Insight: How to manage a ‘cosy culture’ at work

Written by Georgia Tindale

Chances are, if you are reading this article, whether you realise it or not, you may be part of a ‘cosy’ culture at work. Alongside the big players in the yachting industry, there are a large number of shipyards in the Netherlands with between 50-200 employees. Often family-owned and offering their clients the best of Dutch craftsmanship, these companies usually have a dynamic that can be described as ‘cosy’.

Critical Minds team So, what is a ‘cosy culture?

’In short, this can be defined as a culture in which employees know each other very well, work effectively together – as a result of short communication lines and increased autonomy in how they operate – and experience a high sense of ownership towards their work. But what are the pros and cons of this particular culture for a business, and how does it affect both the employees and employers? Here, we speak to the experts at the project and consultancy management firm Critical Minds to delve deeper into this question, which is a hot topic of discussion in the ever-growing superyacht industry. 

Cosying up - The pros: 

  • Loyal employees. As Critical Minds explain, a key advantage of a cosy culture is that, thanks to the autonomy people experience whilst working in this environment, employees feel strongly connected to their work and benefit from a clear sense of ownership, thus leading to motivated workers with high loyalty.
  • Knowledge and skills sharing. Thanks to this strong sense of loyalty, employees are more likely to do more than one task, meaning that an engineer might also undertake some work prep and a sales worker might also do some engineering. Indeed, the planner in a project might also act as a controller. This is in line with the lean principles of  ‘de-specialisation’ which lead to continuity in business processes.  The result of this? Employees will often have a greater understanding of each others’ tasks, resulting in more knowledge sharing and fewer critical tasks for the company.
  • Staff retention. Employees often work for a long period of time within this kind of culture because they feel at home. They can also often easily switch between roles and tasks as there is overlap between them, resulting in new challenges.

Critical Minds team memberThe challenges of a ‘cosy culture’: 

  • Sharing the load. In a ‘cosy culture’, people share the workload by helping each other, resulting in tasks and responsibilities shifting between roles. As a consequence, responsibilities can get blurry, meaning that people complain more about a lack of clarity within a cosy culture. This is particularly common when projects grow in volume and/or complexity.
  • Mutual growth. Although managers may be accustomed to keeping up with everything themselves, this won’t necessarily work indefinitely. Today’s market innovations are faster than one man can keep up with and therefore demand a different management style. 
  • Keeping up with tech. It cannot be denied: the world is changing at a rapid pace. Software is developing faster than ever and the updated technology used on each project is becoming increasingly complex. As a result, employers are increasingly relying on highly specialised workers which they can utilise to the fullest in order to keep up with this turbo-charged market. This can be a challenge to maintain whilst still keeping the feeling of a ‘cosy culture.’
  • In short, everyone in the company needs to flourish in order to stay ahead. This is achieved by balancing the freedom and autonomy people have in a ‘cosy’ culture with different external factors. Find out how below: 

Critical Minds team memberTop tips for managing a cosy culture

Based on their research and field experience, Critical Minds offer four tips for successfully managing a ‘cosy culture’:

1. Set clear boundaries

  • Although your employees can be trusted to work with freedom, if everyone goes off in different directions, you will struggle to maintain the pace you need. 
  • It may feel contradictory to have boundaries in a freer work culture, but this is not the case. Imagine water flowing in the ocean and in a river: in the ocean, the water can go in any direction, whereas in a river, all of the water is streaming in the same direction. Putting it simply, boundaries help your employees to stream together towards mutual goals and outcomes. 
  • Decide as a management team to what level your company needs boundaries in order to best optimise these cohesive results.

2. Behave accordingly

  • Communicate these boundaries well and behave accordingly – This may seem easy, but make sure you give yourself some time to practice! 
  • Be aware that the boundaries you set are translated at all levels of the organisation. What does it mean for a certain employee when you incorporate boundaries into the company? You can also ask yourself, how do these boundaries affect someone’s day-to-day job? 
  • Lead by example. Think you don’t have any influence? Think again! You can check this by identifying your own (bad) habits as a director or manager (such as being late for meetings) and then tracking how often you see this reflected back to you in the company. 

3. Always maintain balance

  • There is no denying that a culture of ownership is incredibly important for any business: no company can survive without it. However, maintaining a balanced approach to work is also vital. 
  • We know that the route to developing a healthy culture of ownership is never straightforward: there will always be bumps in the road. If you experience these and then subsequently learn from them, it means that your business is working! 

4. Create a learning organisation 

  • If you are looking to keep up with today’s rapid pace of development and innovation, your organisation needs to match this by constantly adapting and developing itself. 
  • How can this be achieved? By creating an organisation in which learning and development are embedded into every layer and are also visible in practice, through reflection, feedback, knowledge sharing and so on. 
  • The result? Learning in both behaviour and practice which enables you to get the most out of your most valuable asset: your employees. 

Critical Minds team memberKeen to learn more?

If you want to realise your dream project with the expert help of Critical Minds, get in touch with the company directly using the contact details below.

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