After graduating from university, Lisa Spiden — the founder of FibreHR and Roster Right — embarked on a backpacking trip across Europe before eventually landing in London and, consequently, into Human Resources with HSBC Investment Bank and BC Global.
From there, she worked with several large organizations before taking on her first “commercial” human resources role with retail giant The Just Group, which largely influenced her understanding of how company culture affects business outcomes. It was the first role where Lisa experienced a true “sense of achievement” by being able to implement strategies and immediately see their effect on people and sales in store.
You could literally go into store the next day and see how it was actually affecting the people, you could see if it was actually working and if people were enjoying what you were doing – you could actually tell if it was making a difference to the business.
Recognized as an industry talent, several businesses soon approached Lisa to work as an HR consultant, which led to the launch of her first business, FibreHR. After working with big brands like Carmen’s and kikki.K, and having also launched her second business, Roster Right, one of the most important lessons Lisa has learned over the years is that culture begins from “minute one” and will always reflect the behavior of its leaders.
Gimmicks like basketball courts or “Friday night drinks” might sound appealing, and they can be great incentives, but they don’t ensure a positive or effective work environment on their own. Culture is created by both leaders and staff following the values of the business.
For me, what I’ve seen over my journey is that it’s not one element that creates culture … if you don’t have the right people, the right leadership and a clear vision … it doesn’t matter how cool all the things you have around the business are.
Culture also varies over time. As Lisa points out, “culture isn’t stagnant; it’s not something that can be fabricated”. Businesses change and so do the people that work for them, which is why it’s important to monitor your team.
Simply conducting engagement surveys and asking questions like “what’s keeping you here?” and “what’s making you leave?” provides an opportunity for businesses to address issues and turn things around. Honest conversations with staff about how they fit in to a workplace are key to both their success and that of the business.
But the increased discretionary effort that results from a great work culture is well worth the time and labor it can take to develop. When one of Lisa’s businesses needed to hit a deadline for a client, her entire team worked for 24 hours, without her knowledge, to ensure they wouldn’t deliver behind schedule.
When culture’s working, you’ve just got a really unified team who are working all together on one particular vision … you [also] see it in attracting talent; it’s easy to recruit when you’ve got a great culture. And clients can feel it — you know, the actual quality of work … there are so many elements that just stand out when culture is working well.”
However, it’s also obvious when culture isn’t working. Even with increased benefits, talent becomes much harder to acquire and businesses end up paying more than their competitors to retain staff.
In the end, creating a positive culture is highly subjective to your staff and your business values. But that doesn’t mean you have to create things from scratch. There are plenty of successful work environments out there and applying different aspects of what works for them to your own business can be very useful.
To learn more about what creates a great work culture, watch Lisa Spiden’s WeTeachMe’s Masters Series chat.