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Company culture: identifying your keys to success

This blog is part of a series based on a conversation with two of our in-house experts on company culture. Kelly McLuckie, Customer Culture and Transformation Manager, and Dave Jackson, Customer and Industry Relationship Manager, discuss what company culture is, why it matters and how to improve it.

Every company has a culture, whether they realise it or not. Company culture is ‘how things work around here’. It’s how people behave and the beliefs they share in the workplace. It can include things like rules, processes, symbols and even posters on the walls, but ultimately it’s about values.

A company’s core values are moral or ethical statements about what matters to it most, such as ‘safety first’ or ‘work as a team’ or being customer-focused. They filter down into the operational decisions that determine how the business runs day-to-day.

How do team members talk to each other? How do they treat customers? How do they treat their equipment? Working together as a team, how do they represent the brand in public? These all show the company’s values (good or bad) in action.

When it comes to managing and maintaining your culture, consistency is critical. If there’s a disconnect between the values you say you want to see, and the values you encourage, penalise or reward, then your culture won’t change. Kelly explains:

“If we say ‘safety first’, but I know as a driver I’m going to get raked over the coals if I don’t get to ‘x’ location at a certain time because that’s when the customer expects it, then that’s not really part of the culture. If we do have a safety culture, then a person will be supported for making a decision, not punished.”

Geography and job descriptions can also play a role; one depot or team might have its own way of doing things that might be different to how another one does them. That’s fine, as long as the values underlying them are the same.

When the boss is away …

Another way to describe culture is ‘what happens when no-one else is around’. It’s crucial for the transport industry because drivers are out on the road all the time.

A lot of companies are family-owned or family-run, and leaders often feel they can’t go on holiday because they want to keep track of everything. But if you have a good culture, then you can sleep at night because you know your team will do the right thing.

That’s because when your workplace culture is strong, your drivers and other team members will feel trusted and valued. They’ll want to do right by the boss, their co-workers and the company.

It’s one of the reasons why good culture is good business. Having a reputation for being a good company to work for and to work with can be a significant competitive advantage. On the other hand, when managers see culture as ‘fluff’ or ‘management nonsense’, or when workers see it as ‘just another way to keep an eye on us’, businesses suffer.

“It’s such a short-sighted view,” says Dave. “Companies with good culture perform better, their trucks are in better shape, and they keep customers happier.”

The bottom line is that culture is good for the bottom line. If you’ve never given your workplace culture much thought, take stock. Watch how your team behave towards customers and each other. Check which behaviours get rewarded and which get penalised. Make sure it all adds up to a place that workers want to join, and customers want to hire, and you’ll be ready to go.