Outstanding culture requires a connected strategy: what our workplace ecosystem can learn from cities

By Hana Skreta, Principal, Zurich

Taking the idea that a city works as an entire eco system, each part necessary to create the whole, translates into our workplaces with ease. Similar to a city, with both outside and inside influences, creating an environment that is comfortable and promotes wellbeing is delicate and requires focus and work. Zurich, the business capital of Switzerland, rates number one in the world for inclusion, according to the Prosperity & Inclusion City Seal and Awards (PICSA) Index. Inclusion is an important, if not the most important, factor in delivering a great workplace culture.

Although economic development and inclusion can be seen as separate concerns, they are in fact closely linked in terms of cities: governments cannot support people without healthy economic growth, and economic growth cannot be maintained without people engaging in the economic life of the city. Alongside economic considerations, governments also have a responsibility to try and manage economies to work for everyone, therefore creating a successful society. The index aimed to measure not just economic growth but also the quality and distribution of wealth across each city’s population. It looked at metrics including GDP per capita, personal safety, education, internet access, housing affordability, the environmental quality and healthcare. The elements the awards measured all offer the same thing: security or safety of environment. 15 of the top 20 cities in the PICSA ranking were in Europe, with Zurich taking the top spot.

Commentary on how to build and maintain a successful company culture all reflect on the same idea: that by being connected to each other, by finding a sense of belonging and fellowship in our professional communities, we will have the foundation for a successful culture within our own businesses. It is paramount, above all else, that we create a sense of tribe or belonging to encourage openness and honesty and create an environment where everyone in a team feels they can contribute and are working towards a common goal.

We can build culture by a steady stream of positive messages and impactful actions to our audience. How we, as individuals, behave in situations will dictate the behaviour of others around us. Developing a positive and inclusive strategy can be tough. Some day-to-day business processes are challenging or dutiful rather than exciting and engaging, but the key is to maintain an open and attentive response regardless of how positive or negative the situation. These signals will promote a sense of team and cooperation from the wider group and begin to exclude selfish and single minded behaviour.

Creating an environment where people are allowed the opportunity to really contribute is often built from providing an accessible space where its okay to be a little bit exposed. Asking for openness and honesty means building a framework of trust and respect where people feel they can allow themselves to be unguarded and vulnerable. The most successful cities in the study were delivering an inclusive economy, led by governments but participated in by the city’s population. By default, disruption in a city ecosystem leads to exclusion and the same principle applies to a workplace.






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