Culture is a chocolate covered ice cream

Ben Watts - CEO, wattsnext
(Link to wattsnext Blog here)


Intrinsically we know what workplace culture is…………don’t we?

The character or personality of an organisation? An excitement, a feeling, a vibe or an energy people want to be around? Enthusiasm, efficiency and fun?

Workplace culture is a complicated and vastly underrated business differentiator.

Everyone wants a good one

We hate bad ones

Business owners sometimes over-rate their own

We want to taste the one our mates have

Too much can be a bad thing

You never leave a good one

They come in a range of flavours and;

Left unattended, they melt down your arm.

‘Never fear, I have worked it out, culture is a chocolate covered ice cream’


I have never heard anyone clearly define what culture is, let alone explain how to build one. Here is my ‘sweet tooth’ inspired attempt at explaining workplace culture.

The chocolate covered ice cream has three crucial ingredients:

The chocolate (surface culture)
Taken to a new level during the modern day by the tech boom in Silicon Valley, surface culture has been around for a long time. Friday drinks, ping-pong, snacks, lunches and fruit bowls have been around cool workplaces for years. In recent years we have seen next level gimmicks like transportation to work, fully catered kitchens, slides between office levels, colourful ball pools, sleep pods, beer taps, meditation sessions, massage tables and unlimited leave schemes. Chocolate lovers beware, globally the surface culture obsession is slowing down in favour of a rainbow of ice cream flavours.  Essentially, all of these perks are forms of surface culture, they no doubt make the dessert taste better, but can become sickly on their own.

The ice cream (sustainable culture)
Often overlooked as boring and vanilla, HR frameworks are the foundation of the dessert. Cleverly designed, always interlinked and never neglected they come in a countless array of flavours. They provide consistency between sites and become management tools for new and emerging people managers. The HR frameworks must link and function together;  an organisational structure designed on hierarchy and not function, a performance framework without two way feedback and multiple touch points or an on-boarding process without a strong probation framework can lead to a melted mess. An ecosystem of strong, well designed and interlinked HR frameworks promotes consistency and best practice people performance. This is where you experiment with new and exotic flavours!

The cone (the environment)
Coming in many shapes and sizes, the environment plays an integral role. A healthy Workplace Culture can be ruined by a bad environment. Critical micro ingredients like: trust, vulnerability, empathy and flexible working arrangements interact with training, development, behaviour profiling, succession planning, critical thinking and best practice communication. Strong leadership toward a common Vision, living the company values and encasing the entire dessert with a common purpose

Missing any of the crucial and very different chocolate covered ice cream ingredients causes children’s bottom lips to drop. When they allow their ice-cream to melt in the sun tears flow. But being told you can’t have dessert is the ultimate punishment.

Workplace Culture is undoubtedly complicated, but a strong, unique culture will differentiate you from your competitors. At wattsnext we are a team of HR Consultants and are privileged to not only be a business ourselves, but taste and design hundreds of chocolate covered ice creams every year!

Are you enjoying your dessert or is it dripping down your arm?

Who’s responsibility is it to serve the chocolate covered ice-cream… that is another blog coming soon!

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