“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” That’s one of the many things the acclaimed Steve Jobs said. He has a point. I mean, he was arguably one of the most successful business people on the planet.
Everyone in any business was hired for a reason. They have something to offer that other applicants didn’t. So why put them in a box with a dress code, rigid hours, and a limited voice? Everyone is an individual – someone with their own strengths, weaknesses, and talents. Someone with their own unique value. Someone who can contribute their unique perspective to help the company solve problems and reach its goals.
But being able to harness these strengths is a process that ripples through the workplace, never ceasing. It’s about how the employees feel about their place of work? Is it a place they enjoy? Is it a place where they feel they can contribute meaningfully to the work at hand? Do they feel comfortable being themselves? Do they feel like the can disagree?
How employees feel at work matters; if they’re comfortable sharing their thoughts, speaking up, and challenging the general consensus, marketing blunders like Kendall Jenner’s Live for Now Pepsi ad (that Pepsi pulled after the backlash) or H&M’s Coolest Monkey in the Jungle scandal, in all likelihood, could have been stopped before too much time and money, and not mention good PR, was lost.
So how can brands engage with the individuality of their employees while maintaining productivity and a unique identity? It’s about creating that culture within the company. “The doing of the work is the culture,” says Investec’s global head of HR and organisational development, Marc Kahn. Investec has been named one of the top three companies in South Africa in which to work. “What makes an attractive employer is a combination of the nature of the work, and who you do it with, and the way that you are lead in that work,” says Kahn. Good company culture doesn’t just improve work quality, but it reduces employee turnover by creating a sense of belonging and purpose.
Investec claims its company culture is what gives it its “competitive edge”. The work environment there is shaped by values like open and honest dialogue, loyalty, mindfulness and integrity. A good company culture lets its employees problem solve their own way by valuing individuality and innovation.
According to Forbes, creating a healthy company culture is the role of leadership and it can be done through clear communication, generous praise, and feedback-informed reform, but it can go beyond all that.
Google is famous for its company culture. Management is so hands-on it’s not separate; their mission and vision statements are concise; they give back to the community; and there are loads of on-premises benefits that also encourage wellness, like volleyball courts, a gym, free hair dressers, free massages and free, good quality food.
All of these things have earned Google the prestige position of being anyone’s dream employer, and while all the free benefits aren’t attainable for all companies, many aspects are. Things like less of a top-down structure, a limited dress code, more flexible hours, a culture of open communication, and the freedom to tackle issues in an individual capacity and in inventive ways; are all things any business can do. All of these things let go of the traditional one-size-fits-all box for employees. These things are what make the tense moments, the tiredness, and the office time worth while for the employee.
We spend between 21 and 35% of our lives in the work place. If it’s not an enjoyable place to work, it’s not an enjoyable place to live. It’s more than just who you hire – it’s how you treat them. That’s the secret to embracing the individuality you colleagues offer. That’s the secret to a strong, unique brand.