In the first of two articles, Brendon O’Connor shares his perspective on what defining a strong culture has meant for SenateSHJ and how this can drive everything you do.
In sport you are either winning or learning. And like many organisations, at SenateSHJ we are happiest when doing both.
Last week we were chuffed to be named best mid-sized firm in PRovoke Media’s Best Agencies to Work For in Asia-Pacific 2021. It’s a win for our people. And we have also reflected on the learning: which is about culture and what goes into building a strong one.
We have been working hard to create a strong and well-defined sense of who we are and what we are about. This is something we often work with clients on of course, and we have experienced the same demands achieving a result can take.
Also drawing on observations from our work with clients, we were guided by three beliefs.
First, we could see the importance of culture in a crisis. We provide reputation, change and communications advice and often in crisis situations. Invariably you see that whatever the crisis, the culture of the organisation plays a central role in how it begins and is resolved.
Second, we saw a world in chaos, made more obvious by COVID-19. We embraced the reality that unpredictable environments are the norm and no longer new.
Third, has been the shift in stakeholder expectations. From customers to employees, to shareholders, expectations have moved beyond traditional boundaries. Products and profit are no longer enough.
How does your organisation treat suppliers? How does it care for its employees? What’s its impact on the environment? How is it contributing to society? What is its diversity profile?
We reduced this down to a simple question: What matters now?
The answer we found was culture.
Culture is about who we are. It is how we act, do and say things and make decisions big and small. And because it is so central, creating and sustaining the culture you want is critical to building trust, reputation, brand and the value employees place on you.
For us culture is about two things. Values and purpose. We have done a lot of work on the former over a couple of years and are still refining the latter.
Our values are: ‘grounded, energised, restless, united’. These infuse everything we do. The work the team did in establishing our values was outstanding, and is matched by their commitment to bringing these values to life every day.
They have helped in winning this recent award. But for us the real prize is being able to attract and keep top-class people who believe in our values and are motivated by our purpose.
The other half of the equation has been defining our purpose. We have put 18 months into this, and we are seeing the results. I’ll summarise this work in a following article.