despite being somewhat of a cliche, it’s certainly true and while chatting recently to Patrick Gallen, People & Change Consulting Partner in Grant Thornton, he made a great point about this same quote, adding “Culture is why it is happening”.  That made me think.  Do we ask enough questions about a company’s culture?  Are we curious enough about why it is the way it is?  Whether it’s great or weak?  And what about making some decisions around what culture we want to have and how to go about building that? Where are our insights into what’s going on in our Culture?  So many questions.


Lots of effort is expended in companies to measure and track Culture.  There are eNPS scores and other measures of employee satisfaction and most leaders think a lot about how to improve the culture in their organisation, which can be a slow and challenging task. In fact, given the massive operational changes every single organisation is dealing with now and into the immediate future, getting the right culture activated surely has to be in the top three strategic priorities for every Board and C-Suite team?  They used to say marketing was too important to be left to the marketing department; well now Culture is too important to be left to chance or an overly-busy HR team.

When successful companies are being founded, Culture is rarely left to chance. It is practically all a startup company has to build on. At first, its culture tends to reflect the main personality traits and behaviours of the founder(s). Subsequently, it evolves to incorporate those first 6-10 employees who join the business how they behave around each other and how they approach working together.  Larger, more established organisations tend to have plenty of human and financial resources to invest in creating and developing a winning culture and the smarter ones do exactly that. 

It is well understood that a positive culture is critical for attracting talent and it is also often woven into investment decks for fundraising and included in customer pitches to help win new business.  So, if a great culture can be leveraged to drive both sales and investment in most instances,  it has real commercial value and is well worth investing in to get it right. 

So, at Frankli HQ this week, we were reflecting on our existing culture and whether it is the best it can be for the exciting growth ahead. Will it help attract the talent we need to grow?  We’ve big ambitious plans to serve progressive customers all over the globe and while we have a good culture today and some fantastic benefits for people joining our team, we are increasingly thinking about the culture we want and need to have in order to succeed.

How we’re going about this is still a work in progress but some things are a given:

  • We will involve all our team in this - it won’t be a top-down affair.
  • We’ll also be including culture talking points in our regular 1-1’s throughout 2022. It’s a great way to regularly capture everyone’s input and to raise awareness of culture across the whole team.
  • It won’t happen by accident so we’ll be ring fencing precious time so Culture gets the priority attention it needs.
  • We’ll get some surprises along the way, for sure. 
  • We’re bound to make some mistakes along the way (too complex? too much jargon? a bit aspirational but not real? Etc…)

To get started, we’ve been trying to describe our culture. We have a set of values, a mission and a vision but writing down and accurately describing the culture we will all then commit to is proving a very interesting, thought-provoking exercise. 

So, in Frankli, we're being very “intentional” about creating our Culture. About what we want it to be. About what matters to us. About how it can help make us better, special and different. 

And we’re not alone. I’ll leave the final word to one of our earliest Customers, Keith Moran, Founder of SL Controls, chats here about his perspectives and unsurprisingly, for such a great business, Culture features more than once.  Keith Moran SL Controls on Culture 

What are your thoughts on Culture?  Any tips you’ve picked up along the way? Do Share.

Until next time

Aldagh

Feel free to get in touch aldagh@franklli.io

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