Why culture is king in employers of choice

Written by Lizanne Sampaio

Organisational culture has never been more important. As the modern workplace is redefined by a global pandemic, experts predict that the businesses who emerge strongest will be those that had their culture nailed long before lockdown struck.

They’re almost right, there’s just one crucial caveat: company culture is never ‘job done’ – it’s fluid, dynamic and doesn’t stand still. That’s why employers of choice don’t treat culture like a tick-box exercise or a task to be completed – they’re forever working at it.

That’s certainly the case at PRMA Consulting where – in our ambition to attract the best, keep the best and be the best – we’re fanatical about culture. Employee engagement surveys, and low levels of staff turnover, suggest our approach is working. But it’s a race that’s never won. Here’s where we’ve got to so far…

But first, let’s set the context. At PRMA Consulting, we’re lucky to have great leadership, robust methodology and a clear strategic vision. What’s more, our suite of digital applications – brought to life by our expert consultants – is taking market access into the next generation. However, we also know that the best laid plans – and the smartest innovations – are worthless if our culture isn’t set up to support them. No matter how good your strategy is, if the people executing it don’t buy into your culture – or don’t want to turn up to work – it will ultimately fall short. As the management textbook says, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. It’s why we don’t take the risk.

Why focus on culture?

The value of company culture is often underestimated – perhaps undermined by its buzzword reputation or approaches that confuse it with flashy perks. Global research shows that workers value a strong company culture over higher pay.1 But what does that actually mean?

The intangible nature of company culture makes it difficult to define. Culture is much more than headline gestures, it’s anchored in a business’s values, purpose and beliefs – and quietly presents itself in everyday behaviours and accepted norms. We cannot see it physically, but – good or bad – an organisation’s culture is always there. And it silently sets the tone for long-term performance.

Studies consistently highlight the impact culture has on employee motivation, productivity and overall business success. It’s also key to attracting and retaining talent; it’s the clincher that persuades us to work for an organisation, and a major influence on how long we stay.

Fundamentally, company culture is a vital driver of competitive advantage, and the heartbeat of the employee experience. That’s why, at PRMA Consulting, we continually invest in building a great culture so that our most important assets – our people – feel supported, motivated and empowered to do great work. This is driven right from the very top of the organisation, with our partners leading by example.

So what do we do?

A value-led culture

Our culture at PRMA Consulting is embodied in six core values that lay the foundation for our approach:

Pioneering

  • We thrive on pushing the boundaries of what we do, encouraging creativity and entrepreneurial thinking at all levels

Excellence

  • We inspire each other to continually improve, exceed expectations, speak with honesty and respect, and share/build on experiences

Collaboration

  • We know that good things happen when we work together, and that trusted collaboration fosters an enjoyable professional experience

Ownership

  • We value everyone’s contribution, trust one another to take responsibility, and give ownership/accountability to get things done

Respect

  • Every colleague makes a unique contribution – and every voice has the right to be heard. We communicate respectfully and embrace diverse thinking across the organisation

Leadership

  • Strong leadership guides others to become the best they can be. We empower people to make a difference.

However, these values aren’t just words on paper, they’re our everyday habits, embedded in our corporate muscle memory and at the heart of everything we do.

Across the business, our core values are visible in (and often written into) every strategy, every project and every interaction. They also feature throughout every stage of the employee lifecycle – from attracting and onboarding talent, to managing performance, nurturing career progression and supporting individual aspirations.

Our commitment to career development, evidenced by our comprehensive learning and development strategy and our coaching culture, is long-standing. But the ‘human’ aspects of the workplace experience are arguably even more important. Employee wellbeing is a crucial marker of any company culture. We know that providing environments, processes and systems that support mental wellness at work is business critical – and that good communications and trusted relationships are key to a healthy workplace. That’s why we make it our number one priority.

Ultimately, although the PRMA Consulting employee value proposition provides the platform for a rewarding long-term career, it hinges on a positive psychological contract between employer and employee that’s steeped in values of respect, recognition, individuality and integrity.

Our values are authentic: we care about our people. The ‘pride of affiliation’ we see in all our staff shows that that authenticity is recognised and reciprocated.

This is an ambitious company with lots of energy and innovative ideas. The staff are so welcoming, caring, and inclusive; it makes for an extremely positive work environment to introduce and discuss new ideas and develop as an individual.
Colleague survey response

PRMA Consulting culture is unique and special. The input of partners, the respectfulness of staff, training opportunities, expectations on good work/life balance, support from senior staff, quality of deliverables and good range of projects. All of these aspects make me proud to say I work here.
Colleague survey response

Respect is the main thing. This includes: no grandstanding or egos, not prejudiced, adaptive nature to take care of employee’s circumstances, good leaders, transparency & sharing.
Colleague survey response

The lowdown on lockdown

The proof is in the pudding. There’s probably no bigger test of a company’s culture than its ability to function successfully through a lockdown, such as the one imposed due to COVID-19.

Our approach was developed collaboratively, through open discussion with all employees. The business has always been flexible with home working. We understand the importance of work/life balance and know that our employees deliver to the highest standards wherever they’re located. However, the wholesale shift to remote working was naturally a culture shock for many. Thankfully, our well-established approach to flexible working made the transition feel seamless. Individuals were given the freedom to structure their work patterns around their ‘domestic’ requirements and we supported our teams with a variety of initiatives, including:

  • Employee Assistance programmes
  • Wellbeing support; videos, podcasts, articles and resources
  • Virtual wellbeing activities; mindfulness classes, yoga
  • Virtual learning and development sessions.

These initiatives mark us out as one of the few companies in the industry to take the opportunity to go beyond ‘business as usual’ during lockdown. By supporting employees’ needs – and building on the values of togetherness and respect that are in our DNA – we were able to maintain business continuity and meet (and beat) client expectations.

Our response demonstrates that we are agile, we are problem-solving, and we have the expertise, infrastructure, and pioneering digital applications to solve clients’ market access challenges. And better still, we have a culture that makes PRMA Consulting a great company to work with – and a great place to work.

Many of the initiatives we introduced in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis are a natural extension (or an amplification) of existing programmes that are already well‑established at PRMA Consulting. The majority – if not all – will have a life beyond COVID-19, as we maintain our commitment to improving company culture. For now, however, our determination to be an employer of choice is yielding encouraging results.

A recent pulse of employees, conducted during lockdown, showed that 98% of employees think PRMA Consulting is an organisation that cares for its people – and 99% are confident that the business will emerge strongly from the COVID-19 crisis.

The signs are good – but we’re not stopping there. Because ultimately, the difference between being a ‘good employer’ and ‘great place to work’ all boils down to culture. It eats strategy for breakfast – and it never stands still.

References

  1. Glassdoor’s Mission and Culture Survey 2019

FREE Booklet

Insight: digital solutions for market access

Free download

Latest insights

Recommendations for driving your journey to digital ...

Employee satisfaction survey: the importance of colleague ...

The importance of core values for wellbeing ...