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Negotiating the Value of Company Culture

We’ve all read articles around the importance of workplace harmony but how idealistic is that for an agency that gets bought out by a global organisation?

In 2015 I got a new job, joining a relatively big team of 160, working across 3 offices. In 2016, we were bought out by a large organisation with nearly 400,000 employees, working across 120 countries.

For existing employees this surely meant only one thing; The death of company culture… #RIP

When deciding to move to Amsterdam, one of the key factors for me when looking for a new position (besides finding an exciting design offering) was the work/life balance. I was leaving a job and team that I loved in the UK, to live in a place where I would have no immediate friends or social life; some of my closest friends are people I’ve met through work, so naturally I was hoping for the same here. Equally, I was moving to a new environment that I wanted to enjoy and explore; I didn’t want a job that was going to take over my life and interfere with my inevitable new hobby of ‘Jenever tasting’.

Now cut to two days into the new job. I’m sat on a 13hr coach trip to Andorra for a weekend of skiing with my new team. As terrifying as being in the middle of nowhere with 160 people I’d only just met was, I instantly knew I’d made a good decision.


Poster by Anthony Burrill. It’s not just a hipster poster, it’s a mantra all workplaces should live by.

For many companies ‘culture’ is simply a buzzword or a tick list that has to be met in order to look ‘current’ on the face of things; Friday beers [check], FIFA tournaments [check], ice cream on hot days [check]. But the culture of a workplace is much more than that. It’s about the people that run the company, that genuinely want their workers to be happy. It’s those people that create the personality and set the tone for the rest of us. They’re the thing that employees invest in.

Our leadership team share the floor with us and work side-by-side with the people they employ. They see day-to-day where people’s individual talents lie and hone their positions to ferment that; giving people the opportunity to work to their fullest potential. Flexible working hours (not unusual these days) also help to build trust between teams, whilst letting people live by their own personal schedules, however demanding. This alone disintegrates any type of hierarchy and makes people feel valued; as well as allowing them to witness the workplace dynamics firsthand and make improvements where necessary.

With this being said, the large org takeover meant that as employees, we were all left wondering how this might affect things. We’d been so used to this relationship between us and the owners that we couldn’t see how a transition of this scale could manage to maintain this mentality?

“If we were motivated by money, we would have sold the company a long time ago and ended up on a beach.” – Larry Page, Co-Founder of Google

With an existing internal ‘company culture team’ in place to keep morale alive (made up from existing employees from all departments — myself included), coupled with the minimal fear from the founders that the takeover might affect the culture in some way, I had good faith that it definitely wouldn’t.

From this point on, the cultivation of culture and the motivation to push it increased hugely; both from the founders and employees. All this without any real knowledge as to whether the takeover was ever going to affect it in the first place. This alone, demonstrates the importance of working relationships and how it can affect the direction your company goes in; as well as the attitude of the people you work with.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group

Maintaining the culture of a rapidly growing company will obviously prove difficult, especially with the expansion of individual teams and offices but if that company is controlled by people who care, they’ll keep accommodating whenever necessary. Being taken over on such a large scale may have increased admin and formalities but it’s changed little else so far due to the strong foundations that were already in place.

Here’s a few more reasons why working for a place with this mindset will improve your life — yes, LIFE.

1. It’ll make you work harder.

2. You’ll be working with the best talent (great culture attracts great people).

3. You’ll build friendships; making your job easier as there’ll be less conflicts.

4. Less of these friends you’ve made will leave because they’ll be invested in the company.

5. You’ll be prouder of your work and the workplace itself.

6. Knowledge sharing will increase due to increased enthusiasm.

7. You won’t be working for someone you hate. [insert :smiley:]

No matter what size company you work for or hope to work for, remember that culture is a huge aspect that you should pay close attention to. When interviewing, don’t forget to ask questions that can help you gauge the environment you might be working in and the people you might be working for. An interview is as much to see if the job fits you, as it is for the employer to workout if you fit their role.

Written by Leanne Pickering – designer at MOBGEN.