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.

We’re all aware of The Great Resignation, and its implications should be recognised by employers and employees alike. For both parties, there are solutions and actions to take, but one thing is for certain – prioritising a healthy company culture is no longer merely a nice to have. 

Luckily for tech talent based in the South West, there is a multitude of dynamic tech and digital organisations with a plethora of opportunities for you to take hold of. One of the newest employers to open up shop here is AND Digital; the team has landed in Bristol to open a new Club for the South West. 

Recently ranked 2nd in Glassdoor’s Best Places To Work, they’re currently on the search for the region’s top tech talent to help shape their journey. If you’re thinking about a career change read on to learn more about AND’s culture – and if this piques your interest, come along to their free event at Everyman Cinema on 7 June for a screening of Back to the Future, an immersive VR experience and the chance to speak to AND about their current vacancies

We caught up with Jonathan Postans, Club Executive at AND, who is leading the new Bristol branch based at Runway East, to find out more about life at AND.

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? 

For me, a healthy culture is the most important factor of a progressive and successful company. If you haven’t put in the necessary foundations that support, nurture, empower and listen to your people, then how can you expect them to be passionate about the company’s vision and purpose?

How would you summarise your workplace culture? 

AND is an incredibly people-positive organisation, which starts at the beginning of our award-winning induction week. We talk a lot about culture on day 1 and the words that we identify AND culture most with are ‘Fun’, ‘Friendly’, ‘Open’, ‘Ambitious’ and ‘Learning’. I’ve only been here a few weeks but you can feel these sentiments and behaviours everywhere through every team meeting and individual interaction.

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

Having healthy feedback loops would be one, within an environment where people feel comfortable to speak up, challenge each other and be challenged to help improve ourselves and our work daily. Having a leader-leader (as opposed to leader-follower) mentality would be another, where responsibility and decision making can be entrusted to those closest to the detail. Practical measures like having a high number of referrals and low attrition, both of which we have at AND, would also be great indicators of a healthy culture.

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?

 It’s vitally important. Even though we cannot create, change or fix culture, as leaders it is our responsibility to provide the operating canvas from which a healthy culture can derive. We need to be absolutely clear and succinct about the organisation’s vision, goals and what everyone’s part is in the mission to get there. We need to provide our people with all that they need in order to be successful in their career, which is why AND invest heavily in every single ANDis training through our Academy.

Perhaps most importantly as leaders we need to make sure we are giving control to our people and not taking it, thus allowing our people to develop the company’s culture as ultimately it’s them who will own it. 

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

AND’s company values are ‘Wonder’, ‘Share’ and ‘Delight’. These sit right alongside our cultural identifiers and underpin our company vision. This is presented to every ANDi at their induction, personally delivered by our Founder, Paramjit, so their importance cannot be understated. In everything we do, from client engagements to our social enterprise, we continually ask ourselves if we are reflecting our core values. Are we exploring the impossible? Are we giving back and enabling others to grow? Are we going further than just ‘good’?

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? 

I can only see what we call ‘blended working’ at AND as having a hugely positive effect on our lives at work and at home. We like to match the activity to the location. Certain activities, particularly in software development, may require focussed, quiet time for people to work efficiently. Other activities, like product roadmap planning or discoveries, require a lot of collaboration and for that we want our people to be able to come together as a team. Ultimately, we recognise that people need flexibility in their lives to work in a way that is best for them and if we can provide that level of trust, that will only help to increase our positive culture.

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

There is undeniably a digital skills gap in the UK and we are working really hard with our clients to bridge that gap, but that has to start with our people as well. Having the right digital skills at the organisation level is vital to not only thrive, but to survive. After so much uncertainty and flux, ensuring your people can remain agile and continue to learn is key to a good culture; if your people are recognised, have open and honest communication channels, can make a difference and have the right digital skills you are setting them up for success and then the results will speak for themselves.

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

Probably thinking that workplace culture is cultivated by having a ping-pong table in the office or a happy hour. We need to go a lot deeper than that.

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

I would advise them to look at how they plan to empower their people. For me, empowerment is a terrific motivator and if you can start with addressing how you plan to do that, perhaps by adopting a consent-based decision making process, you will be off to a flying start.

Thanks so much to Jonathan for talking the time to talk to us today. We’d love to see you all there at AND’s Back to YOUR Future event at Everyman Cinema next week, so make sure to sign up now.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.