Listen to Matt Benaron, Director at VantagePoint, discuss the importance of company culture and ways to measure and improve it. 

Culture Edit

Transcript

 

Matt:

My name is Matt, and I'm a director here at VantagePoint. Today we're going to talk about assessing your finance function and focusing on culture. Now, culture is often a point that is missed when teams do look to perform reviews, or just generally in self-reflection. Thinking about systems and people and processes are quite obvious things to look at. Often culture is missed, but here we feel it's really important to look at.

 

So what we're going to walk through today is first of all why you might want to review the culture within your finance team. We'll then look at what you can expect to achieve as a result of the assessment. So how can you take that forwards? And then we'll look at what an ideal working culture might look like. Now that's quite subjective and it will be different for everyone, different across organizations, but we'll give you some ideas of metrics that you might assess against, and finally, we'll look at how you could potentially go about performing an assessment of your culture.

 

So the first thing that you should look to do in a review is to gain an understanding of the current team culture. Now in some organisations, it can be really, really clear. The culture and values are set from the top, and often they're really well dispersed across the organisation. Sometimes they're not quite so clear and it's a little bit more up to the individual to define what their culture is within the organisation. So first of all, getting a firm view of what the current culture is within the team or teams is a really essential starting point.

 

Through the review, you should be able to look to instil a future-proof mindset. So aligning individuals with the future ambitions of the organisation and making sure that individuals and collectively, we're not just thinking about the here and now and the today. Through the process, you can start to look at benchmarking best practice, looking at how you can potentially instil an impact growth positively, but also trying to understand where there are potentially pain points that are impacting culture. What are the challenges that are preventing your core values and your positive culture from successfully embedding itself across the organisation?

 

And through that, you'd also be able to see what general motivation levels are, so starting to really get close to the team and how well motivated they are, because if they're not motivated, they won't be aligning with your overall vision and organisational culture. So starting to think about what you could actually achieve through the assessment.

 

So first of all, as we mentioned before, mapping out the team dynamics and mapping out the team and individual cultures against the overall company values, that on its own is a highly valuable exercise, but you'll quite quickly be led to potential pain points within the team, and focusing on those pain points and also starting to think about plans you can put in place to mitigate those in the future should be a core output of the assessment.

 

And that leads on to the achievable goals for the future. It should be fairly clear in some areas, changes that can be made on an individual/collective basis to eradicate some of those pain points to better help people align to the overall organisational culture. A big part of culture is how your teams view themselves and their teams within the wider organisation. So you'll get an opportunity to see how people perceive themselves amongst the wider organisation. You can also take the opportunity to start to instil an improvement mindset, so a continual assessment review, self-reflection in everyone, and also turn that into a view for continuous improvement.

 

And finally, a couple of other thoughts around think about how agile the team is and how open the team is for change. It's likely off the back of even this review there'll be some changes you want to put in place. So how enabled and ready and open are the team for change in the future? Because when you are identifying those areas for improvement, it will be essential that everyone can come on board with that and take those initiatives forward with you.

 

So just some thoughts around the metrics and the measurement criteria you can be using when you're assessing what your working culture actually looks like. Now these are just ideas and these can be replaced with your own, but as usual, we're always looking to quantify this measurement somehow by coming up with some metrics and then looking to assess against them. Now, this assessment criteria you might use on an individual by individual basis, or it might be something you look to do across the entire finance organisation, or maybe team by team.

 

But think about metrics like how much are people encouraged or are actively looking to support the wider business? How solution focused are people? What's the balance between people being focused on problems and issues versus coming up with solutions and driving past those challenges? Is there a culture of striving for excellence? So is everyone always looking to improve and excel in what they do, or is there a little bit more of a that'll do approach in some areas?

 

It's also important that people enjoy being at work and find what they do at least somewhat enjoyable. So start to think about the less work focused measures, but just the mental health-focused measures, like do people find their job fun and enjoyable? Are there things outside of their day to day that they're able to participate in that they find fun and enjoyable? That all builds towards an individual's perception of themselves and the overall culture of the organisation.

 

It's really important to ensure there's a connection between the overall organisational goals and values and people's individually, and that's often a really interesting one to assess, how well have the themes and the values and the goals that are set right at the board level, how well have those filtered down into the organisation? And what does that mean for things like retention? Now, also a lot of businesses nowadays have ambitions and goals around sustainability and ethics and supporting the community. So trying to understand if people share those ambitions and share those values and want to contribute to that, or whether that's not something that's on their radar.

 

The final point that I'll mention here is around creating future leaders. Your culture should be inspiring and it should be encouraging people to take the next step, to push themselves and to grow individually, which helps the collective grow, but ultimately it should be encouraging people to become future leaders of your organisation. So reconsidering what avenues you have to support that. Whether you have people that feel like they're on that trajectory gives you a really clear indication as to how well your culture is embedding across the team. But do think about your own values and your own metrics that you might use to assess against those values, and continuously review those throughout the assessment process.

 

And finally, thinking about how you might go about performing the assessment. So think about qualitative and quantitative ways of doing so. Starting off with some qualitative ideas, think about the core themes that you're learning and getting feedback on through the assessment as you're speaking to people and starting to open up these doors and explore these avenues. Core themes will come out and become clear. Those core themes might be positive or they might be negative. They might to the company values or they may not, but be looking out for those core themes that will naturally come out of the feedback you'll get.

 

Speak to people across the finance organisation. So ideally look to speak to everyone in the finance organisation, or at least a sample of everyone in the finance organisation, but also speak to those who interact with finance, because often the perception of finance and the way that people and groups of people teams appear to the outside organisation is a better or clearer tell of what things are like within that organisation, and as well as doing that collective review, you could potentially do individual assessments, where you're individually looking at the way someone works, the way someone thinks and goes about their week, and starting to assess them specifically against the core values of the organization.

 

On the quantitative side, survey data collection can be really effective if you've got a big team and you want to get some key measures and ask some standard questions across the board. It can be a really easy way to collect some really valuable insights. And other ways you can do quantitative assessment is looking at the content that you produce and looking at the terminology that's used within that.

 

What we mean by that is if you look at presentations that are put together by the finance team for the wider organisation or within the finance team, or potentially even for external stakeholders, looking at the language and terminology used and the way in which you are presenting yourselves can often be very telling as to the culture within the organisation. So there are clever techniques you can use and employ to assess the branding, the content, the outbound things that you produce and share with the organisation and external people to then better understand internally, what does that mean about the culture and the way that the people that have put that content together, the way that they think.

 

And finally, external assessments can help with this process overall, whether it's engaging with a broad range of people to get independent insight and independent views into the way people think, the values that they carry, and the alignment with the wider organisation. Often having an external organisation support you in that process can make it more effective.

 

You'd also be able to learn lessons from other similar assessments that they might have done with organisations, and particularly where I was focusing on things like looking at the terminology used within content, they may well have experience and skills that they can bring to the assessment that you might not have internally. So it's always an idea to think about if external support might help in the assessment process.

 

So thank you very much for listening. Hopefully, you found that useful. Please do put any questions and comments below, and if you wanted to reach out, you can always do so via the email address.

 

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