Shaping working practices that work in practice

How to build and shape a working practice that works in practice. Here, Director of Employment at Beyond Corporate Law, Lucy Flynn, breaks down the process of shaping an effective working practice into 6 steps.

Where to start? Well, many suggest that shaping effective business practice begins with shaping business culture; namely:

  • deciding on the strategy of the business
  • identifying the core values and beliefs which align with, and will help achieve, the desired outcomes of the business
  • threading these values and beliefs into all aspects of the business

So how can a business shape its culture in practice?

  1. Be Consistent and be clear

Once there is a decision on how the business goes about things, then this should be communicated to staff, customers and working partners.

It is generally accepted that employees who understand what is expected of them and who are given clear parameters within which they are to work are more able to achieve their goals.  Clarity and consistency brings stability to the workplace and being open and transparent with staff, not only in terms of the overall strategy of the business and the team in which they work, but also about their individual:

  • Workload
  • Hours of work
  • Reporting lines
  • Place of work
  • Scope of duties
  • Targets
  • Pay and benefits
  • Time off

helps them to ‘own’ their work, do it in a way which works for them but encourages them to work in a way which aligns with the culture of the business.

  1. Do as I do

Or lead by example.  A leader with a face like thunder entering the workplace on a Monday morning can set the tone for the day, the week, the month, the year.  Conversely, managers and staff who are positive spread positivity in the workplace.

This is not to say that leaders should never share concerns, low feelings or worries with the staff – indeed, managers who are open and honest about struggles can encourage employees to be similarly open and in doing so help create a culture of trust and empathy.

However, negative attitudes from business leaders can affect morale over time and will contribute to the culture; managers who lead by example by doing what they can to retain a positive professional attitude while being open about challenges – and working together to overcome them – can have real impact on employee engagement.

  1. Hire the right people

It sounds simple but make sure the business hires for culture as well as skillset.  Having the appropriate skills criteria mapped out for the role from the outset, along with the key values of the business, and communicating these in the advertisement stage, is the first step in effective hiring.  However, casting a wide net for recruitment, looking outside of the normal recruitment avenues and even interviewing the wildcard can reap benefits and help discover the right personalities for the business.

  1. Communication – it’s a two-way street

It’s all well and good telling staff and customers about the culture of the business, but it’s just as important to listen to feedback about the culture.  Asking staff about what is going well, and what is not going so well, listening to this feedback and taking action to improve is very important.

Staff can be reluctant to provide honest comments if there is fear that they will be criticised or shamed for it.  As such, seeking information within anonymous questionnaires, regular one-to-ones, mentoring programmes and all-hands meetings – and listening and acting on the information provided – help to encourage all-ways communication, build bonds between staff and managers, establish trust in the business and cement the values of the company at all levels.

  1. Be their champion

Encouraging staff to improve and succeed, and celebrating the achievements of the people in the business in an open and positive way, can help demonstrate a real commitment from the business for its employees to grow and flourish in their careers.

Supporting staff development by enabling access to the right tools for the job, and providing training at all levels not only ensures that the staff have the requisite skills to thrive, it shows them that they are valued by the business and that their achievements and their potential is important.

Recognition can come in many forms; from a quiet pat on the back to a financial bonus, from applause in a meeting to social media posts about promotions – all staff want to feel appreciated and it’s important for a business to work out how to effectively reward and motivate its staff in line with its culture.

  1. Don’t be afraid to flex

If something isn’t working, it’s important to understand why but it’s also important not to be afraid of change.   If a practice is ineffective, lacks impact or has negative outcomes then it makes no sense to continue with it just because it should align with the strategy or culture.  The chances are that if a practice is not working, it isn’t a good fit for the culture, or the culture isn’t where the business thinks it is.

There will be lessons that can be learned, and small adjustments can sometimes make a big difference, but with communication and engagement, failures with practices or initiatives can often be turned into opportunities to improve.

Strategy changes over time and culture develops with a business and its people – maintaining an open mind, communicating effectively and keeping people at the top of the agenda can help a business to understand, develop and implement practices (and a culture) which work.


By Lucy Flynn