Written by Emily Pennington, Marketing Intern 2018/19
Organisational culture is a term I’d heard used a lot before starting my internship. As a university student who’d never worked in an office environment, I didn’t really understand what ‘culture’ was or what it meant. Looking back over my past year working as the marketing intern at Lane4, I’ve come to realise that organisational culture is the very thing that’s made my year so fantastic, even though I couldn’t exactly pinpoint it at the time.
As my time at Lane4 comes to an end, I wanted to share my journey to understanding organisational culture.
My first impression
7:30am on a cold winter morning in November 2017. I was sat nervously on a train rushing towards Bourne End in Berkshire. This was the first job interview and assessment day I’d ever attended, and I didn’t know what to expect.
When the train eventually pulled up at Bourne End station, I followed the commuter traffic all the way to a small office building that blended in with the surrounding houses.
As I walked through the doors, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found waiting for me. I was greeted by a very friendly woman on reception who, once I told her I was here for my placement interview, wished me luck and told me “don’t be nervous; you’ll be absolutely fine”.
The buzz and atmosphere of the building was electric. Consultants rushing around, up and down the staircase, everyone head down and busy. And yet, despite this, I was struck by the fact that people took the time to pause and wish me good luck for my assessment day.
The assessment day went well, and on the way home I reflected upon how wrong my expectations of the interview had been.
Rather than feeling stressed and intimidated, I was overcome by a sense of community and kindness. Even now, two years later, I still vividly remember that strong positive first impression Lane4 left.
My first day:
Fast forward to September 2018, and I’m heading back to Berkshire for my first day as Lane4’s Marketing Intern. Now in a brand-new building in Maidenhead, on the surface things had changed quite a bit since my assessment day, and I was worried that my experience might not be what I had imagined.
However, when I reached my new desk that positive feeling I had about the company and the people in it immediately returned.
Sat waiting for me was a Lane4 goodie bag with a water bottle, backpack, notepad, pen and portable charger!
It was such a thoughtful touch and nice welcome to the team. It gave me a great sense of identity as a Lane4 employee, and not just a university student. I felt part of the team, just as much as everyone else.
HR had prepared me an entire week’s timetable as part of my induction pack, and every member of the marketing team sat down with me for an informal chat and to introduce themselves and their role.
From this, what I noticed most was the level of care at Lane4. HR had put time and care into planning my first week, which put my nerves at ease in the weeks leading up to my internship because I knew what to expect. My whole team made the effort to get to know me on a personal level with a 1:1 chat. I felt every single person in my team had a genuine care and interest to learn about what degree I was studying, what university I came from and even learn about my hobbies and interests!
Coming to notice culture:
So, what was different about Lane4? This question was still playing on my mind two to three months later. Why did I feel so at home in Lane4 when many of my university friends were struggling to fit in on their internships?
As I was learning more about business psychology and Lane4’s areas of expertise, I became familiar with the concept of organisational culture. The more I learned, the more I realised that it was Lane4’s culture that was creating an environment in which I could feel comfortable.
As I try to sum up what it was like to work somewhere with such a unique culture, three things stand out to me:
1. Collaboration not competition
Many business placements involve working alongside a number of interns in the same role, but I was lucky enough to be the only intern assigned to my department. This left me with much more responsibility, freedom and autonomy to be myself and not compete for work.
Collaboration is always encouraged, and I can always ask questions without this being seen as a weakness. I realised I was working within a high performing team of people, rather than a disjointed group of individuals working alongside each other.
2. Responsibility and trust
I was surprised by the level of responsibility I was given on my internship. Entrusted with meaningful roles, I experienced copywriting, email campaigns and managing our social media output. My team trusted me because they believed in my capabilities, and their belief helped me to believe in myself.
3. Openness to explore
From day one, I was encouraged to explore the business and get to know internal stakeholders. I was thrown in at the deep end, interviewing senior consultants for our Consultant Spotlight blogs and networking with people I wouldn’t normally come into contact with.
I was always supported in shadowing other departments and taking on tasks that interested me, even if it wasn’t in the original job description. There was always a chance to meet new people and I’d often be approached in the kitchen by a friendly face and asked how I was getting on.
It’s Lane4’s values that made all of these things possible. I’ve learnt that, not only do you need to love your job, you also need to love the environment in which you work.
At our last company update, we were introduced to the term EPIC, standing for ‘Every Person Impacts Culture’. It made me realise that culture isn’t just a concept that can be scooped up and dropped into any workplace setting; it’s deep-rooted and tied to the heart and soul of a company. A collection of shared values, shared beliefs, and shared attitudes that all employees have in common.
So, what’s next for me?
As a 21-year-old member of generation Z entering the workplace for the first time, I’ve learnt some valuable life lessons that I will take with me into my future career. I’ve learnt to push myself outside of my comfort zone and to not be afraid of asking questions. But most importantly, I’ve learnt that the right working environment drives performance and growth, allowing people to flourish.
I now see learning as a process, not a destination that you need to be at straight away. My journey to understanding organisational culture has been a marathon and not a sprint, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.