Culture and character – And why it matters to your work  

22 February 2022

As we have struggled through recent adversity together now, more than ever, it has become obvious just how important workplace culture is. When you’re working next to good people doing great work it makes such a huge difference – not just to everyday happiness but also for brand reputation, service delivery and ongoing business success.    

New Zealand’s staged border reopening has been a long time coming. Aside from a short period when a bubble between Australia and New Zealand was operational, it has been nearly two years since the country closed its doors to visitors.

This has impacted hugely in our industry. Many have been forced to close their doors or to pivot their businesses to alternative opportunities to keep afloat. Labour shortages have also caused problems. There have been less working holiday visa holders to fill the gaps by those who left our shores when the pandemic originally hit.   

Now (maybe, possibly) after the supposed peak of cases at the end of March, life will return to almost normal and international visitors will return to our country. 

Despite staff shortages, businesses will be wanting to achieve a consistency in customer service and guest experiences. This may mean having staff on call or requiring them to work busy periods while taking quiet periods off. The disruption to planning and pay cheques may be considerable in the short term.

However, even during this tumultuous and uncertain period, a good team mentality can make all the difference. Good people will stay on through difficult periods if they have a pleasant work environment and feel like they are valued members of a team.

Here are five ways a good culture can make all the difference in attracting and retaining team members – and ensure your business stays the best it can be no matter the occupancy rate.

Talking the talk

It can be difficult to define what makes for great customer service. Often it is the little things that are appreciated the most. Often too, realising what those little things are can be a matter of experience and intuition. For new staff, those coming back to work or those working harder after a quiet couple of years, it is important to communicate your expectations about high quality, successful customer service.

Having clear cut guidelines (such as Vendella’s 8-second phone answer policy) helps staff know what is expected of them. For an accommodation provider this could be a policy for the time it takes to deliver a guest their room service order. Whatever the rule, if it is clearly set out for staff and backed up by reasoning, it will be more likely to be adhered to.

So too are values often so important to the details-focused accommodation provider. Clear, aspiration-building company values are the best way to communicate the level of work you wish staff to deliver. Good values may not be incredibly unique, but they also won’t be just like your competitors. Instead, they should contain a little inspiration and motivation that’s custom-built for your team.

Walking the walk

Dutch historian Johan Huizinga said, “If we are to preserve culture we must continue to create it.” While he may have been addressing societal culture as a whole, the sentiment also rings true for the New Zealand accommodation provider. Values are just meaningless words on a page without those who live them each and every workday.

As a family-run company with a strong sense of culture, Vendella has a number of policies in place to help foster a strong team mentality. One example is our internal currency reward system and team building activities.

Here, each team member has two coins per week which can be passed on to a fellow team member who they believe deserves rewarding. Once a team member receives a coin, they are recognised in the team meeting and can use the coins to vote on the activity they would most like to do at the end of the month.

All the coins are then counted as the month finishes and the event with the most votes is chosen and carried out. Past events have included inter-departmental sports tournaments, cooking competitions, a mini golf trip and a kite making competition.

Last month it was a bow & arrow competition.

Avoiding the toxic

Healthy competition between departments or staff in the form of performance rewards can be a good way to encourage extra effort. However, it is important to ensure these kinds of comparisons do not become toxic.

If staff members feel they are always playing second fiddle to their fellow workers resentment can build up. Not everyone wants to be a ‘superstar’, and nor should they be. Everyone has their sub-par or occasional bad days too. It’s a part of life!

So, while credit should be given when credit is due, managers should take care to cater to those who struggle to achieve such high-level success. A little recognition and motivation can go a long way.

Company policies should remain positive, encouraging staff to strive for the best. And, no matter what the title of the person who is undertaking it, there should be a zero-tolerance policy for malicious gossip and negative behaviour and other bullying behaviour.

Attracting the terrific

Pragmatically, a good company culture is as much about attracting great team members as it is rewarding and retaining them. 

At Vendella, this means adhering to a ‘Culture of celebration’, where all kinds of achievements are celebrated at work. This could be personal achievements for staff (such as buying a house or reaching a fitness goal), business achievements (such as reaching sales quotas), or values achievements (like a department showing great teamwork during a busy period).

Provided they are not forced, the hosting of celebrations and rewarding of staff for all kinds of reasons helps everyone feel appreciated and keeps a sense of positivity and productivity in the workplace.

Rewarding and supporting

Creating and sustaining a thriving company culture can never be achieved with a rigid ‘top down’ approach. Advice and ideas must come from everywhere. Nurturing an environment that rewards constructive feedback and fresh thinking can be a great way to keep your company culture fresh and to move with the times.

Provide an easy and judgement-free pathway for staff to provide feedback and suggestions. This could be an anonymous box or perhaps a whiteboard that can be added to by anyone.

The whiteboard or virtual equivalent has the benefit of allowing other staff members to brainstorm from existing ideas on the board and/ or to add their names under ideas they like.

Always keep an open mind to change and develop your culture to meet the needs of those who join the team too. In this way the busines with grow with the people, and every guest will be rewarded with an experience of service that is warm, focused and dedicated.

For more team building and culture inspiration check out our YouTube channel:

Also check out our About Us page for more information on our staff and culture.

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