If you’ve worked in different companies, you’ll know that workplaces can feel very different from one another. Some large companies operate like well-oiled machines where every person acts as a small cog, working together for the good of the organisation as a whole. Others prefer to encourage their employees to pursue individual greatness, compete within the workplace, and use their entrepreneurial spirit to drive profits.
While there are advantages and disadvantages of workplaces with either competitive cultures built on individualism or cultures built on comradeship and uniformity, at Duncan & Toplis, we’ve deliberately created a happy medium, which we call our ‘one-team culture’.
Duncan & Toplis is one of the top 30 accountancy firms in the UK, with more than 400 team members, working across multiple sectors in 11 offices across the East Midlands. On paper, this could easily make Duncan & Toplis a fragmented group of self-governing offices with employees who do their own thing. Add to this the fact that all of our offices are at least 11 miles apart and there are a lot of obstacles to creating any kind of shared culture – yet despite all this, we have a strong, healthy team dynamic.
Since I joined Duncan & Toplis as marketing director, one of our key objectives has been to further develop and sustain a sense of cohesion across the whole organisation and strengthen our ‘one-team’ culture.
Changing a company’s culture may seem an unusual goal for a marketer, but the tools available to a marketing team are uniquely capable of changing a company’s culture and we’re making great progress.
When you know exactly how your role fits alongside the roles of people you work with, you fully understand that you’re also working toward the shared goal. Fundamental to this, is the way we talk about what we, and our colleagues, do. One of the changes that we’ve made is that we no longer refer to the people who work here as ‘staff’ or ‘employees’. Instead, we’re all ‘team members’, making it clear that we know we’re all working toward the same goal.
Since we started our push for the ‘one-team’ culture we also now stand side-by-side as one, united team. We also no longer only use the most senior people as spokespeople in our internal and external communications; now the people quoted in our press releases, profiles and newsletters are whoever is the most knowledgeable and most appropriate for the topic, whether they lead a team or not.
This means that whenever team members see our internal or external communications or pictures on our walls or leaflets, they know that everyone, from the directors to the apprentices, is part of one team.
Changing the imagery and language is one thing, it’s another challenge for a marketer to change the way a company actually operates, to understand, embrace and celebrate how the brand lives through our team members’ thoughts, communications and behaviours.
PR can be an excellent tool in meeting this challenge as it enables us to celebrate achievements throughout the company. If a colleague has done great work to help a client, we can highlight their work in the media and in internal communications and we can enter them for both personal and team-orientated awards.
This means that they become a more familiar face across the rest of the company, their colleagues understand and appreciate their skills more clearly and it creates a vehicle for other team members to have their work celebrated in the same way.
A key part of this is that, first and foremost, we are highlighting the service that we’ve delivered to our clients, secondly, we’re celebrating the achievement of the company as a whole and, crucially, we’re championing our people as an example which others can emulate.
Of course, while marketers can play a key role in creating a team culture, making this kind of change cannot be done without the full support of decision-makers and departments throughout the company.
Colleagues in HR can instigate further changes throughout the whole organisation and ensure that the team culture becomes a permanent fixture, but neither side can achieve it alone. The marketing and HR relationship is of huge importance in the promotion and celebration of team culture and promoting collaborative work between departments.
Once created, a one-team culture in a large company is a positive but delicate force. It has to be maintained and supported and it is a constant commitment. Guidelines, transparency and communication must always be upheld to avoid slipping back into a less cohesive culture, but if managed correctly, it can make a large organisation encourage creativity, innovation and high performance from individuals while also ensuring a productive, more attractive and more organised work environment which will also be a much better place to work.