8 Tips for Building Team Culture in Your Organisation/Business
When people ask me what my proudest business achievement is, a lot of things come to mind. Growth, client account wins, office renovations, the grazing boards I made last week… etc. However, the thing that stands out the most, is without a doubt, the team culture we have at Milkbar. And it’s one of the hardest elements of the business to maintain.
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to any factor in running a business, but after four short years of running Milkbar, I thought it would be nice to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt and some of the practices we’ve put into place to achieve the culture we have today.
“Team culture is more than a ping pong table.” This is a quote I once heard and couldn’t agree with more. (For the record, Milkbar Digital does not own a ping pong table).
1. Team culture starts at the top
And that goes for both positive and negative. Have you ever noticed how team morale is so easily affected by one person’s mood? I think it’s truly important to always provide positive energy to your team and apply a ‘we can do it’ team attitude, especially during tough moments. Leadership is more than just delegating – it’s about setting an example and empowering your team. This also means empowering others to lead. I certainly couldn’t do it alone.
2. Invest in your team
Know your team members, and know what drives them. At Milkbar, each team member is granted an annual professional development budget, which they can use to upskill in areas of their choice. It may include attending conferences, workshops or even doing a part-time course. It’s important to follow through and help guide your team members on their professional journeys, even in areas that provide personal happiness to them and may not directly relate to their exact job description.
3. Share the knowledge
We also have in place a practice of sharing with the wider team, whenever someone goes to a special event or workshop. That team member has a responsibility to come back, put together a short presentation, and share their new knowledge with everyone else. It ensures we are all constantly developing and gives the leading team member the opportunity to sharpen their presentation and public speaking skills.
4. Schedule it all in
It’s easy to say “Yeah we’ll do that, yeah we will get to that” – but it’s important to be held accountable. At Milkbar, everyone has a formal monthly catch-up with their manager, and in this session, everything from workload, team spirit and general happiness is discussed. In this meeting, their professional development plan is tracked – everyone has 3 – 4 key areas they wish to develop in, and realistic plans are set for how they will a) achieve these goals and b) what the KPI will be that lets us know they have achieved it. We also set time frames and deadlines.
5. Feedback is crucial
Listen to your team members. The cues may not always be verbal too. It’s important to always have an ear and an eye open to see how the team as a whole is feeling. If there’s been a massive period of hard grunt work, we will always make sure we put in a fun team event at the end of it, as something to work towards and look forward to. I try to be as open to new suggestions and feedback from my team too – this can range from formal work processes we have, through to how we celebrate birthdays. No single human has all the answers, and it is important to remember to listen to those around you.
6. Celebrate the wins
Friday WIP is one of my most favourite meetings. It’s our chance to sit down as a whole group, every Friday at 4pm, usually over a wine and a cheese platter, and each team member goes through what they have gotten up to during the week. It’s important that everyone understands each other’s day-to-day and is also helpful for troubleshooting and brainstorming. It’s also very therapeutic! Each member also has to announce their “Win of the Week” – what they’re most proud of, which is a good opportunity to share an achievement.
7. Be collaborative
An example of this would be our Taste of the Week YouTube series, or our soon-to-launch Milkbar Podcast. We ensure that all team members are given opportunities to be involved in these projects and they have been the perfect way for us to get to know each other and have a laugh. Taste of the Week was never intended to break the Internet, but it’s quickly become a highlight for all of us, and has also given our clients the chance to see a more laidback side to Milkbar.
8. Fun stuff is fun
Granted, we work in an industry where having fun is kind of a given. However, never to be taken for granted, we try to instill a “work hard, play hard” mantra. I respect my team members, give quite a lot of autonomy and expect that they will be professional, work hard and go the extra mile for our business. In return, there’s the expectation that we will also give them an environment that’s supportive, educational and easy to love!
Every quarter we ensure we plan a fun, surprise team building activity. In the past, this has included everything from Paint & Sip to Boozy Board Games to Axe Throwing and most recently, a movie making challenge.
The $100 Movie Trailer Challenge was one of our most fun activities yet and really allowed us to showcase our ‘team spirit’. We randomly drew names out of a hat and each team of 3 or 4 was allocated a 30-second movie trailer and a $100 budget in which they could use to recreate it, frame by frame. We had 4 hours to plan, shop, shoot and edit the clips, which were then shared over a pizza viewing party. Here are the results!
So to summarise – team culture is never set in stone – it evolves with every new recruit and every change in dynamic. For me, it’s about keeping it at the forefront of my mind and making sure that business decisions being made, are always considering wider impacts on the team as a whole. A happy team produces better work, I don’t think that can be denied.
Sam is the founder and director of Milkbar Digital. In her spare time she loves wine, cooking ridiculously complex recipes, building Lego, playing Nintendo and hanging out with her pets Indi (cat) and Winnie (dog).
Milkbar Digital is a Melbourne social media and digital marketing agency here to help business small and large. If you need help with your social media or don’t know where to begin, get in touch!