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. Companies with highly engaged workforce are 21% more profitable

    September 26, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Customer Plus newsletter

    The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organisational Studies, a report published by Gallup in April 2016 is a sophisticated analysis of 339 research studies across 230 organisations in 49 industries with employees in 73 countries. It covers 82,248 business units and 1,882,131 employees.

    The results show that employee engagement is related positively to profitability and eight other measures of business performance, regardless of business size, sector and nationality. Business units in the top half of employee engagement double their chances of success and those at the 99th percentile have four times the success rate of those at the first percentile.

    The message is simple. People really are the key to business success.

    And the so-called ‘Gallup 12’ offers a simple set of measures for managers to rate staff engagement.

    Difficult as it may be to hear what your staff think about you, your fellow leaders and your workplace really need to know. And more importantly, you need to act on your knowledge.

    Such a simple message deserves a simple question. Do you check and react to the temperature of your workforce on a regular basis?


  3. 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.


  4. Your comfort zone may destroy the world

    August 24, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Shelly Palmer

    Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to read this post up to the point where you agree with me or you don’t. Then, either you will find something else to do or, if I have your attention, you will write a comment or an email that espouses your world view.

    This sounds great. Except it isn’t. Because whether you agree with me or not, a huge percentage of you will not read past the point where your personal bias is confirmed. If my writing is inside your comfort zone, you will stop reading because we see eye to eye. If my writing is outside your comfort zone, you will stop reading because your time to engage with content is limited and you don’t want to be uncomfortable while doing it. Sadly, staying in our ideological comfort zones has put us on a path to world destruction.

    I write an article every Sunday about emerging trends and the impact they may have on media, entertainment and marketing. If you know my work, you know I don’t write about politics or religion, just tech trends and what I think they mean. So comments from readers should be professional, should be on topic and should further the discourse with related criticism and opposing points of view. But that’s not what’s happening.

    Have a look at a few recent posts: “The Video Selfie That Changed the World” or “Russian Email Hackers: Are You Next?” or “Facebook Is Killing Clickbait and The Results Will Surprise You.” Then scroll down to the comments for an object lesson in the dangers of confirmation bias and the latest craze: spewing opinion as fact. If this were on some random site or a mainstream media site, I would not be surprised at all. But these posts are on a professional social network where (for obvious reasons) one would expect a certainly level of decorum.

    Social Media–Empowered Echo Chambers

    In the physical world, an echo chamber is a room where sound reflects off the walls. The early reflections are perceived as echoes and the later reflections are perceived as reverberation. In social discourse, an echo chamber is a place where like-minded people keep reinforcing each other’s world views. MSNBC is a left-leaning echo chamber. Fox News is a right-leaning echo chamber. You can name hundreds of examples yourself.

    But echo chambers do not challenge our world views, they do not expand our minds, and they do not promote Socratic debate. They just blanket us in the comfort of what we like to hear. Importantly, it doesn’t matter how much moral high ground you believe your echo chamber represents – an echo chamber is a closed-loop system that constantly feeds back on itself. Living in an echo chamber is not an evolutionarily stable strategy.

    The Quick, but Painful, Death of Truth

    Journalism has been on life support since the advent of social media, but this past year we have witnessed the quick, painful death of truth, and it may be gone forever. Put a comfortable lie in an echo chamber, and nobody will challenge it. It will reverberate until it is accepted as actually true. Then, the willfully ignorant will shout it as loudly as they can. It may be their truth, but that does not make it true.

    Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    While we may not post really stupid stuff online or make outrageous comments to inspire others to do violence, we are all guilty of enjoying the pleasures of our respective comfort zones. We live in a world with extraordinary filters. They can easily be programmed to only send us notifications of things we want to hear. There are websites and news feeds across the entire spectrum of belief systems, and it is super easy to find your comfort zone and stay there. Don’t.

    The best way to get the world on track is to do our best to understand each other. We need to relearn how to respect other points of view. We don’t need to agree with them, but we need to read far enough down the page to understand what is really being said. We must listen when we converse. We must see when we look.

    The alternative is a cacophony of isolated echo chambers, each believing that they have the moral high ground, and each sure that their respective deity is on their side. It’s clearly where we are headed, and in practice, we may already be there. You may not think that your comfort zone could destroy the world, but your comfort zone is a place where you accept the things you cannot change. To make the world a better place, it’s time for all of us to change the things we cannot accept.


  5. One Way to Carve Your Values- and Culture-in Stone

    August 14, 2016 by ahmed

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    How are you expected to behave at work? And do you think a coworker would answer this question in the same way?

    In the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria, values are defined as the guiding principles and behaviors that embody how your organization and its people are expected to operate. They influence and reinforce your organization’s desired culture. Further, they support and guide the decisions made by every workforce member, helping your organization accomplish its mission and attain its vision appropriately.

    So can you name your company’s organizational values?

    You may have to go to your company’s website to find them or dig out an operating manual, but what if the organizational values were literally carved into stone at your feet. Would you then have any question about the behaviors expected of you at work?

    In summer 2015, two-time Baldrige Award recipient MidwayUSA completed Operation Concrete Values, a project where more than 300 employees permanently carved their values into the sidewalks of the 21-acre MidwayUSA campus in Columbia, Mo. The carved values are now repeated across the entire 4-building campus, covering 17 entrances for a total of 20 sets of company values.

    Image-2-Max-Stacey-Eric-and-engraving

    MidwayUSA’s stated values are Honesty, Integrity, Humility, Respect for Others, Teamwork, Positive Attitude, Accountability, Stewardship, and Loyalty. Now carved in stone throughout the campus, they serve as the non-negotiable family principles that help guide MidwayUSA’s employees in their decision making and interactions with one another. But an important point here, according to the organization, is that these are the personal values of the people who work at MidwayUSA, which have been adopted by the organization.

    MidwayUSA’s CEO and founder, Larry Potterfield, explained the genesis of the idea: “It all began in the fall of 2006, as we started aligning the operations at MidwayUSA with the [Baldrige] leadership and management principles [in preparation for a Baldrige Award application],” wrote Potterfield in a short story about Operation Concrete Values. “One of the Baldrige questions was, ‘What are your stated vision, purpose, mission, and values?’

    We had a mission statement . . . but we struggled long and hard over the concept of company values. You see, values aren’t strategies, they aren’t goals; they’re about ethics—doing the right thing. . . . They come from employees. . . . Great companies simply adopt the most relevant of those values, then hire employees who share them.”

    Image-3-Closeup-of-hand-holding-tool

    Continued Potterfield, “Values must be deployed. . . . Every employee must know and share the same values, to create a culture of trust. Our mission statement was posted in multiple locations throughout each building, and our interviewing and reviewing processes were updated. . . . But then came a revolutionary idea; why don’t we engrave our values into our sidewalks, as a further reminder to each employee, our quests, and prospective employees.

    image-4

    In celebration of the engraving project, what the organization believes to be the first of its kind in the nation, Potterfield said, “Our company values are much more than checking a box and feeling good about it. Our values are something each and every one of our employees personally identify with, and they are embodied both at home and at work. We think something this important should be more than simply written down, it should be carved in stone.”

    A strong adherence to core values that shape culture is of course a hallmark of Baldrige Award recipients.

    For example, in a recent blog about Baldrige Award Recipient Elevations Credit Union, Kim Felton wrote, “At Elevations, we build our team to serve our membership by believing in and demonstrating our five core values: Integrity, Respect, Passion, Creativity, and Excellence. We are so pleased when members share with us that they see our core values reflected in everything we do.”

    At Baldrige Award Recipient Charter School of San Diego (CSSD), everything school employees do is based on the organizational value “kids come first” and the core competency “transforming lives.” For example, CSSD resource centers (where teachers work one-on-one with students) sponsor families for meals and school supplies during winter holidays, support work experiences for students, and provide career and health support for students and their families. Teachers also make a regular practice of visiting students’ homes, traveling in pairs.

    At Baldrige Award Recipient Mid-America Transplant (MTS), the organizational values of Compassion, Innovation, Integrity, Quality, and Teamwork serve as a guiding force for how the workforce lives the culture on a daily basis. MTS defines what each value means to each employee: “Compassion: We feel and show concern for others. Innovation: We make meaningful changes to improve. Integrity: We act according to what is right and wrong. Quality: We do our best, always. Teamwork: We work in harmony with others.”

    At Baldrige Award Recipient Charleston Area Medical Center Health System (CAMCHS), employees receive training on how the values of Quality, Service with Compassion, Respect, Integrity, Stewardship, and Safety should drive behaviors, and the behaviors drive achievement of the core competency to improve the health and economics of CAMCHS’ community.

    So do you know what are your organizational values and whether they drive your culture? Is your organization ready to set them in stone?