A: “This is a noble profession, which you should be proud to be a part of.”
A few years back, this was the oft-used rallying call of the newly appointed managing director of a national wealth management business.
Nothing wrong with that; inspirational words and an attractive ethos to adopt. This ethos, aligned to a viable business model, a robust infrastructure and great adviser support, meant success was surely just round the corner.
So why did working there feel the complete opposite of ‘noble’? Why was it such a hard place to succeed in?
A good culture inspires employees
It is easy to see now that this was a case of strategy without culture. Despite the positive tone from the top, the prevailing culture on the ground was one of disengagement, mistrust, disunity, distraction, and micro-management.
All of which contributed to the rise of an uninspiring business in which it was incredibly difficult to succeed. Business was always tough; sales and compliance targets were weaponised and coercion became the norm.
Feeling proud or noble was never high on people’s agenda. The well-intentioned managing director’s call to arms was lost on, or ignored, by the majority of advisers. No matter how often those words were repeated, it was ultimately forgotten that culture has a direct impact on human performance.
But here is the thing. Within this sea of despondency were beacons of success – branches flourishing, bucking the trend and exceeding targets.
They were enjoying the same support, advice model and client demographic, and yet their results were consistently great. But how? What did these teams do differently? On reflection, the answer is painfully evident but at the time was lost on the majority.
The difference in these particular offices was the tangible passion, the chemistry and collaboration within the team. With everyone on the same page, business seemed to be so much easier to attract. What had happened, whether by accident or design, was that a micro-culture had been established, creating a business-within-a-business in which success was a given.
This was all several years ago, but what is clear now is that these branches were highly cognisant of how inspiring a good culture can be.
A good culture inspires employees. Colleagues flourish, better decisions are made and staff engagement is high. According to a study by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, happy workers are 12 per cent more productive, while unhappy workers are 10 per cent less productive than average. Engaged employees also produce better quality work.
A good culture inspires clients. It is a well-worn phrase that people buy from people. Clients perceive the culture of a business through the quality of service, the quality of advice and the passion demonstrated by its staff. A good culture inspires client loyalty and attracts repeat business.
A good culture inspires success. Companies with a positive culture have been found to perform better in terms of operating margin and shareholder return.
All of which means culture matters – it matters a lot.
Neil Dethick is senior regulatory consultant at compliance consultancy TCC