Every workplace wants a winning culture, but getting there doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all solution. If it were that easy, everyone would have the perfect work environment and every company would succeed.
The definition of “winning”, of course, can also look and sound different depending on who you’re talking to.
“Different organisations will want different cultures in terms of how you experience and work there,” says Michelle Gibbings, a workplace and leadership expert and author of several workplace-related books. “What ‘good culture’ is really based on is the organisation’s purpose and intent, and then going on to live out that purpose and intent. It’s about asking, ‘What’s the culture that we need that’s going to bring out the best in the people we work with?’”
When it comes to fostering healthy relationships with clients, Gibbings says it’s about creating an environment of trust and reliability.
“If you think about accounting firms, people want to go to a company where they trust the people they’re working with, where they know there’s a sense of collegiality in terms of people learning from each other,” she says.
“A winning culture in an accounting sense can be a culture that is willing and able to change; a culture that is able to take the best of the past but also build and create new things for the future. You want people who are adaptable and willing to learn, and an environment where people are able to share ideas and raise issues.”
Winning culture in action
When it comes to improving working relationships with clients, Gibbings believes small gestures can have a huge impact.
“Something my accountant does that I really like is they send useful updates,” she says. “They also run helpful seminars if there are particular things that you’re interested in that relate to financial matters and running your business. So, to me, that’s a real value-add that helps me maintain a connection with my accountants.”
Gibbings says winning accountancy businesses provide services that suit their clients’ needs. “Is it that you’re just doing end-of-year accounts and tax returns, or can you actually help with business problems?” she asks. “Do you have that ability to sit down with them at half-year and find out how they’re tracking? You’re playing that role of business mentor and offering the client more.”
In the age of remote working, prioritising workplace culture should be front of mind for all leaders, insists Gibbings.
“It’s really important for leaders to pay more attention to how they lead,” she says. “Often they think of it as ‘I’m leading the team’, but the team is a group of individuals, so it’s really important for the leader to sit down one-on-one and find out from each team member what they need. But they also need to bring them together collectively to ask, ‘How do we want to work together? What does working from home look like?’
“Maybe it means we come into the office one day a week. If we’re working from home, what are the rules of engagement when connecting with each other? So, you’re having conversations rather than leading by assumption.”