Looking past the perks: cultivating workplace culture

It’s obvious when a company doesn’t have a good culture – you can see it on the showroom floor, hear it in the voice of a salesperson and you can even read it in the tone of emails when communicating with a company.

There’s no doubt that it affects the way businesses deal with customers and after a negative experience customers will simply shop somewhere else.

Having a good workplace culture ensures that your company projects friendliness, professionalism and ease – the desired shopping experience.

So how do you cultivate a good working culture? Some would say perks and rewards. Although we like to reward our staff for above and beyond contributions, this is not a silver bullet for a good working culture. Business owners should be wary of placing too much emphasis on perks to keep employees happy – culture is something employees need to believe in and contribute to.

Whether you have a team of five or 500 people (I’ve had experience with both), creating a culture that is reflective of your company’s values requires constant attention. At the Winning Group we are committed to our staff, we are a family-run business and this is reflected in our company culture.

We’ve also been wary of maintaining this culture during our growth period, and we’re confident that nothing’s changed as we close in on 450 staff. The range of roles across the group are vast, consisting of traditional and non-traditional businesses – the century-old bricks-and-mortar retail outlet Winning Appliances, online retailers Appliances Online and BigBrownBox.com.au, and national installation company Handy Crew.

The employees of the online retailers are quite different to the employees of our bricks and mortar showrooms. On one hand, the staff working for Winning Appliances have had a long affiliation with the company, around 30 staff have been entrenched in the business for more than 20 years. On the other, Appliances Online and Big Brown Box have a very young, vibrant, internet savvy culture. In order to bridge this divide I created two new ‘Cultural Caretaker’ roles for the Winning Group.

Our Cultural Caretakers are responsible for ensuring that our current and new employees uphold our company’s vision and values and that they feel they are part of the Winning Group family. We then created the ‘Winnings Walkabout’, so that no matter where in the company a new employee works they get a tour of each business and are welcomed and introduced to their colleagues.

New additions gain an understanding of how the individual businesses run by visiting a showroom, the warehouse and our head office. For ongoing communication between staff we also have an internal staff blog documenting what’s happening across the businesses and personal staff announcements to ensure staff are informed about business decisions and feel valued for their personal qualities and achievements.

To maintain consistent direction, I have also established an executive team to work across the group in the hope this will improve efficiencies across the businesses and create a more harmonious working environment, which focuses on ‘one team’ rather than competing businesses. We also conduct regular group activities and briefings to help communicate change as well.

A key point of difference of the Winning Group is that our staff are provided with extensive product training on a regular basis. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than when staff cannot communicate the benefits of a product or explain its function. Regular training with our staff ensures they have the confidence to engage with potential customers about a diverse range of products.

While it’s easy for a business to offer their employees some sort of reward or incentive to increase happiness at work, there’s no quick solution to having a great workplace culture. It’s earned rather than acquired. So when strategising your next business move or increasing your development budget, consider workplace culture as a performance indicator that impacts your bottom line: make a long-term investment in your work environment.

John Winning is CEO of Winning Group: Appliances Online, BigBrownBox.com.au, Winning Appliances, and Handy Crew.




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