Risk and Reward in Workplace Culture

EightyTwenty is Partisan’s fortnightly roundtable event. Here, we invite business leaders connected with the built environment to join us for breakfast and to discuss the issues that they find important and interesting.

This week, EightyTwenty looked at workplace culture, and how people involved in the built environment can be subject to the same kinds of pressures as the businesses they serve.

Risk and Reward

Regardless of the size or nature of different businesses, the one thing they have in common is having to face certain challenges, and to manage the risk that comes with them.

The whole issue of risk and reward is part of a growing recognition that culture is an important aspect of business. Culture drives behaviours and affects wellbeing in the workplace, just as it can drive innovation. Culture is also a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to successful placemaking.

Is it right to make the connection between risk and reward? Many smaller businesses feel they have to operate on the principle that the greater the risk, the greater the reward.

This approach can drastically cut down the decision-making process, but it can increase the risk of making the wrong decision too. Taking on the wrong kind of work can prove disastrous.

Is this why larger businesses can appear more risk-averse?

Is No the Biggest Challenge of All?

Turning down work can feel like a massive challenge. It goes against the instincts that have driven you to grow in the first place.

However, it might also be the right decision.

Developing a strong brand means understanding how you are positioning yourself in the marketplace, and what kind of clients, and projects, you are looking for.

Your brand values should determine your approach to your work but also the principles governing what kind of work you take on.

What you might lose in turning something down, you could also gain in bolstering your brand and appealing more strongly to the kind of clients you are aiming at.

Principles can be a strong selling point.

But one of the pressures that can test these principles is the need for growth.

Why Do We Want to Grow?

When a business focuses on profitability at the start of its journey, growth is the thing that helps drive this.

Initially, this is about growing markets and sales, but as these things expand, increasing profits, so the business must expand too, to ensure it has the right resources.

But growth is itself a risk. This can apply to smaller companies taking on the wrong work, in the pursuit of growth. They might find themselves overstretched, and having to look for ways to fuel their growth that they have not planned properly or budgeted for.

It comes back to culture. The bedrock of a business comes from how it defines its culture and, when it needs to grow, it can help bring in the talent it needs.

A key aspect of this is the increasing prominence of social value. The next wave of talent is one that is prioritising values over monetary reward.

In the built environment, attracting this talent may require more of an emphasis of how a project contributes to the wider culture, rather than its size and scope.

Is Replacing Talent Affordable?

When an employee chooses to leave, they take their accumulated knowledge and experience with them.

It represents a loss of investment, as well as a depletion in resources.

The risk here is not growth itself, but having the means to make growth happen.

The benefits of having a powerful, clearly defined brand are that this can help attract fresh talent, not based solely on being able to offer higher salaries than competing companies.

Just as brand differentiation allows companies to compete in the marketplace on a basis other than price, so it can help support them in recruitment.

A good brand listens, and by doing this, builds trust, both with employees and clients.

This helps build healthier workplace cultures, which are also crucial for the overall wellbeing of people living in the urban environment.

Our Guests This Time

Our guests at this Partisan Eighty Twenty breakfast event included:

Mark Dewhurst, Arcadis
Jason Eccles, Artform
Neil Eccles, Rochdale Development Agency
Helen Gribbon, Renaissance
Lisa McFarlane, Seven Architecture
Jon Moister, Curtins
Alan Simpson, 10architect
Teresa Wilson, The Unstoppable Artist

“It was a great start to the day. Thank you for the invitation. The conversation was good and I took away a few pointers from it in terms of assisting our team at Renaissance.”
Helen Gribbon

“A hugely engaging and stimulating start to the day. Thought leadership and intelligent social discussion at its best. Best of all, is the chance to meet again and continue the debate and sharing of ideas.”
Alan Simpson

“Thanks for the invite guys, really engaging discussion and a great mix of people around the table. Keep up the good work!”
Jason Eccles

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Eighty Twenty is a once a month invite only event for business leaders within the built environment - hosted by Partisan

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