Recession-proofing your SME's culture - The People First Culture Series


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We’re back with edition 3 of The People First Culture Series – this time focusing on all things ‘culture agility’ related.

External influences in our economic and global environment will impact business, people, and therefore our company cultures. And let’s face it, SMEs continue to have plenty of challenges in 2023 – the word ‘permacrisis’ has even been coined as the new state of play for us all.

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And so, like the previous editions of this series, we recently checked the pulse amongst 1435 SME employees from across the UK.*

The good news is, 45% of SME employees say that the pandemic changed their company culture for the better – so it’s crucial that people and businesses don’t lose this momentum when things get tough.

From how to be more agile, to the crucial benefits of collaboration, and the key to psychological safety, this edition is packed with ideas for action from Company Culture Coach, Lizzie Benton.

Read the full report to see how your business can thrive, and continue to put your people first in these uncertain times. 


Creating an agile culture in the workplace

Creating a culture of agility enables your business to continuously adapt to external challenges, be it a global pandemic, or a recession. Regardless of your industry or sector, your people and your company culture will always be influenced by what’s happening in the world around them.

Only 46% of SME employees would describe their company culture as ‘agile’, with 33% who said their company culture defaults to the familiar.

When businesses favour legacy and the familiar, they ultimately ignore alternative ways of doing things that can dramatically improve performance. If the culture you’ve created doesn’t move with the changing world, it becomes out of touch and woefully unproductive.

It is a change or be changed situation, and as a business you must create an agile company culture that can bounce back from the challenges that will occur.

Download the report to learn more about how to achieve an agile work culture, with 5 steps to get you started.

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The importance of collaboration in the workplace

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A culture of collaboration generates fresh ideas and solves problems.

When time is against us, it can feel like a luxury to come together to openly share ideas, and even more so when priorities shift, and team capacity becomes stretched. But collaboration is a vital ingredient if businesses are to be more adaptable.

The perpetual cycle of missing collaborative time together can gradually wear away on people and the business. Frustrations start to rise which leads to disengagement and a lack of productivity. From our research, 40% of SME employees revealed that they try to collaborate, but ideas get lost in the day-to-day.

If you don’t have a culture where everyone’s voice is heard and where they can share meaningful ideas, you have a culture that doesn’t believe in continuous improvement – which can be dangerous.

Download the report for 5 steps towards a collaborative work environment.

How to ensure psychological safety at work

Psychological safety is the bedrock of a strong company culture. If you don’t have this, you can’t adapt or become agile in the first place.

Cultures where fear rules are detrimental to the health of the company and to the people. It’s well-documented that in these types of cultures, productivity and engagement is at an all-time low and employee turnover is high.

In our research, only 35% of UK SME employees feel very safe sharing ideas, with 41% concerned about how their ideas will be received. For both agility and collaboration to excel in any company culture, psychological safety is the prerequisite. 

Regardless of where you think you are in the levels of psychological safety, this is one area you can never work enough on.

Download the report to find out more about psychological safety in the workplace.

*Opinium Research was commissioned to conduct a nationwide online survey of 1435 adults working in UK SMEs. The survey was issued during the period 6-13th December 2022.

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