In a climate where the tech and digital skills gap means exceptional candidates are hard to come by, where there is increased demand for exciting company culture and a good work-life balance, employers must step up to the mark.

Luckily for people based in the South West, there is a multitude of dynamic tech and digital organisations to choose from – namely the 2021 nominees for The SPARKies Best Place to Work award.

To showcase these fantastic companies during Talent Month at TechSPARK, we teamed up with category sponsors Interaction, the strategic workplace design and build experts, to chat with the shortlisted about their take on nourishing a healthy company culture.

Up first is Storm Consultancy, a digital technology agency that helps startups, scaleups and corporate innovators take advantage of opportunities in tech and digital. We caught up with Claudia May, Marketing Manager at Storm.

How would you summarise your workplace culture?

A work life balance is key. Your personal life comes first because when you’re at your best, you thrive.

In a world where you can leave a job on a Friday, get a laptop sent out over the weekend and start a new remote role on Monday doing roughly the same work, how important actually is culture?

Honestly, it really depends on the individual. Some people value working from home and some value being part of a physical team. Usually, when you apply for a job, you look at the culture to see if it suits your needs to be fulfilled in both your work and personal life. It’s important to remember that remote working and not seeing your colleagues is a form of culture that suits certain people.

Our love for the office is the company culture that Storm sells itself on. It’s helpful when hiring like-minded teammates and even our clients have taken on some of our attributes and implemented them in their own companies.

How do you know when you have a strong/good culture? What are the subtle signs?

The team engages when you have a good culture. They don’t avoid communal activities and they actively look for ways to be interactive with their colleagues. The bosses are approachable and never dismiss constructive criticism from employees if they feel something isn’t working for them.

The biggest showcase of a good culture and a happy workplace is employee retainment. Our staff turnover is very low for the 12 years we’ve been in business.

What’s the role of leadership in creating culture? To what extent is it their responsibility and to what extent does it belong to the people in the organisation?

The role of leadership is just that. To lead and set an example. If you show you work hard and play hard, then you make that attainable for everyone else in the organisation. It’s up to the leaders to employ team members who fit what you want to achieve in culture and it’s up to employees to engage. If you’re doing it well then they will.

How do you make your company values come alive, rather than just the names of your meeting rooms?

Our biggest values at Storm are balance and making sure everyone is fulfilled with their job role. To achieve a balanced lifestyle, the team works 4.5 day weeks at full pay (no one’s that productive on a Friday afternoon anyway).

We also have an unlimited annual leave policy meaning the team doesn’t burn out and come to work ready to create awesome products for our clients. Half year reviews and an open door policy means there’s always an opportunity to talk about what you want to achieve in your role and with our flat management structure, you’re in charge of your own workload and how you execute it.

As a result of the ‘new normal’ our working practices have changed. What do you see the impacts of hybrid and flexible working being on company culture?

At Storm, we have had many meetings on this topic. We got put into groups to debate this topic and then regrouped and debated again. The conclusion was, that three core days a week in the office are valuable unless you need to get your head down on a project.

Then on the other two days, you can work from where you like unless you have in-person client meetings. The three core days allow us to still implement the fun activities that the team enjoys and get that face to face interaction we love. If we went fully remote we would lose a lot of what makes us a special company to work for.

What are the key considerations when trying to build a culture digitally?

  1. Seamless communication across your chosen platforms. Be reachable when you say that you’ll be reachable.
  2. Create fun and engaging team building activities. In lockdown we had a pastry chef teach us how to make lemon meringue eclairs over zoom. A fun bakealong experience.
  3. Regular check-ins with the team. As a team and individually.

What do companies (or what have you) got wrong about workplace culture?

It’s not just about creating a fun environment. The most important thing you can have in a company is mutual respect across the entire team.

What’s the one thing you’d advise other organisations to think really hard about when considering their culture?

Employees come first. The output of work is far better when you have a happy team building something for a client. When people feel valued they’ll want to give their all to something.