Building a winning culture

Every organisation is constantly on the lookout for ways to ensure it does well and retains top talent. Most successful organisations have two things in common: a winning culture, and a strong customer focus. In these entities, living the values consistently brings the right culture with employees performing at optimum levels and finding fulfilment.

For Sandra Crous, Managing Director of PaySpace, a leader in payroll and HR software, the right culture means that your values are entrenched in the DNA of the business. It impacts values, language, traditions, and key beliefs.

“Our culture drives the characteristics of the business and drives our behavior. We spend lots of time not only talking about how we want to harness the cloud opportunity that the pandemic gave us but also modelling the culture as a leadership team. For us, it’s not about chasing revenue, it’s about making the most of this opportunity and giving customers technology that will change their business from good to great.”

She says PaySpace recognises that currently there is a move and trend towards the cloud and one of the ways to seize this opportunity is to make sure the business strategy aligns to the opportunity. “And this requires a winning team.”

“I have been exposed to many different cultures in my career not only at businesses where I worked but also in dealing with partners and associates. I found showing appreciation, recognising teams, showing respect and being fair is extremely important to build a great culture,” Crous explains. “If the vision is to build a toolset that will enable the organisation to expand globally, this must be at the heart of everything the company does. This involves aligning the businesses’ goals and teams with a sense of purpose of what you want to achieve.”

Another way to build a winning team is to bring enough focus into the organisation. “Here, what is needed is plenty of communication between teams. General stand-ups, weekly check-ins, and management check-ins. There’s a need to almost over-communicate to make sure that everyone knows that they are part of building something great, and then importantly what progress is being made.”

In addition, Crous says another essential element is a culture of continuous learning, for the company to invest in the knowledge of its employees. “For example, we built PaySpace University; the purpose is to foster continuous learning to propel growth. We want employees to be what we call a ‘Black Belt’ – in our software or in their area of expertise so that they have all the tools they need to do well.”

“We also try to be agile,” she says, “and to work towards objectives which are measured by key results, instead of having formal annual performance appraisals. This should be for everyone in the organisation, as the objectives speak to what the company wants to achieve as a business. We have continued discussions throughout the year to let employees realise how their contribution fits into the objectives of the business.”

Employees thrive on recognition, which in turn, makes them feel valued. “It is not always public recognition, sometimes just a thank you to an individual team member will go a long way.”

It is incredible how many interview applicants want to leave their current place of employment because they do not feel valued. Spending time with individual team members and making them understand how their contribution fits into the big picture gives them a sense of purpose, she adds. “I also prefer a flat structure, where you have an open-door policy and employees know that they have access to the leadership team.”

In the payroll world, Crous says there is always a sense of urgency, deadlines, and accuracy, which is compounded by legislation and submissions. “You need to build a lot of trust, respect, collaboration, and teamwork. This ensures you support your customers, both internal and external, and make them feel like they matter the most.”

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that having a culture where the business leaders are prepared to be ‘servant leaders’ and walk the talk is critical. Culture is what happens when no-one is looking; leaders must lead by example. If one and all embrace a culture where they show colleagues that everybody is willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done, then it creates a winning culture. This is what makes an organisation successful, and if you do all of this, the growth in turnover happens automatically.”


She stresses that driving behaviour is far more important than driving revenue—even though that is still important. A winning culture cannot be built without embracing change. “Everyone must feel safe to learn from mistakes so we can be innovative and agile.  It’s about building a company that is constantly inventing along the way.”


In ending, she says, the success of any organisation is when its customers are successful. “Ultimately, building a high-performance team and winning culture will be measured by our customers’ success and how they rate the business.”