Episode 3 - Culture That Drives Performance [Podcast]

September 6, 2018 - 26 minute read

Frontline by Speakap is our podcast for progressive HR, Internal Comms and business leaders to share (and learn) ideas and strategies for creating a thriving workplace, therefore helping all their employees reach their full potential.

This is the third episode of our podcast series, which features a wide range of experts and industry leaders discussing topics related to their individual expertise.

In this episode of the podcast, we chat about how to create a company culture that drives performance and how culture creates business value.

About Eva Baluchova


Eva Baluchova is the Brand & Culture, Talent Manager for Payconiq, a start-up who are on a mission to reshape the way the world makes payments in today's digital era. Eva is a passionate woman with many interests, and produces thought leadership content around culture that is inspired by her own career development.

“Don't take life too seriously… don’t ask yourself why this happening to you. Don't blame others, just take responsibility, face the problem and go with the flow.”

Connect with Eva

In this episode we chat about:

  • The ways performance can be defined in a business sense
  • The importance of defined values
  • The ROI of providing flexible working arrangements

Mentioned Resources

Upcoming episodes on Frontline by Speakap…

  • The consumerization of Human Resources

Thanks for listening!


Matt: You're listening to Frontline by Speakap, the podcast dedicated to helping you create a thriving workplace where everyone feels connected.

This is episode number three on creating a culture that drives performance. I'm your co-host Matt Warnock.

Lou: And I'm Lou Blair. Our guest today is Eva Baluchova, brand and culture manager at the ever-growing European tech startup Payconiq.

Matt: Welcome, and thanks for joining us again. How you doing Lou? 

Lou: I'm good, how are you?

Matt: I'm very well. It's been a long time since we spoke on the podcast, when we were speaking about the difference between culture in the US and the UK. So I recommend that people check that out if they are interested in that subject. What have you been up to for the last few weeks? 

Lou: Well, I've been making the most of European summer by traveling. So I'm on my way to Italy this weekend, but last weekend I was in Berlin. 

Matt: How was Berlin?

Lou: Berlin was amazing! I was expecting it to be a bit more similar to Amsterdam which was surprising - a good surprise - but also frustrating, because I didn't have any Euros in my Dutch bank account and didn't have access to my credit card. I wasn't expecting Berlin to be such a cash-only city.

Matt: Yeah, it's a minefield now in terms of what you need to take to different places, and Berlin’s very cash-only - that caught me by surprise the first time we went there, compared to other places. Amsterdam's almost all pin-only now, right?

Lou: Yes.

Matt: So you can't really pay by cash anywhere, which is an awkward but, you know, suitable segway to our guest today who works for payconiq who are very present in this space. So, welcome Eva. 

Eva: Thank you for having me here.

Matt: Do you want to explain briefly what it is that Payconiq does?

Eva: Yeah, so we are basically building mobile payment application. We’re trying to build a cashless society. So our mobile payment application is replacing the wallet, also in the future

Matt: Awesome.

Lou: So for today's podcast, we're going to share and learn about how to create a culture that drives performance. Before we get into it, what exactly do we mean by performance? Are we talking about financial performance, or is it something that's greater than that?

Eva: Well, you can define performance of course as financial, and this is really important especially for companies so you can measure the revenue and profitability. But, the performance of the team has different variations. So it's basically, for me, from my perspective, performance means how people are getting things done: if the product is delivered on time, and if everybody has fun. Meanwhile, if everybody is efficient, if everybody has enough tools to basically achieve the common goals.

Matt: And can you tell us a little bit about your role particularly at Payconiq? How long have you been there, and how you came to work for Payconiq?

Eva: Well, I have been at Payconiq since February this year, and one of my ex-colleague’s had a hand in there, as they really needed to grow the company fast. So I decided to join them, and last six months we were basically recruiting. We hired around 60 people in six months. So that was really a great achievement, and now it's time to build the culture and strategies, and we now have a five-member team and we do everything regarding people strategies, to how to attract people, retain, upscale them and forecast as well for the future. 

Matt: 60 people over six months is obviously pretty huge growth. Maybe if you were a massive corporation that's nothing, but when you’re a startup that's obviously huge. What were some of the challenges that were involved in scaling up that quickly?

Eva: Well, of course within the hiring there were a lot of challenges and challenging situations, especially in a coordination stage. So all hiring managers, mostly developers as well, need to find the time for interviews. What was really time-consuming as well for hiring that many people that fast was we didn't have really time to do a really proper onboarding process. 

Matt: So, what's next?

Eva: Well, now we reshaping our values and trying to build behavioral guidelines through the values, and give people a way of how they should work - in a way we would like to see it. We believe that will bring them to a great result: as one big team, and as one big company.

Matt: Great, I was checking out your website the other day and I was looking at your people page. I really like that you have some cool videos on there, about the “Payconian’s” as you call them. And I really like the fact that you've got your five company values there on the website for everyone to see. Do you want to talk to us a little bit about the values?

Eva: I can! First, these values were built as our product-parent values, but we are all pretty connected with them and therefore we decided as well we reshape them as well as our employee values, so we don't have to build new ones. What it means by reshaping them is that before, as a company brand value or a product value, you have design principles which means big, bold or human or simple. But we didn't really establish what does it mean to behave like that, and therefore we are now trying to build competencies for each value - what does it mean - how employees should behave to get that result done in a way that all of us are aligned, happy, productive and having a lot of fun.

Matt: So I'm reading them from the site. You have bold, human, honest, playful and simple. I like them because they're direct and to-the-point, and sometimes company values can be a little vague and hard to interpret, which these are definitely not. Can you give me an example of how you're making these play out? It's kind of easy to put words on a page or to tell people that “these are your values”, but how are your people living these values now?

Eva: Yeah, well to be honest with you that's what we right now trying to really set up - how to really live it in a way that we imagine. Because for everybody being bold means sometimes something different, so right now it’s hard to really say how we live it. For example, so far we know that being bold means to take ownership on really getting things done. And be accountable for your work, so that we are trying to be more specific in the behavior we are expecting. Because if we don’t specify these values more concretely, then people would not really understand what it really means. So I can't really say how we live them - therefore this is our new challenge to really specify it.

Matt: And how are you approaching that process of specifying it?

Eva: So first we put the value down, and then for each value the competencies. So for example, be bold means be accountable. Be human means empowering people and respect people. And then we are trying to build on every competencies like three or four behavior guidelines; what does it mean be accountable? Basically because that as well people can understand different way, so be more resilient and cooperating with the team.

Matt: Great. Like I said, I really like the videos you have on there because they help to you know the values. Again, as I was saying it's easy to put some words down and stick some posters on the wall. But actually, seeing people that capture the spirit of the organization of what it's like to work somewhere.... it’s so much more powerful as an employer brand, right?

Eva: Actually, the second video about Payconians was made by an employee because we had this summer boat party and he brought his GoPro. We didn't ask him, he just brought it and he was recording everything he could and then he just put it together.

Matt: Fantastic, easy user-generated content. 

Eva: Yeah, I think that's how maybe companies could do that as well - you don't have to always invest a lot of money in it.

Matt: Yeah, we had a similar experience. We had a boat trip over Summer, and Raf our audio-visual star in our team, brought his own camera along and recorded stuff, and then we shot that into a really small movie which we put onto social channels, but it's so much more honest as well. We don't need big budgets and we don't need complicated scripts - sometimes you have to give people an honest taste of what it's like to work for our companies.

Eva: Exactly I mean it's more authentic and I think that's what people actually looking for.

Lou: So it's pretty clear that we're all onboard, that we see the value in company culture. But I think there's still a lot of people out there who probably view company culture as bean bags and free lunches and bring your dog to work day. But not really seeing the true business value of taking time to develop a company culture. What would you say to that? What would you say to the people who don't really understand the business value of building a company culture?

Eva: Yeah, I see many people and many companies seeing “culture” and “fun” as the same thing and I don't really agree with that. That it is the same thing. Work is work, business is business and fun is fun. And I see fun as a product of great culture, and what means about “business value” for me, from my perspective. A value is behavioral framework - it's not connected. We really like a people value, because as a person you can have different value and maybe it's not super aligned with a company value. But you can still like the behavioral framework that companies give you on how to get work done, and I think if people would see those values as a behavioral framework. So kind of a guideline from the business on how they want to see their employees work, probably then they would understand a bit better what the value is because it's a pretty vague term used a lot right now. But what does it really mean? Values I think it's just how people behave and how they follow the gut.

Matt: Okay, so we're going to start the second off by diving into a fun questions help us get to know Eva a little better. So Eva I'm wondering what is the first app you look at on your phone in the morning, and the last app that you look at night.

Eva: The first one is either Audible or getAbstract. Audible is for listening books and get abstract is an application when you can basically get key insights of 100, thousand books in ten minutes text summaries or even in audio summaries. So I have a hundred books in my list to read, but I think my mortal life is not that long to read them all. So then I'm just reading these summaries and sometimes I already can find the answer thanks to the summaries, and if I'm more interested than I'm reading the book. 

Matt: Okay I'm what kind of books everything fiction, business.

Eva: So, as I'm trying as I'm playing this infinity game with myself so be always a better than yesterday. I'm trying to improve my life in a way that sometimes I need to find the guideline for that. So I'm reading books regard business, trying to get new ideas, new inspirations as well as sometimes try to find some solution.

Matt: Excellent, and how about the last app you look out your phone before you go to bed at night?

Eva: I think that's the alarm clock, setting it up.

Matt: Yeah, and how does it work for you?

Eva: I don't like to look there.

Lou: So we created this podcast as a space to hear, and learn from leaders and experts on how they create a thriving workplace. We know that there's no one-size-fits-all solution, so what we do is we ask every guest five little rapid-fire questions that we like to call the “Thrive Five” and we hope that we give our listeners valuable advice and how to inspire their workplace to thrive.

Eva: Exciting.

Lou: So first question, what is one thing that should be mandatory within every company?

Eva: Well I would say that flexible working time. If their work is done, then they can go home. Some people like to work evenings, and maybe mornings so they can be with their kids. So I think flexible working time is the most valuable perk a company should have.

Matt: Yeah I agree. I think the nine-to-five approach is such a throwback. We live in a time where we're connected whether it's by apps like Speakap, or email and messaging. We can be in touch all the time, and the nine-to-five is a kind of throwback to the point where the only way we could contact people was by being in the office at the same time. And speaking from a personal perspective, when I need to get writing done I sometimes write at home. And does it matter if I start at 7:00 AM or do I have to wait to 9:00 AM before I'm allowed to?

Eva: Exactly. Many companies are afraid of this benefit because they think that people would use it against them, against business. But I think company should understand that if I would use it against company, I'm using it against myself because I can lose my job, and there is no sense that I would do that to myself.

Lou: That's a really fair point. I only just started working in Europe this year, and it's definitely taken some time getting used to this because we don't have that sentiment in Australia. And I feel almost guilty, or am I doing something wrong? I hate feeling like I'm a bad person, so it's true I wouldn't want to take advantage of it. Because it doesn't make you feel good.

Matt: There's a lot of research showing that we should embrace those ebbs and flows of the working life. There are sometimes where we’re busier, and sometimes we're not, and it's fine to work 50, 60 hours when we are busy and also cut down. Why should we assume the work is always a 40-hour a week, or 36 hour however it might be leveled? And it does have it sort of peaks and troughs - we should be flexible to those.

Eva: Exactly. I think that even in Sweden they are trying a six hours work week, for example. So that would be amazing.

Matt: Yeah, and most studies show that it’s increasing productivity. When people know they can leave earlier, they can get back to their families, or enjoy their hobbies and they will put six great hours in.

Eva: I can imagine going home sooner, so we don't play with them and then even get back to work. I mean that would be great solution. I had in my previous company unlimited vacation policy, and I didn't really use it that much. I think in total I had 30 days off out of what normally companies have 25 here. There's not that much that I would use it. 

Matt: Yeah, again I think the study showed that, on average, it works out about the same. Because people still need to get the job done, and it's also (in a sense) one of our values here at Speakap - being answerable to each other. And I think that's really key in that environment - you work for an organization that trusts you, but you also trust each other. And that that's a strong driver when you feel like you're letting down your teammates, or you know the people that you work with every day - that drives people to be responsible and to put the work in.

Even businesses like McDonald's for example - obviously a lot of their employees can't be as flexible, and can’t turn up when they want to turn up, otherwise drunk people will be in the line getting really angry. But they're trying to really embrace that in terms of allowing members to or employees to sign up for the shift patterns which best suit them.

So if they're a student maybe they want to work evenings more, or if they're a mother then they want to avoid school time drop-off and work while the kids are in school or in the evenings as well when there's grandparents to look after them. I think it's really it's something that it's obviously easier in certain organizations, but it's something all organizations can embrace.

Eva: Yeah I completely agree, I think it's a good solution. 

Matt: Second question if you could go back in time to the start of your career. What's the one piece of advice that you would give yourself?

Eva: I would say just don't take life too serious, and I would definitely say to myself don’t ask yourself why this happening to you. Don't blame others, just take responsibility face the problem, and just go with the flow.

Lou: Third question, what are the most obvious signs that employers should look for that indicate that workplace culture might need a shake up? 

Eva: I think there are many signs, and I think it can differ from the company and the culture which is there. But I think the most obvious sign is when you would enter a company, and you just don't see people smiling, and you see people closed, in defense mode. Always trying to be right or trying to prove their status, ego or level in the hierarchy they are or blame is there. I think bad sign is if people eat lunch on their desks, because it sometimes it means that they don't have time to take a proper break, or they are overworked, or as well it means that leadership don't do proper planning, so I think that could be an obvious sign.

Matt: Yeah, I like the little smiling, happy employees you were when we were talking earlier about the business value. One of the things that we talked about at Speakap, because we are very focused on frontline employees, but you can really tell when you walk into a store or a restaurant and the employees are happy, and when it's genuine. That really comes across and you have such a better experience as a customer, because it feels so authentic rather than kind of slapping a smile on, reading the lines that they've been told to read. So in terms of the value again that has to really lead to more business and better customer experiences. 

Eva: I mean as well one of the sign is like, for example me I'm a person who has hard time so smile like naturally I have pretty serious face. I think that might be connected that I'm from Eastern Europe, so we have a tough facial features. But for example greeting people like if somebody entering the office. I think in bad culture it would be like just not even good morning or hi peeps, hi colleagues, how are you. Just no communication, and I think that's as well really bad sign.

Matt: Question four, and I'm looking forward to the answer to this because you've already told us you're a big reader and on the mission to improve yourself every day. So what are the books or resources that you'd recommend to other people who are interested getting company culture?

Eva: I think my favorite and the most important book which one I read just like month ago was from Daniel Coyle - A Culture Code. Really good one, I really found myself there and I realized that it's exactly what I believed. So that was really a big impact on me ,and then as well the other book Culture Wins. So the name is really hard to pronounce so I'm not going to try, people can Google!

Lou: We’ll put the name of the book in the show notes. Okay final question for you, what is one small change that all employers can easily make starting today that could help their workplace to thrive?

Eva: I think what people can do already today, and it doesn't cost any money, is just start overdoing thanks and please. If everybody, every time would say thank you, people will just become so happier and pleased. There are as well big science about thanking people. It's just proving sign, proving that when people thank each other it's supporting the cooperation between people. So you're most likely going to help your colleague if he before says thank you for the first help.If people start thanking each other and it's a small appreciation you could do.

Lou: I'm very onboard with that. I didn't realize Australia has this culture of every time you ask for something, it's really like please, can you help me and I came here and everyone's like yeah, of course it’s my job, no big deal. But I think it's nice to show gratitude, and create a warm environment in the workplace. 

Eva: I think a culture of appreciation is the strongest, so I do believe an appreciation starting with please and thank you.

Matt: Yeah well obviously I'm British, so I can't do anything without saying please or apologizing, I'm sorry.

Lou: I'm sorry for being here.

Eva: Sorry for everything.

Matt: I was at a conference a while ago, and they were talking about recognition and obviously there are recognition programs you can set up where you get points or you win prizes or you get monetary awards, but often recognition just comes from especially from leadership but equally from your peers - just saying thank you for something and if you hear that. There is something if you hear in two to three times a day somebody thanking you, you become X percent more engaged in your job purely from something that simple.

Eva: I do believe that a peer-to-peer feedback is a way more stronger than feedback from managers, because it creates connection and trust between colleagues, so then the team is way more abundant and then just leader can follow as well of course it's important as welcome leader down, but I think peer-to-peer is way more stronger.

Matt: I think that's a good place to leave it, by the way I was just looking up Culture Wins by William Vanderbloemen. 

Eva: Oh yeah, nice.

Matt: There we go, recommend people take a look go to Amazon to get their copy of that.

Eva: Definitely. 

Matt: Yeah well thank you very much Eva it's been a pleasure to have you on the podcast.

Eva: Thank you very much for inviting me.

Matt: No problem hope to have you back soon and thank you listeners for joining us if you've liked our podcast please leave us a review on iTunes and if you have any comments or suggestions you can reach us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn you can also contact us via email @podcast@speakap.com.

Lou: Are you feeling inspired to engage with your employees after today's podcast? Speakap is the brand new communications platform that delivers 30% more sharing between colleagues head to Speakap come to find out how you can reduce the noise and increase the buzz by engaging with your workforce in a smarter way.

Matt: Thanks for listening again guys, bye-bye.

Louise Blair

Written by Louise Blair

G'Day mate! All the way from "down under" Louise has joined Speakap to help businesses to build better relationships with their workforce. When she's not busy producing the Frontline podcast, you might catch her running... while listening to a podcast. (Disclaimer: she has never actually said "G'day Mate" in her entire life)