by Mark Homer
In Part 1, we discussed how company culture—having happy employees and a healthy work environment—isn’t just important for employee satisfaction, but it can actually make an impact on the growth of your business.
We have done research and focused on the main reasons people leave a company, which are:
- Job characteristics not a fit/match
- Opportunities for Growth
- Work Environment
Now that we understand this, we have begun to refocus our culture around core company values and making sure we are improving on the above key factors. We covered our research on job characteristics being not a match and leadership in Part 1. Here is our research on opportunities for growth, relationships, and work environment.
Opportunities for Growth
As GNGF grew early on, we just assumed that everyone was being stretched and growing professionally. However, after a bit of turnover, we learned through exit interviews and a subsequent survey of the team that people did not feel that they knew how they could grow professionally here. People were growing every day, but we had not taken the time to map out where people wanted to go and a plan for us to help them meet their goals. To rectify that, we changed our review process to be quarterly, to be able to provide more frequent feedback. In this review process, we created professional (and personal) goals for each team member. We help craft a measurable action plan and then we utilize the weekly one-on-ones as an accountability check-in each person. During this process, we also uncovered some very interesting goals. Someone wanted to learn more about the financial side of the business and someone else wanted to become a better public speaker. We would have never thought of those goals for the team as it did not tie directly to a specific role or job path. However, each of those team members now has an action plan to better those areas, which will, in turn, be better for GNGF.
This is one area we always performed well in at GNGF. Empathy is a core value and showing appreciation to others is just something we always did. We have opportunities every day to show your appreciation to your teammates. We have a daily huddle each morning where each person has 1 minute to give an update on their week. Part of this 1-minute update is a Thank You section. So every morning people are thanking each other for little things that were helpful the previous day.
We also utilize Slack for internal communication and we had a channel called Kudos—where people would throw out a thank you or kudos to a team member. It could be for something personal or professional. Just last month we added a new concept to this Kudos channel when we implemented a fun little web application called Hey Taco. With this app you tag your “kudo” message with a taco emoji. There is a leaderboard and people can trade their virtual tacos in for fun rewards and prizes, the majority of which are fun small things that cost no additional money to the business, like getting the “Taco Supreme” parking space for a week.
On top of all of this, we have time set aside on Friday after our weekly recap meeting to relax and just “hang out” with your team. We call this time Beer:30, but the time has been utilized for an afternoon barbecue, playing a board game, a fun team building activity, and for seasonal fun like carving pumpkins or fantasy football drafts. As a business owner, some would be concerned about losing a little productivity, but as a people-oriented service business, we feel we gain much more in terms of team dynamics than the hour of work we lose during this time.
Early on, we thought we needed all the fun cool ‘startup culture’ items when we moved into a bigger office space. We got a ping-pong table, video game system, hammock chairs, Nerf-hoop, and a fridge just for beer. However, as we implemented all the items above, a lot of the team felt comfortable saying what they did and didn’t want in the office.
The ping-pong table, while used was requested to be taken down to make room for another collaborative meeting area. The “beer fridge” became the community fridge where other items like lunch items that can be grilled on our deck it became apparent. The video game system was never used and is sitting in a drawer now somewhere. However, a bunch of people lobbied for a sectional couch for collaboration meetings and other tables around the office so people can move from their desk to a different environment whether they need to inspire some creativity or find a corner to get some heads-down work done.
The lesson learned is that the best work environment was one that was built based on the team’s ideas and what supported the team in their goals, not just a bunch of things you think are needed because another “fun” company has them.
What gets measured gets managed
While we don’t claim to be the experts on company culture, you can see there is a lot of thoughtful and continuous effort we have put in to foster and improve our company culture. Being a data-driven marketing agency, we also knew we needed to have a way to measure our improvement. Fortunately, when you are a finalist for Best Places to Work, they provide you with a lot of data from the survey that is completed by each employee (Best Places to Work is an award solely based on survey’s from your employees). We were able to learn some things from this results of that survey, in particular, it highlighted the issues around growth and professional development. Having been a finalist in multiple years allowed us to see the data over time as well.
However, we felt that yearly was not enough, we wanted a more up-to-date measurement and a place where we could hopefully gather some subjective feedback, not just numerical. We researched a number of different products and services and settled on OfficeVibe. This tool provides weekly questions to employees, and it was very easy to use and not intrusive with the included integration with Slack. From this tool, I am able to see the status of our culture across a number of measures. We can drill into the metrics, see the metrics per team, and review short text answers to key questions that employees are asked.
We have used a number of books, websites, and other resources to help shape our culture over the past couple years. If you are interested in fostering a great and productive culture in your firm, here are some resources we recommend.
- Traction by Gino Wickman
- Get a Grip by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton
- A Stake in the Outcome by Jack Stack
- The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham
- The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney, and Jim Huling
- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
- Scaling Up by Verne Harnish