Many moons ago I had a summer job. I was 16, had just left school and my main priorities were A) playing gigs and B) finding ways to avoid going to college.
The main responsibilities involved:
- Spending eight hours a day taking an empty sack from a pile of empty sacks.
- Standing under a dusty hopper and pressing a metal plate on the floor.
- Watching the sack fill with chicken pellets.
- Dragging it to some other machine that stitched it shut.
- And finally heaving the backbreaking load onto a shoulder and walking down three flights of stairs to the loading bay.
Luckily, I wasn’t alone. There was a small team of other layabout school leavers all doing the best to avoid any form of adult responsibility.
The hopper sat in the middle of a room in one of those old red brick city centre warehouses now beloved of Millennial gentrifiers. To one side was a small office, complete with a grimy floor-to-ceiling window that looked out onto our mindless toil.
In this room sat ‘the boss’.
He spent his days with his feet on the desk, reading a book and slowly smoking himself to oblivion. Every 15 minutes he would take a break from that routine, look out of the window at us and shout ‘not like that’ or ‘do it faster’.
This, ladies, gentlemen and others of LinkedIn, was my first experience of workplace culture.
Employ adults. Treat them like adults.
Luckily, for many of us things have improved.
I’m now lucky enough to work for an enlightened and forward-thinking company. Probably the most enlightened and forward-thinking company I’ve ever been lucky enough to land at – and the reason for that can be summed up in one word: trust.
Trusted that we’ll do what we need to do, when our clients need us to do it.
It sounds pretty simple, yes? But how do we show it – how, does that cultural DNA physically manifest itself at LB?
Here’s one way and two more words: flexible working.
LB lets us work from home or elsewhere. They trust that we’re adult enough to make the right decisions in terms of delivering for our clients, the business and our individual teams. We will not use it as an excuse to slack off and reduce effort levels. Yes, it’s that easy to build a positive and supportive culture.
I now work with what the cool kids call digital nomads (which were definitely not a thing when I was humping that chicken pellet feed). And so far, I’ve not seen any drop in output or quality, whether they’re working from Beijing, Dublin, Stockholm or wherever. We trust them to find a suitable working space (not the ‘mythical’ beach), a strong internet connection and to structure their working hours in a way that suits the business. So far, no one has failed to live up to that trust.
Does all this flexible working affect our creativity, collaboration and productivity? I would say not (but then again, I’m writing this blog so would say that). But, the revenue, awareness, demand and other results we’re producing for our clients (check out those case studies), plus the awards we’re piling up, show the story better than this blog.
Yes, we do get together when its required (or want to). But there’s no top-down mandate based on a seemingly random number of selected days. We’ve also got plenty of people at the beginning of their careers and again, their line managers are trusted to make sure that they get the face-to-face and team time they need.
Death to beer fridge Friday
So, for me, building a strong culture isn’t about sticking a beer fridge in the corner and finishing a bit early on a Friday for some drinks, nibbles and forced small talk.
It’s easier (and cheaper) than that – it’s just trusting people to act like the adults you’re employing them to be.