A Feminine Approach to Corporate Culture
When I started my own business the most common question was — why? I get it, late nights, ongoing hustle, investment of time and resources when you’re not sure there are any left… it’s not the easiest path! For myself though, the rewards have been two-fold.
My answer to the question ‘why?’ has always been the same — culture. I worked for many different companies leading up to launching my own.
Corporate culture seemed tired and outmoded; working to rigid processes while single-mindedly chasing KPI’s was the established way. Curiosity, vulnerability and resilience were rarely encouraged, and at the lower end of the scale there was working back late and a focus on aggressive competition.
While there is merit in some of these traits that are typically seen as ‘masculine’, such as discipline and focusing on a goal, I saw the benefit in creating a workplace that fits in with a lifestyle rather than something that forces a lifestyle around it. Allowing room for transparency, communication and collaboration are only recently being talked about as having a place in the work environment. I’d argue that they are essential and that they are ‘feminine’ traits. So what exactly does a feminine approach to workplace culture look like?
I like to think of flexibility in two ways; prioritising self-care, rest and time for friends and family is one. Part time employment, flexible hours and working from home can be part of a solution here.
Other ways to incorporate flexibility is through the approach to work. The established eight plus hour days, five days per week with a focus on generating tangible results leaves little room for reflection and planning. This may seem like time not working toward a desired goal, but it can save time too. This is where staff can ruminate on how to improve current systems or projects leading to greater efficiencies and outcomes.
Established workplace culture often talks about ‘autonomy’, which is usually interpreted as tasking someone to repeat something using a standard template. When people are encouraged to take responsibility for a final outcome, the business is opening up itself to a different way to things getting done. Input to improve systems or to think out-of-the-box is something that can seem daunting for business owners wanting to run a tight ship, but it allows for openness and knowledge sharing — all great attributes of a thriving team. I’m not saying don’t have any processes in place, these are integral to guide people and they provide a necessary launching pad. However, being open to ideas and to doing things differently makes people feel valued, and can generate a surprisingly successful outcome.
Collaboration is a natural progression of a flexible and responsible approach. Encouraging teams to work together and to consider projects from different angles leads to experience, competence and an excess of ideas that can be applied to future work.
Furthermore, if you’re employing a flexible approach, having the whole team across each other’s projects means that if a member of staff is away or unavailable there will be someone who can pick up anything critical in the meantime.
Transparent & Clear
Taking the team on the business journey with you by explaining why certain processes are in place and what the future goals for the business are makes staff feel like they are part of a living and breathing organisation.
This goes two ways; encouraging personal goals pertaining to work and outside of work helps to keep communication open and strengthens a culture of trust.
How to integrate this approach in your business
Change isn’t easy, but I’ve noticed more and more businesses incorporating these values. I also want to underline that it is a work in progress, and I’m not recommending we throw out the current system all together. My suggestion is to work towards incorporating the positive attributes from both approaches. A couple of things we have identified as helping to integrate this approach are;
- We don’t have titles; people are introduced to clients in context of what they’re doing. This leaves room for flexibility and growth.
- We work part time and have flexible hours. We accommodate staff in regards to leave and working remotely.
- We rarely work back late and we have a flexible start time.
- Goals outside of work are encouraged too. Recently we sponsored to Barwyn and Back’s launch and all our staff has creative side projects they’re working on that I readily champion!
Working this way has taught me that it is about the journey (this is a tired trope, but it’s true). Success isn’t so much a destination as it is about showing up, being responsive and working together to overcome business challenges and to achieve goals.