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Real cultures. Real perspectives.

We spoke with two of our Members recently about what makes a great workplace culture. It’s clear from their experience that it has little to do with the social aspects of a work environment and a lot to do with having a sense of purpose, sharing values and working together collaboratively toward a common goal.

In this article, Daniel de Villiers FIML (a Services Operations Manager) and Robert Voigts CMgr FIML (a Solutions Director) share their insights into some of the cultures they’ve worked with – the good and the not so good!

What makes a great place to work?

Daniel: For me, a great place to work is one where there’s a sense of purpose and people’s values align with that of the organisation. Employees feel valued and respected by tapping into their diversity of thinking, experience, and skills. It’s about having a supportive environment that fosters personal and organisational growth by developing people and enabling them to get involved in stretch tasks and cross functional work. A trusting culture that encourages open communication and collaboration that is tough on the issues and soft on the people.

Robert: A great place to work is when you have a culture that promotes inclusivity and collaboration across the entire organisation. As a leader I am a huge advocate for driving a positive culture by empowering everyone I work with to have a voice and contribute to positive change, whether that be through innovation, process improvements and inter-departmental collaboration. When a leadership team in any organisation endorses its values and promotes an inclusive culture in its workforce, then this will be reciprocated with greater productivity, moral, and business performance.

Tell us about the worst culture you’ve experienced in a workplace – what made it negative?

Daniel: I’ve been in a workplace where there was a toxic culture of blame, micromanagement and people were pitted against each other. It created a tense atmosphere where people were afraid to speak up, take accountability or show initiative. There was little trust between colleagues and management, and feedback was often given in a demeaning manner. Lack of trust and transparency were major issues, and it really hindered productivity, teamwork, and morale.

Robert: I have been fortunate in most of my 30-year career to work within some great cultures, and that I am thankful for. But, I did more recently take on the responsibility of running a company that had previously been run by its former owners who sadly had created a very negative work environment. On my first day on the job I was met with a very disjointed team of employees that I could clearly see lacked direction in their roles, and positive leadership.

After spending one-on-one time with each of them it had become very clear that they were not there for the company. There really was no culture, and there hadn’t been for a long time. You could see that in their demeanor, so I realised I had to turn this around quickly if I was to improve the company’s overall performance.

I stopped the culture of individuality and made a more collaborative environment for the employees to have a voice. I spent more time talking with them than just emailing. I made myself available as their colleague and not just their leader. After 6 months, I saw a dramatic difference in their motivation to work, and increased positivity.

Think about an organisation you’ve worked for that had the best culture – what characteristics made it great?

Daniel: The best workplace culture I’ve encountered was characterized by open communication, trust, and a strong sense of community. Management prioritized employee well-being and development, fostering a supportive environment where everyone’s contributions were valued. Collaboration was encouraged, and there was a genuine camaraderie among colleagues. Flexibility, recognition of achievements, and a shared vision created a positive and fulfilling work experience for everyone involved and it translated to organisational success.

Robert: I’ve been fortunate to have mostly worked in good cultures throughout my career. However, I would have to say my current employers who I have recently joined have really impressed me with their extremely positive culture. This is driven by its global values and purpose, and it’s this culture that is imparted onto you from your first day of work.

My onboarding process was amazing, the best I have ever had. My colleagues have been extremely welcoming and the day-to-day support I receive whilst becoming orientated to my new role has been exceptional. This is a large global organisation that values its entire workforce of over 350,000 people – no matter the seniority, as one collective unified team. The results it achieves because of this are a testament to the amazing culture it has created. I can honestly say that this is the best culture I have seen and been a part of.

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