Company culture is one of the most important parts of a business’s retention strategy. On Episode 137 of Talent & Growth I spoke to Bruce Daisley, the host of the Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat podcast and 2x Sunday Times Best Seller about what he’s learned from working in big companies like Twitter and how their culture impacted the team. Bruce is now a Workplace Culture Consultant, giving him some fantastic insights into getting the most from your team. He shared his advice on how to get your company culture right.

What are the biggest challenges you see around companies trying to get workplace culture right? 

Workplace culture is a strange thing, isn’t it? I did loads of bar work and fast food restaurant service before I got anything close to a desk job. You can tell from the first shift in a pub if it’s going to be a good place to work. It’s a combination of the interactions you have with customers and the people you work with. The same goes for any organisation. In good firms where there’s a really good energy, people laugh more with their colleagues. And there’s more trust. Good cultures do often have more humour in them. 

Right now a lot of organisations are saying that work doesn’t feel the same. If you’re thinking specifically about candidates and the job market, we know that asking workers to come into the office more is demanding a price premium. If you want workers to come into the office five days a week, it seems to cost about 20% more. Most workers say that if they’re given any degree of flexibility, it’s equivalent to about an 8-10% pay rise. For a lot of people, the flexibility that they’ve had in the last three years is something they’re very reluctant to concede, so a lot of organisations I’ve chatted to have said, ‘We mandated people to come back into the office, and they didn’t come. Then we offered a free breakfast, but they didn’t come. We don’t know what to do next.’ 

The interesting challenge is that employees want flexibility or more money, and most firms aren’t willing to provide either of those things. When I hear bosses, leaders, or managers saying it doesn’t feel the same, it’s because they’re not listening to their employees and their needs. People don’t want to be in the office, so of course the culture feels different. 

What has working at Google and Twitter taught you about what retains and motivates great people?

The really interesting thing is that people who work in big tech firms often have all of their immediate needs met. They’ve got a gym, food vendors and all manner of perks and benefits on site. And yet, there’s a strange phenomenon where people have affluenza, which is the idea that they’ve got every material need fulfilled but they’re still unhappy. Why is that? It’s largely because big firms don’t give you any autonomy. You don’t have any decisions to make, you’re pretty much just a cell on a spreadsheet. As a result of that you often meet people who’ve worked in big corporations, specifically tech firms, who are deeply unhappy and can’t work out why that is. 

A lack of autonomy can be really demotivating and create a strange sense of dissonance. That ties into the myth of resilience and the secret of inner strength, because the idea of control has a huge impact on our sense of well being. When we feel like we’ve got control over our lives – whether it’s financial control, emotional control or control over our childcare responsibilities – that agency is really motivating and liberating for us. Quite often when candidates are looking for jobs, they might think ‘I want to go and work at a big firm’, and the best employees typically want to work at the biggest brands, because it says something about them and it adds the halo effect to their resumes. But, that can be illusory. It can be a red herring, because you can end up doing the job, which has got immense status to it, but has got no personal fulfilment.

To learn more about Bruce’s takes on company culture, tune into Episode 137 of Talent & Growth here