How to cultivate a good company culture

Sean Ofsarnie, co-founder and director of Resapol, talks about how he has managed to build a company culture based on mutual respect between management and employees.

A good company culture needs to be carefully nurtured

A good company culture needs to be carefully nurtured

As the director of a company with more than 60 staff, I know more than most about the importance of having a good company culture. Good company culture can quite literally be the difference between good staff staying with you for decades, and them leaving their job before fulfilling their potential. At our company, Resapol – a construction chemicals supplier – myself and the rest of the management team have worked hard to build a company culture that is based on mutual respect between management and employees. Here is how we have done it.

Respect goes both ways

If you own a business, you have to realise that you’d be nowhere without your staff. Whether you employ one person or 10,000, your business would struggle if you don’t have them working alongside you. Equally, however, your staff look to you for financial stability and job security, so in this relationship, respect has to go both ways. The way I look at this dynamic is as follows; I insist that work gets done on time and to a good standard. If it doesn’t, we discuss what went wrong and how we can improve in the future.

Additionally, we like to allow our staff a degree of autonomy that they may not get at other companies. At each of our depots across the UK, we set targets and goals for each of them, but then we ask each depot manager to run it as if it’s their own business. Every six months we gather the heads of each depot together for a management meeting, and each is given the opportunity to give their input on the running of the business at large. We find that this sense of ownership that our staff get over their work means that they want to work harder for the company.

Additionally, I firmly believe that I can do the job of any of my employees to a high standard. Because of this, I am never afraid to muck in and get my hands dirty. I may be the company’s co-founder, but I am not above getting on the phone to a customer and selling, or doing a stock take at one of our depots. I believe that this has a really positive impact on company culture. Nothing is worse for company morale than having a management team who are not visible to the staff. Be sure that your staff see you getting work done. They’ll be more likely to want to follow your lead, and work hard themselves.

A pleasant working environment

I truly believe that staff are at their most productive when they are relaxed and happy. In my view, it’s no good having a high-stress environment where staff are well and truly burned out by the time it comes to clock off, and dreading coming into work the next day. As I’ve discussed before, work must be completed and targets must be met, but I like the environment in which this work takes place to be a relaxed one. Staff are encouraged to get to know one another outside of a working capacity at frequent meals and drinks (paid for by the company), and the result of that is that they can often be found laughing and joking around with one another in between tasks. I can’t tell you how much productivity is affected for the better when staff get along with one another on a personal level.

As well as the staff getting on with one another, at a management level we like to have the staff’s backs. As long as they’re getting their work done to a good standard and meeting their targets, we give them a great degree of trust that they may not get at other companies. Unlike many companies in our sector, we don’t insist that staff clock in or clock out, and we like to be flexible if staff unexpectedly have commitments outside of work during working hours.

Honesty is the best policy

I’m a firm believer in the power of honesty. At Resapol, if we have something to say, we say it. It’s not always pleasant; I don’t enjoy dishing out a telling off any more than the recipient enjoys being on the sharp end of it. However, it’s important that everyone knows where they stand at all times. I’d rather rip off the plaster and tell someone how I feel than let it fester. Then once it’s done we can all move on with everyone knowing where they stand. Leaving problems to fester just creates resentment in the long run, and while shouting at an employee is unpleasant, it is better to get it out of the way immediately.

Equally, if somebody is doing a good job, I like to be sure that they are made aware of this right away. This not only boosts their morale, but lets them know that I like whatever it is that they’ve done, and I’d like to see more of it in future. Honesty truly is the best policy when you’re cultivating company culture. A company where management and staff don’t know what the other is thinking is a recipe for disaster. Make your feelings known, and encourage staff to do the same. It will make things much more pleasant in the long run.

Giving something back

At Resapol, we like to give something back to our staff. Our staff at depots up and down the country work hard all year to ensure that the company is turning a profit and growing. We like to repay that hard work and dedication by throwing a Christmas party for all the staff and their partners. Resapol have enjoyed a staff party at Christmas since being established in 1999 and for the last two years we put the staff and their partners up in a hotel on London’s Oxford Street, which allows them to do a bit of Christmas shopping ahead of a slap up meal and a night out.

We also recently set up the Resapol Foundation, which donates a percentage of the profits of a product range to charity. When we set this up we decided that – rather than simply having the management choose a charity to donate to – we would pick an ambassador from each depot each year and allow them to choose a charity that is close to their heart. Then the money to be donated is equally split between each charity. The ambassadors we pick from each depot are chosen at random, and the idea is that every member of long serving staff will eventually choose a charity for the company to donate money to. This has proved very popular with our staff, helping them be part of the process of giving something back.

Sean Ofsarnie is the co-founder and director of Resapol.

Further reading on creating a good company culture

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