Skye Jackson, Ampol: Good culture, it’s just good business

In her latest opinion piece, Skye Jackson, General Manager Merchandise, Ampol, writes about the importance of building a positive and inclusive culture in our new normal of remote and office working.

As I sat down to write about the benefits of positive culture for my presentation at the C&I Expo and Symposium, I reflected on just how much more challenging it has been to drive positive culture through the impacts of COVID-19. Remote working adds a layer of difficulty to driving an engaging culture, and with our teams now splitting time between the office and the home, some of these challenges will be here to stay.

Firstly, the case for positive culture is a simple one. Research by Deloitte suggests that 94 per cent of executives and 88 per cent of employees believe that culture is important to a business’ success. In addition, a positive culture is citied to have a significant impact on areas like recruitment, where it can entice talent to join or drive loyalty with the talent you already have. 

Culture is important to driving results in your business. While the ability to influence culture has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, the extent to which these challenges will continue will remain to be seen as we redefine the ‘new normal’.

For me, one of the simplest and most important aspects to driving positive culture is about providing direction and defining what you’re trying to achieve – the ‘What’. You may call it your business objectives, business plan or goals, whatever you call it, the most important part is making it clear to your team. In addition to setting these objectives, it’s equally important to report on progress regularly and have transparency around performance, particularly with objectives that are linked to individual bonuses and renumeration.

Potentially even more important to the ‘What’ is the ‘Why’ – the meaning behind what you’re trying to achieve. This is often represented by your core values or mission statement. How you bring this to life with your team is integral in driving culture. For Ampol, our purpose is ‘Powering better journeys today and tomorrow’ and a great example of how we bring this to life is our value ‘never stop caring’. We bring this to life through the Ampol Foundation that supports organisations including The Smith Family, Surf Life Saving Australia, Clontarf Foundation and Stars Foundation. We also give our people the opportunity to give back through workplace giving and volunteering leave.

If we have the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’, as leaders it’s then important to think about how to foster an environment that enables people to connect. Simply spending time together and getting to know each other as individuals is an important part of developing a strong positive culture. This is exactly where we have been challenged with COVID-19 over the past two years. In the early phases of COVID-19, we could rely on the relationships we had already developed, but as time went on and our teams naturally changed, we were challenged to find new ways to build social connections with new team members in a remote environment. At Ampol, we created opportunities for ‘remote’ social activities, which included virtual Pilates classes, a dumpling making class, trivia, and games nights. These were great ways to keep people engaged through the challenging weeks of lockdown.

Personally, I’m very happy that we’re moving back to a ‘new normal’ of face-to-face activities and I appreciated being able to have a Christmas party last year!

The challenge as we move to a new normal of flexible work environments is finding the right balance of face-to-face versus virtual interactions and ensuring we can be inclusive of those who aren’t able to attend in person. I now have a team that’s spread over two states, so the luxury of having a beer after work on a Friday each month is no longer a reality. For me, it’s about ensuring we have enough ‘social’ time in our meetings. For example, breaking up our monthly team meetings with a ‘getting to know you’ segment (which I hope is self-explanatory)! They’re usually full of laughter and help break up the agenda and keep everyone engaged through the session (another challenging by-product of virtual meetings). Which is my final point on positive culture… make sure you’re finding ways to make it fun!

This article was written by Skye Jackson, General Manager Merchandise, Ampol, for the April / May issue of Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine.

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