Please note: in this guide, we use the term 'consultants' to define any project-based business that offers a service to clients and needs to track time and project progress against estimates.
Culture is the bond which ties people together and creates a sense of common purpose – not just in wider society, but also within individual consultancies.
In fact, in many ways, the culture of a consultancy is arguably the only thing that can truly be said to differentiate it. After all, the services you provide, the structures you develop, even the results you achieve, they can all be duplicated. Culture, on the other hand, is truly unique – the DNA of your consultancy.
Contrary to popular belief, people are not intrinsically motivated by profit or market share – rather by a sense of purpose. It is the shared values and mission that brings us to work everyday, after all.
So it’s important to make sure that shared purpose is central to everything your company does. A sense of the big picture and understanding of where all the members of the team fit within it helps provide a fresh dose of motivation on a daily basis.
With studies showing that people work harder and are more effective when they have a sense of choice and ownership, providing more autonomy is a sure-fire way to increase motivation and workplace satisfaction.
Something as minor as giving employees the freedom to move their desk has been demonstrated to increase their sense of control within the business. An increasingly popular extension of this idea is to set up individual desks or sub-departments within the company – mini-units which have flexibility and freedom to set up their own processes and run their own projects, sometimes even with their own revenue streams. Think of it as creating ‘little companies’ within your business, and giving each the freedom to rise to the challenge of their own entrepreneurial potential.
It all helps to provide a greater sense of ‘we did it’ to every member of the team.
Expand commercial awareness to all
Creating a strong sense of ownership in a business is also about giving team members more insights and access to the financial implications of their activities on the wider business.
Indeed, the strong commercial awareness this engenders among personnel can substantially increase engagement, enhance loyalty and, most importantly, help employees improve their own performance. After all, if you don’t understand the direction the business you work for is going, it’s hard to follow.
FOUR KEY AREAS TO FOCUS ON
Ensuring all employees have a strong understanding of your organisation. Does everyone know how your company works, how it makes money, and what it cares about most? Even new starters? If you aren’t confident they do, now could be an ideal time to look at your processes for educating new employees on your business’ mission and vision, its core values, key result areas, and expressed goals.
Educating your team on resourcing and supplier best practice. Every business relies on resources and suppliers to operate effectively – and it's important for every member of the team to use these resources effectively and ensure they get the best price for the goods and services they procure.
CULTURE DEVELOPMENT TIPS
Having the team suddenly become commercially aware is one of those step changes that can happen in a business. The Commercial Manager of a company using Synergist told us that “It’s been an education for the team. It’s increased the financial knowledge to non-finance staff tenfold. It’s given them more of a sense of responsibility, more discipline. The team have become much more commercially minded now.”
Don’t underestimate the power of having centralised project communications on projects. One MD told us of the satisfaction he had when he made an update to a job affecting several team members in different ways. He watched as they all quickly saw the change and started acting on it. He said it was like watching information magically trickle across the office. It’s another of those benefits that you probably don’t think of when considering a new system.
The mentality of a team is a crucial element of corporate culture. A high-functioning team is one that is confident about commercial objectives, clear on how decisions are made and all members feel that they have a defined place within the company.
These confident and driven employees are not only more informed and purposeful, they are also empowered to perform to the upper limits of their abilities.
But, how can this mentality be engrained into everything a company does?
Increase team confidence
Confidence is a key element of great corporate culture. And confident employees are more open to questioning and challenging their own decisions and presumptions.
Without the ability to be self-reflective, consultants can fall into the trap of introducing biases in the approaches they take and recommendations they make.
It’s also important to educate the team on how to recognise the warning signs that biases could be clouding their judgement, and provide clear guidelines on how to ensure decision-making always remains objective and evidence-based.
Culture is not something that you simply build up and then move on to the next challenge confident that the job is done. It needs to be constantly and consistently improved on and re-evaluated.
While you may succeed in creating an inspiring and inclusive corporate culture in the short term, it’s crucial to put processes in place to maintain those initial surges in engagement, goodwill and excitement over the long-run – especially if you want to keep your top talent and maintain strong client relationships.
If it’s clear that an employee is displaying these tell-tale signs of job stagnation, then it could be time to make things a little bit more difficult for that person – in a positive way! Think about kicking this off by having a meeting with them to find out what new tasks or functions they’d be interested in gaining more experience in and provide them with a clear action plan on how to move their role forward and provide them with new challenges.
It’s certainly not a phenomenon limited to the sector – 60% of companies across numerous industries surveyed by Deloitte said employees feel “overwhelmed” by the volume of activity and messages at work. So, when going through a programme to enhance your business culture a key aim should be maintaining a focus on the truly important things.
To see the other two guides in the series, click the links: