Developing the right culture is a win-win

By Tarnia Robertson, Ufford Park Woodbridge

Culture is an integral part of any business and can make or break an organisation. It is what people say about you when you’re not listening.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine, Spring 2021
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Ufford Park Woodbridge: For Pleasure, Leisure and Business

Culture isn’t just about the leadership style and the values plastered over the walls, nor is it about the sweet box or pool table in the staff room. Company culture is all these things and more.

A great culture not only lays the foundation for real, tangible growth, but forms the blueprint for a thriving business. It’s important for employee engagement, happiness and retention, and should encourage an environment where people at all levels can contribute and have honest, productive conversations.

Without a positive corporate culture, many employees will struggle to find the real value in their work and that can lead to negative consequences. So, when I took over the reins of Ufford Park six years ago, high on my list of things to do was to create the right culture, from top to bottom.

Putting the right people in the right roles

One of my first jobs was to update the management structure i.e. the right people in the right roles. Having taken over from my parents, I knew I was going to have to work extra hard to prove myself. I don’t think my parents will mind me saying this, but they didn’t actively get involved in the day to day running of the business. Instead, they used their extensive business experience to oversee and manage from a distance.

My vision was to have a fully engaged team, who love their job and coming to work every day. When I started preparing for my new role as MD, I spent two years learning as much as I could about how Ufford Park works; I helped in the kitchen, worked on reception – I even did a night shift!

One thing that immediately stood out was the lack of a formal structure; not unusual in a family business, because they tend to evolve organically, and what might work for 20 staff doesn’t when you now have 150.

Get your people onside

I also learnt that in order to bring about a cultural change, people must buy into it. You need to lead by example, asking your senior team, “You’re on the bus, but are you facing the right way?” And you need to accept that not everyone will want to make the necessary changes needed to be part of that journey. 

As part of management training, together we recreated our core company values. The result is that they resonate more and are not just something displayed on our website or on walls in our offices. My senior team lives and breathes them daily, taking ownership and relaying them down through their teams. They must lead by example!

Our whole recruitment process has also changed. We now hire based on attitude, not just skill. We can always teach a skill but cannot easily change a person’s behaviour.

A culture that facilitates employee happiness means lower staff turnover and better company performance. Employees are loyal and businesses perform better, which ultimately impacts the bottom-line. It’s a win-win.

Building a strong company culture takes time, a lot of hard work and is a never-ending journey, but the benefits are more than worth it!

Tarnia Robertson is Managing Director at Ufford Park Woodbridge Hotel Golf and Spa, an independently owned family business with a Quality in Tourism 3-star Silver accreditation. uffordpark.co.uk

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