1. 5 (budget) hacks for building amazing office culture

    November 22, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Ryan Holmes

    To be honest, my first office wasn’t much to look at. In fact, it wasn’t an office at all. It was my loft apartment in Vancouver. There wasn’t a fancy coffee machine or a foosball table or even a real desk to work at. But there was a rooftop patio – a little space where my tiny team and I could retreat to after work, to have a drink and admire the view. To this day, I’m convinced that that rooftop, and the culture it created, was one of the main reasons they stuck around.

    The phrase company culture is used so often that it can feel like an empty buzzword. But culture is what inspires employees to come to work, and to work hard. It’s what differentiates you from all the competitors out there, selling the same products in the same space. It’s the extra gas in the tank that helps you weather the bad times and excel during the good times.

    Some elements of culture are deep and sacred: the values and mission that underlie whatever it is you sell or make. Others represent a real – and important – investment: benefits and options plans, company retreats, sleek offices, etc.

    But building culture doesn’t always have to entail a huge cost or commitment. In fact, some of the most powerful culture-building tools are essentially DIY hacks. Hootsuite now has around 1,000 employees and we help more than 800 of the Fortune 1000 companies manage their social media. Pretty much everything has changed since those early days. But one constant has been finding creative ways to cultivate culture, without breaking the bank. Here’s a look at some of the most effective tools we’ve found over the years:

    The rooftop patio principle: After my first experience with a rooftop patio, I was hooked. My second office had one and, when we outgrew that, so did my third. These weren’t fancy spots, by any measure (and they didn’t add much to our leasing costs). But they did offer a space to retreat to that wasn’t a workspace. I think having this kind of safe zone completely changes how people interact and blends the lines between office and life (which is one of the real secrets of great culture).

    The rooftops became the scene of impromptu lunches and after-work beers. They hosted parties and off-kilter competitions. They offered a refuge from the pressures of growing a company and a place to let off steam. I was reminded how important this principle is recently when our London office finally graduated to a new space with an expansive rooftop patio. Suddenly, they’re hanging out after work and gelling as a team. At the end of the day, just putting a keg beside your desk doesn’t make a party. A dedicated space can make all the difference.

    The company that eats together, stays together: Food is a natural bridge builder. But company dinners, especially when you grow to a certain size, can get prohibitively expensive. Not to mention, when you’re stuck at a table it can be a challenge to mix and mingle, which kind of defeats the purpose. We overcame this early on with a pot-luck style strategy that brought together the joys of eating with the thrill of competition: the guac-off.

    Our first guac-off in the company’s early years featured 11 competitors and three simple rules: no pre-made guacamole mixes; contestants have to prepare their creations live; and everyone has to have fun. Since then, it’s become an annual tradition. We’ve evolved different categories (authentic, fusion, freestyle, etc.) and on occasion added margaritas to the equation. Over the years, we’ve embraced other DIY food traditions, as well. Among my favorites: “rookie cookies.” New employees have the option of baking (or buying) cookies for their department. These are set out on their desk, which lures over the rest of the team for casual introductions throughout the day. It’s a low-stress way to meet new colleagues and informally onboard new hires.

    Company clothes people actually wear: Lots of companies pump out piles of t-shirts, beer koozies, keychains, hats and stickers with their name and logo on them. This swag is then pawned off on employees, as well as customers and prospects. Nine times out of 10, it’s ugly, poorly made and discarded as soon as it’s handed out. We found that taking an entirely different approach can be an effective differentiator and culture builder.

    For starters, we handed the creative process over to our own graphic designers. And we emphasized that the goal wasn’t to plug Hootsuite but to create t-shirts, hoodies, even socks, that people wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in. The result: company clothes that people actually want to wear, inside and outside the office. In fact, there’s always a backlog of orders for the latest designs. This isn’t a costly measure by any means. But putting a little style in your swag reinforces the feeling that there’s something special going on and something worth being part of.

    The power of random coffees: One of the biggest challenges in fast-growing companies is silos. Imaginary walls spring up between departments. Before you know it, the sales team and the engineering team, for instance, feel like two totally different companies. They’re not meshing socially and – just as worrying – they’re not collaborating or exchanging information on projects. This lack of coordination inevitably hurts the final product and the customer’s experience.

    This is a huge problem and there’s really no easy fix. But one hack we’ve discovered to at least break the ice is a random coffee program. Employees sign up and are paired with a peer – blind date-style – from another department. They then set up a time to meet over a coffee break. It turns out this can be just the nudge needed to open up a future connection with other teams. It’s not that people don’t want to cross departmental divides, after all: Oftentimes, it’s simply that they don’t have a space or a system to do so.

    DIY parties are more fun: Company parties aren’t just a nice perk, they’re also a way to strengthen bonds between team members. But here’s the thing: gatherings for dozens – if not hundreds – of people can easily get cost-prohibitive. If there’s a restaurant or venue involved, even a simple event can break budgets. As a result, many companies limit themselves to just one or two bashes a year, despite the clear culture-building benefits.

    Early on, we found a workaround, really out of sheer necessity: a DIY party concept we called Parliament. Each month, two departments would join forces to host a fete for the entire company, in the office. We’d give them a modest budget of a few hundred dollars and pretty much complete autonomy to design their dream party. We even added a competitive element: at the end of the year, employees would vote on the best bash, with winners getting year-long bragging rights. The result was a crescendo of increasingly creative themed parties: from a Mexican beach night to a disco-themed country fair and an ‘80s-inspired high-school homecoming. All of this may sound silly, but these Parliaments went a long way toward crystallizing and strengthening our culture as Hootsuite grew from 100 to 1,000 employees.

    None of these culture-building hacks is especially deep or involved. And none of them will mean much unless a company already has a foundation in place: a mission, a commitment to employees, a healthy work environment. But, in many respects, a company culture is the sum total of the little things. It’s whatever makes someone excited to come to work at the start of the week, rather than indifferent. Creating this atmosphere doesn’t require a huge budget or elaborate perks, but it does require genuine attention and interest from management. Great cultures may be born organically, but to grow and thrive they need support.


  2. The BestPrax Conclave

    November 18, 2016 by ahmed

    BestPrax

    This article has been provided by Suresh Lulla, Founder & Director, BestPrax Club

    The BestPrax Club recently held the BestPrax Conclave at the prestigious NMIMS University in suburban Mumbai. It was the culmination of two competitions: BestPrax Benchmark 2016 and BestPrax Prize 2016.

    The BestPrax Benchmark is an intensive 3 month process that combines reflective research internally, consulting, and finally competition with other organizations. It helps organizations harvest best practices and zero-in on opportunities for improvement.

    The BestPrax Club recently held the BestPrax Conclave at the prestigious NMIMS University in suburban Mumbai. It was the culmination of two competitions: BestPrax Benchmark 2016 and BestPrax Prize 2016.

    The BestPrax Benchmark is an intensive 3 month process that combines reflective research internally, consulting, and finally competition with other organizations. It helps organizations harvest best practices and zero-in on opportunities for improvement.

    The Feedback Report shares the scoring practice by practice, aligned to Business Excellence models. It also mines for global best practices to enable innovative adaptation for corrective improvements. This year’s edition saw a focus on Leadership Governance. The winners were Tata Power, Tata Housing and NMIMS University. The next two editions will focus on Management Governance and Operational Governance. The competition cycle for participation will be from November 2016 to April 2017. GBN members should encourage organizations in their circle of influence to participate.

    The BestPrax Prize is an open forum for organizations to showcase their best practices. The best practices this year were from Max Life Insurance, Yes Bank, Mahindra Lifespace Developers, and Thiagarajar College of Engineering.


  3. 13 successful best practice projects to boost government performance

    October 16, 2016 by ahmed

    DWL

    It is one year since the Dubai Government Excellence Programme (DGEP) launched “Dubai We Learn” for government entities in Dubai. This ambitious programme consists of a range of knowledge sharing and organisational learning activities designed to fast-track organisational improvement and stimulate innovation. A key part of this initiative has been the mentoring of benchmarking projects by DGEP’s partner the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research, New Zealand.

    The first wave of benchmarking projects came to an end on the 5 October 2016 when 13 project teams gave a presentation and submitted a benchmarking report to share their results.

    The preliminary results have been remarkable. For example, Dubai Municipality’s project will save US$500,000 per year; this is from a more efficient purchase requisition process. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority have made major changes to its work environment and practices to increase employee happiness. Dubai Statistics have gained international recognition for its improvement in its innovation capabilities and Dubai Police for its knowledge management system. The Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS) within one year were able to design and gain full approval by the National Qualification Authority and Ministry of Education Authority for an Advanced Paramedic Training program. This training programme is the first in the Middle East and will enable DCAS to offer better health care services on the road and thus reduce mortality and morbidity rates.

    The project deliverables and presentations were assessed by an expert panel.

    The expert panel were Dr Robin Mann, Founder of TRADE, Centre for Organisational Excellence Research, New Zealand, Arndt Husar, Deputy Director, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, Singapore and Professor Dotun Adebanjo, University of Greenwich, London.

    The expert panel were Dr Robin Mann, Founder of TRADE, Centre for Organisational Excellence Research, New Zealand, Arndt Husar, Deputy Director, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, Singapore and Professor Dotun Adebanjo, University of Greenwich, London.

    The evaluation was based on the TRADE Benchmarking Certification Scheme; the evaluation results were as follows:

    DWL results

    Project teams used the TRADE Best Practice Benchmarking Methodology – a rigorous step by step approach that involves searching for and implementing leading edge practices. Some project teams travelled internationally to find best practices whilst others learnt from other government entities and the private sector in Dubai. The TRADE methodology is shown below and a video, provided by Dubai Municipality, highlighting its benefits can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCXh72KP_Co

    TRADE

    Due to the success of this initiative, a 2nd wave of benchmarking projects will start in early January 2017. Dubai government entities may join the 2nd wave of projects through contacting Dr. Zeyad Mohammad El Kahlout, Quality and Excellence Advisor, Dubai Government Excellence Program, The General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai, Zeyad.ElKahlout@tec.gov.ae.


  4. How to handle customer feedback on social media

    September 30, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on The Meeting Room by Ashlee Keown

    If someone posts a complaint on your business’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, how best to respond? Would you a) delete or ignore it b) discuss a possible resolution via comments on their post or c) thank them and make contact privately?

    Here’s how to turn feedback – good or bad – into an opportunity, by Ashlee Keown, Warehouse Stationery’s Digital and Direct Communications Manager and contributor to the company’s business advice site The Meeting Room.

    Complaints, questions or compliments posted on your business’s social media pages offer a chance to make a positive impact on what current and prospective customers think of your business. Quickly resolving a complaint, for example, can build credibility and goodwill amongst your followers.

    1. Plan ahead
    Assign one person to manage social media feedback. Ideally, they will have customer service experience.
    Prepare a plan. This could be a simple decision tree that covers:

    • types of comment
    • how to respond to each type, eg “Thanks so much for your compliment”
    • how quickly to respond to each type, eg within 30 minutes for a complaint
    • when to involve someone more senior or with detailed product knowledge, eg a question that can’t be answered readily
    • how to proceed in certain situations, eg notify X of a complaint about Y and find a solution together.

    To help develop this plan, think about how your business handles customer complaints on email, by phone or in person. Remember, social media is a public forum and conversations remain visible, so extra-special care is required when responding.

    2. Keep across it
    To be able to respond quickly, monitor your social media pages constantly. This doesn’t mean someone watching them 24/7. Your social media person should check work accounts as often as possible, and set up alerts to be notified immediately when someone posts a comment.

    Social media platforms offer this alert function, but only for activity on that platform. Tools such as Hootsuite enable monitoring across different platforms.

    3. Review carefully
    Each comment should be read thoroughly. Some may be inappropriate and should be deleted, eg abusive or racist, or a product promotion. Set out the types of comments that will get deleted in the ‘profile’ or ‘about’ sections of your page.

    Tip: Don’t delete negative comments out of hand. A business page with absolutely no complaints can raise suspicions. A page where customer complaints have clearly been resolved can build trust.

    4. Respond quickly
    Generally, the faster a business responds to comments the better. So if someone puts up a compliment, sincerely thank them for it as soon as you can.

    Similarly, if they make a genuine complaint, respond quickly with thanks, an apology and a promise to make things right. Be open, polite and professional, not cold or defensive. Their complaint is a sign they value your product or service.

    It’s important then to move the conversation onto a private channel – eg Facebook Messenger, email or phone – so you can get to grips with the problem without discussing every detail in public. Then do all you can to solve the problem.

    Once the issue is resolved, go back to the original comment and ask the person publicly if they are satisfied. This shows your customer and others that you made good on your promise, and that you value them.

    5. Learn and improve
    Feedback on social media offers valuable information about your business. It’s also a chance to test and enhance the way you handle complaints and queries.

    Tip: Whether positive or negative, use feedback to improve your customer service and your business as a whole.


  5. 7 mistakes good Managers NEVER make

    September 15, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on UK Employee Experience Awards by Tamara Luzajic

    Finding good workforce is never easy. On the other hand, you can often hear managers complaining about their best employees leaving. Needless to say, having good people quit is very disruptive and incredibly costly.

    But once the employee has left, managers usually blame some external factors, while the real reason is left unsaid:

    People leave jobs because of bad management.

    There are a few things good managers never do. That is how they keep their best people loyal.

    1. They overwork people

    Nobody loves to feel burned out. Sure, once you realise your employees can do a lot of things, it is tempting to work them hard. But this is a trap!

    The truth is, overworking good employees makes them feel punished for being good at something. But, that can be changed with rewards and recognition. Raises and promotions are acceptable ways to increase workload.

    If you simply increase workload without changing a thing, your best and talented employees will look for another job that will give them what they deserve.

    2. They show no interest in their employees

    There is a reason why successful companies make sure their managers know how to balance being professional with simply being human.

    These managers empathise with the employees going through hard times. They challenge people. They celebrate their success.

    Managers who don’t genuinely care will always have high turnover rates. Good employees don’t like to work for bosses who only care about profit.

    3. They hire wrong people

    There is no way a hard-working employee will want to work with a slacker. Hiring bad people is one of the biggest demotivators because good employees want to work with the like-minded professionals.

    Promoting the wrong people is perhaps even worse. Being passed over for a promotion that is given to a slacker is more than wrong. It is an insult to every good employee.

    4. They don’t support creativity

    One of the best things about good employees is that they always look for new ways to improve everything. If you take that power from them because you like things the way they are now, you will make them hate their job.

    Supporting your best employees’ creativity is always a good idea.

    5. They are not developing people’s skills

    One of the things good managers always do is listening. They are constantly listening, giving feedback and paying attention to their employees’ behaviour.

    There is so much a manager can do with a good employee; from finding areas in which they can approve to directing their skills into the right direction, management truly has no end. But if you don’t do any of this, you will have a bunch of bored employees on your hands and the best ones leaving for something better.

    6. They don’t challenge employees

    Pushing people out of their comfort zones is what makes them succeed eventually.

    Good managers challenge their employees to accomplish goals that seemed impossible at first. Then, they do everything to help them achieve those goals.

    Talented employees can’t stand doing things that are too easy or boring because they know that they only way to develop their skills further is to do new tasks and set higher goals.

    7. They don’t support people pursue their passions

    Talented employees are passionate about things they love. When a good boss provides an opportunity for pursuing that passion, it improves their productivity.

    Unfortunately, so many managers are more likely to disapprove of this. They usually fear that if their employees pursue their passions, their productivity will decline.

    Many studies show that people who are able to pursue their passion at work experience flow, the almost euphoric state of mind that makes a person more productive.