12 Aug 2022Blog

Solita Culture – Part 5: An easy-going cultural atmosphere embraces love over fear  

The topics of the blog series will be diving into diversity, autonomy and professionalism, freedom of opinions and courage, experiments and learning, an easy-going atmosphere, and putting life and people first in modern work culture. Here are the previous posts on the series: 

“Solita hires people who care. It applies to our leadership and management; our People Leads are very good at seeing the human side in everything. All this makes Solita a safe and friendly place to work. You can show up exactly the way you are, and you will be included and accepted.”

This is how Service Designer Anu Nokua, Data Engineer Erik Kaunismäki, People lead Suvi Rovio and People & Project Lead Rodolfo Pedraza describe Solita culture. Feeling safe is the prerequisite of feeling laid-back, and relaxed and making the whole atmosphere at work easy-going. I agree – and during these 3,5 years with Solita, I experienced it myself from day one. And it shows still – even if we are now a much bigger community and we are spread to six countries already. Let me give you an example that really tells the story.

When I started to write this post, I leaned on our community (as I very often do) and posted to our open Slack channel with more than 1500 Solitans, that I need help – that I have writer’s block. Immediately I got many replies. On my question about “what easygoingness means to Solitans”, was this comment the most eye-opening for me:

“The fact someone writing a blog post openly writing about “writers block” in a companywide slack channel – and people are happy to brainstorm ideas :)”

So – although we are all high-quality professionals, we are also easy-going and run things smoothly. We think that work needs to be both challenging and fun and we encourage an informal work environment.

But what is then informal? How can you grasp and describe something so intangible? I think these descriptions put it well in words – comments I got when informally asked:

  • You can always approach anyone with a question, comment or just a general chat, no matter their position/title.
  • The first few minutes of an important sales case meeting is about puns and jokes.
  • Content being valued more than the form. When content is valued over form, content can take any form. No need for suits and ties, no need for externally enforced social protocols, no need for micro-management, no need for strict cadence.
  • Trying out new ways of working does not need some kind of a process or permissions.
  • Come as you are.
  • It is about when people really listen to each other and are able to help them to think & and act on next steps.
  • In an onboarding talk with one newcomer when their probation period was ending, one thing they said really hit me the right way: If someone has a problem or an issue, they are unable to handle by themselves (no matter if related to their work or not) they feel safe to ask help in Slack or directly from someone. And as a newcomer it means A LOT to see everyone no matter how senior doing it all the time. And the best part? People actually answer! In masses! The person said that they’ve never seen something like that anywhere else and they are amazed by it.
  • We have several so-called hobby channels in Slack and even channels dedicated to memes and misc. Not-so-serious stuff.
  • I think we in Solita tend to go naturally towards the solutions that “make sense”, and not trying to come up with a risk matrix containing everything that can go wrong. I think it is in line with the fact that we actually genuinely trust people.
  • We are people and persons before we are our titles.
  • You can wear wooly socks in office. And be goofy/joke/laugh your head off in meetings without losing your credibility.
  • An easy-going cultural atmosphere embraces love over fear and leans forward into the future as opposed to backwards to defend what is.

This shows also in our employee engagement survey, where Solitans give an average score of 8.9 on the question “I can count on my coworkers to help when needed”. Also, easygoingness with leaders seems to be there as Solitans give an average score of 9.0 to the question “I feel I can speak to my manager about any changes happening at work” and 9.1 to the question on the style of communication: “My manager communicates openly and honestly with me”.

To me, easygoingness is just what the word stands for. Feeling of things happening with laid back feeling, no need to be anxious or to worry too much. To me, it means that I can have a challenge ahead, but I am not alone with it. It does not mean I don’t have any worries or troubles at work, but rather that the approach I and the community take towards them is easy, laid-back, solution-oriented and caring.

How do we then as community support this value in action? The biggest I would raise is trust. We trust our people – and it really shows: On an average of 9.0, Solitans feel they are given enough freedom to decide how to do their work. Also, as it was stated in the comments I got, people feel that trying out new ways of working does not need a process or permissions.

Another thing is the approachability of everyone. You can reach out easily to anyone for help, sparring or just to get someone who listens and shows interest. No matter the title, location or background.

The third thing I would emphasise is the fact that we talk a lot about the ways of working. So not only the topics as such but also how to get everyone interested along, how to be as transparent as possible, how to be ready to admit the mistakes we all do in the ways we engage/not engage others from time to time and learn together from these, not by judging, but by caring.