Love your work: Having small company culture as a big company

There is a famous story once spoken about NASA. Upon his visit to the Houston Mission Control, then President John F. Kennedy saw a man scrubbing the floors vigorously. Upon being questioned of his motives, the man simply replied “I’m putting a man on the moon”.
It goes without saying that often small companies have much better culture than a big one. To do this you need to understand your work matters, have a mission focus and build big.

The difficulty in building a company for growth while maintaining its culture can be something akin to trying to run along a tightrope. For those of you who have done slack-lining, you may understand how difficult this is!

So the question remains, how do you maintain your small company ethos at a big company?

Your work matters

The hardest part about working at a big company is understanding that no matter how large the company, your work matters. It’s easy to feel like you are a cog in a machine when sitting in a confined cubicle, and by extension, it’s even easier to feel like neither you nor your work matters.

The truth is, as the great entrepreneur Richard Branson once said “a company is just a group of people, so you need to treat them like one”. The Virgin ethos applies all the way down to the furthest employees from the core. Put simply, treating people like both they and their work matter is a sure fire way to make sure your company grows while still being positioned for maintaining your culture.

Mission focus

It goes without saying that having a mission focus for your organisation is incredibly important if you want to keep your small company ethos.

Big companies can often get caught up in one thing and one thing alone, money. More sales, bigger deals, better metrics, operational efficiency become the norm, and the core mission goes out the window.
Smaller companies usually do this type of thing really well. They’ll start by proposing a mission statement that goes above and beyond the usual idea of focusing on money. Money is not the goal at a smaller company, money is the outcome. For smaller companies, performance become the goal.
Having a focus on the mission statement at heart can help keep your company culture balanced, ensuring that people don’t get over-excited when things are going well, and don’t get too down when things are going poorly.

Build Big

The hardest part about being in a large company is being so focused on increasing optimal efficiency of an existing product. This is where “the rot” sets in. Company culture goes down the drain when a company loses its ambition.
To stop this, it’s important to recognise that often the only thing that separates a small company from a big one is its ambition. By having this ambition and drive to constantly be reinventing and redefining new or existing products, you can be assured that the company in totality will be clearly positioned for the future.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

The best way to manage company culture? Avoid blame

In business, the difference between succeeding and failing resides almost solely in the company culture. Having a toxic blame culture can be detrimental, and in the totality of a company that is solely focused on short term gains for long term pain, will ultimately sacrifice culture for marginal profit gain.

In most organisations, finger pointing is a way to hold people accountable. If someone thinks that someone else has done a bad job, they can give a piece of feedback to ensure that the same error is not made again. Pointing the finger can be positive in some ways, if there is implicit trust in the person receiving the feedback that there are altruistic intentions.

If done poorly, pointing the finger at someone can lead to blame culture.

What is blame culture?

Blame culture is the manifestation of a group of toxic individuals who choose to blame rather than assist. Instead of saying “what did I do to contribute?”, people will say “who can I blame for this?”.
Quite often, blame culture will manifest in people saying things like “you should have done this” or “I think this is your fault because of this”. This type of toxic culture only manifests when people lack the confidence in their own ability, and in lacking confidence, choose to instead blame others for their predicament.

Blaming stems from the psychology of misattribution. Deep down inside, people have their own beliefs in who they are and what their ability is. For some, blaming is an escape route, because it’s much easier to blame someone than to look at your own performance to see where you went wrong.

How do you avoid blame?

Well, for a start, for a company to be involved in blame culture, there needs to be something inherently wrong at the very top. If those at the top do not have ability, what they will inevitably do is shift the blame and responsibility for company performance, to hide their own incompetence. This trickle down effect can flow all the way down to the middle management, and eventually infest the entirety of the company itself.

At its absolute worst, companies will look at hiring people, just so they can blame them for the company failure. To avoid this, if something is toxic, cut it off. If a company is built on toxicity, it won’t survive. Firing people for bad culture fit is far better than firing people for poor skills. Skills can be learned, culture cannot be.

What is the opposite of blame?

The opposite of blame is recognition. It doesn’t have to be something major, but simply saying that someone did a good job is enough to shift blame culture. If you can make a difference by showing gratitude, loving your job and loving yourself, you can shift blame culture. Of course, you’d need a medium to record all your messages of thank you and support.

What better way to say thank you than to use an employee recognition platform?

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

 

What’s in a name? The importance of naming

Classically, Shakespeare questioned the relevance of names by declaring: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Yet, the research is very clear, names matter. This is because names signify a lot of information, gleaned instantly upon first utterance; they convey gender, social class, ethnicity and may even connote personality characteristics such as kindness or morality. In yesteryears, a surname even described one’s occupation. But ultimately, the simple fact of one name being easier to pronounce over another can land an applicant a job, an employee a promotion, and even just mean you are more likely to befriend one person over another. When looking at new recruits, or workplace relations, it appears we are subjectively skewed to favour people with easily pronounced names, both first and last names. This effect goes beyond race, with surnames like “Smith” rating more favourably than “Urquhart”. How then does this impact the workplace, and by extension, how should you name your company?

Individual careers

A classic article in the New Yorker in 2013 described a famous study where researchers sent fake resumes to various employers where the only difference was a “white- or black-sounding” name, such as Emily Walsh and Greg Baker versus Latisha Washington and Jamal Jones. They found that one-in-ten “white-sounding” names receive a call-back, whereas only one-in-fifteen “black-sounding” names also received a call-back. This effect has also been seen in the classroom, where names associated with low socioeconomic-status or certain cultures, influence the expectations of the teacher for different pupils. As a result, the opportunities available vary considerably, and tell us that names really concretely signify certain attributes which affect interpersonal relationships. This is hard to avoid, as it is mostly the result of subconscious bias, but one approach could be to de-identify resumes prior to assessment. Furthermore, being aware of these subconscious biases and make an effort to correct them. After all, it may lead to recruitment of the most talented and effective workers.

Naming a company

Not only do these differences matter in terms of an individual’s career, but how you name your company can have a significant impact on your brand. While creativity is important for ensuring that people remember your company name, it is also important to have an easily pronounced name. Furthermore, you can associate your company name with certain feelings to influence your brand, such as use of the word “apple” to signify fresh new ideas, “google” to make you think of oggling pages as you search, or even simply “bing” the onomatopeoia that signifies the exchange of information and receiving of information. The name used has a powerful impact on the brand clients associate with your company, and may even have something to do with the favourability of “Chrome” and “Firefox” over “Internet Explorer” (speed of downloads aside).

Shakespeare had it right.

Ultimately, think carefully about names. Juliet might not have thought they mattered in Elizabethan times, but we are certainly not disillusioned about their relevance in modern society. Ensure you take care not to bias your selection of new recruits based on their names, and think long and hard about the name of your company in terms of catchy, easy to pronounce and associated with the right context. 

 

Five fun tips for employee engagement

Employee engagement needn’t be a difficult venture. There are plenty of small, effective and fun ways of motivating your employees to be more engaged in the workplace. These simple measures are also often quite inexpensive. It is well established that the dividends of investment in employee engagement exceed initial input many times over in terms of success and productivity. With the relative ease on instituting these programs, it really doesn’t make any sense to delay it any further, put these simple ideas into place today and reap the rewards!

  1.       Free lollies

Everyone loves a sweet treat! What is even more important than the token gift of thank-you lollies, is that you can accompany them with a personalised and funny message. There are literally hundreds of options to try out in your company. They needn’t even be lollies, you can offer encourage-mints, give coffee vouchers that say “thanks a latte!”, or even give out scented candles thanking your employees for being “scents-ational!” The possibilities are limitless! Check out this Pinterest article for more options. The personalised messages will give your employees a kick of humour to break up the work day, be inspired to be more engaged at work, and the touch of personal acknowledgement will help them feel more a part of the team.

  1.       Free fruit

The provision of healthy snacks should be more regular occurrence. If you have a weekly fruit box delivered, this says to your employees that you care about their health. If you aren’t already using a fruit box delivery service, you should really take advantage of this small way of letting your employees know you care

  1.       Fitness programs

A further way to let your employees know you care about their wellbeing, is to offer free or subsidised fitness programs. Healthy employees are less stressed, and are ultimately more engaged in the workplace, with less days of absenteeism. You can subsidise a gym membership, set aside an office space for yoga classes, or even just organise a simple office jogging group.

  1.       Ice breakers

Yes, ice breakers can be the worst. Who can think of one fun thing to say about themselves? I mean who is to say what your target audience will think is fun? And what about the self-confidence that requires?  But I’m not talking about the kind of ice breaker which requires you to sit in a circle, say your name, your job title and department, and one fun thing about yourself. The best kinds of ice breakers are office games. These shouldn’t be too complex, and your box of Cards Against Humanity is probably not appropriate here. Think charades, celebrity heads and scavenger hunts.

  1.       Team activism

Getting your employees involved in a volunteering opportunity can be infinitely useful for employee engagement. It helps them socialise, feel part of a team, and feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Find a cause that your team is passionate about and sign them up! Not only will this benefit your employee engagement, you can also advertise that your team is involved and positively influence the brand of your company in the eyes of your clients!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Building bridges: developing the network of communication

Bridges are amazing feats of engineering, taking enduring strength and meticulous planning to construct. They provide a means to connect one place to another, enabling transport of persons and equipment not previously possibly. Bridges therefore represent a new frontier for human endeavour.

Exciting frontiers

Similarly, creating information highways in business generates new frontiers for business development. There is a concerted effort required to generate the foundation for effective communication and business relationships at all levels, from peer-peer connections, to inter-business trade. The relationships need to be gently supported to prosper, and it requires work from both ends.

Bridges and businesses

There are striking similarities in the ways that bridges and business relationships are built. Take the Sydney Harbour Bridge: construction began in 1925 at Dawes Point in the south and McMahon’s Point to the north and graduation came together over the next five years until the structure was complete in the middle. There is something beautiful in this collaboration, in the elegant plan required to align the construction and the camaraderie and teamwork involved in the labourers putting together such a magnificent structure.

Collaborative planning

The way that an effective business relationship is developed is also beautiful. The bridge built here also needs to provide a viable business model at both ends, equally enabling each co-worker, employee and manager, and sellers and buyers to maintain the integrity. Any model which favours one party over the other results in an unstable network.

Effective planning

It is also essential for the planning to be effective to support the structural integrity required. If there is ineffective planning for capacity or for taking external factors into consideration, the bridge is likely to fail. Historically, we can learn from the lesson of the Severn Bridge, to link England with Wales which was opened in 1966. The response in increase in traffic was unanticipated by the designers and another bridge had to be constructed 5 miles upstream to compensate. What you want is to design the Bay Bridge in San Francisco built in 1934 which today successfully can accommodate 240,000 vehicles.

Finally, ensure you take external factors into account, such as market growth or compliance requirements. Ensure you don’t repeat the mistakes of the Tay Bridge in Scotland which killed 60 train passengers due to its design which did not take wind-loading into account.

Mind the Gap

Basically, you want to ensure you “mind the gap” to build a successful bridge in developing a business relationship. To do this consider three main points:

–          Build from both ends, taking both sides into account

–          Consider future growth, and ensure the relationship is large enough to accommodate

–          Ensure you design your network to be robust enough to take external factors into account

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Employee recognition in the Hotel Industry

Anyone who has worked in the hospitality industry knows that it can be lacking in terms of recognition. This is a job that most work on the pathway to other careers, but hospitality is a massive industry. Practically every social interaction that we have depends on this industry, from first dates, to birthdays, to work functions and the hospitality we receive can have a huge impact on the relative success of these events. Without recognition, it is hardly surprising to note that the hospitality industry reports the lowest statistics for employee engagement. But this trend is surprisingly not followed in the Taj Hotels group of resorts and palaces in India, where recognition and engagement of employees equals the delivery of exemplary service to its guests in 109 luxury facilities.

So laudable are the employees of the Taj group, that they have heroically acted in the interests of their guests in more than one terrorist incident. This excellence has been attributed to the particularly effective service training that the hotel group employees undergo. There is a lot to be learned from the Ordinary Heroes of the Taj, and the lessons in terms of gratitude and engagement can be applied to not only the hospitality industry, but also all workplaces in general.

  • Expressions of gratitude should come from immediate supervisors

Immediate managers are key in determining how employees feel about the company, and therefore any engagement or recognition program needs to start with front line managers. Ultimately, engaging your managers will help them to engage your employees. Ensure your managers frequently hold briefings with their employees and ensure you check in with them regularly. Additionally, though immediate supervisors are so important, they shouldn’t be the only ones to give feedback to employees. Taj hotels employees can accumulate points from compliments from guests, compliments from colleagues and their own suggestions. Appreciation from peers is extremely powerful and should be factored into the broader system of employee engagement.

  • Recognition should be immediate and frequent

It seems that many managers save up and hold their recognition until a later time, typically until the annual review. But it is known that even financial rewards at the annual review are too little too late. The best thanks is an immediate thanks, and acknowledgment and recognition are more important than financial incentives.

  • A recognition system is necessary

Finally, Taj Hotels have a Special Thanks and Recognition System (STARS) which links customer satisfaction to rewards. Ultimately the particular system is not the important factor, but the fact that they have a system for employee recognition. Their system is also reviewed daily to ensure employee recognition is a daily occurrence. It is crucial to ensure employee engagement by employing a robust employee recognition program which pays dividends regularly.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

The subtle art of getting your employees to care

You may have heard of or read the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” by Mark Manson. This is his answer to the extremely popular “the Life Changing Magic of not giving a F***” by Sarah Knight, itself an answer to “The Life Changing Magic of tidying up”. This new era in oppositional self-help books is taking the market by storm, and for good reasons. Sarah Knight’s antidote to perfectionism focuses on not caring what others think, while Mark Manson’s composition has some subtler messages which are more applicable to business.

Essentially, the crux of the information advises readers to find something important and meaningful in life to devote the bulk of their time and energy towards. This advice is given with profound insight in mind that everything in life has its problems associated, and that if you care about what you are doing, the pain associated with these problems will be easier to bear. Essentially, the message is the antithesis of much of what advertising tries to convince of, that you should care about less things, not more. You should also care about things wisely, making sure to only care about the things which align with your personal values.

Take home message:

The take home for business managers is this: your workers will be happier and more engaged in their work, and therefore more productive, if they view their work as meaningful and aligned with their personal values. This could be the key to the reason why most employees are not engaged, and 16% of Australian workers are actively disengaged and looking for other work. It makes a lot of sense and could point at the reason why many older workers view millennials as lazy or dispassionate workers. The truth is that millennials are not dispassionate about life in general, they are just more acutely aware of the idea that they should be searching for the things which align with their values to engender that passion.

So, in a world of apathy, how can business managers ensure their workers are passionate about the values their business stands for?

Essentially, culture is the answer. Developing a culture in which your employees can thrive, where the business values align with their own personal values, and where they can feel they have a meaningful contribution to the world around them.

Getting your employees to care:

Find out about what your employees care about and think about how the business values can align. For example, if your employees care about the environment, think about measures in which you can cut down your ecological footprint. If you have a team of people who care about giving back to their community, enrol your workplace into a volunteering opportunity. There should be a degree of individuality in this also, a worker who is more social and outgoing should be given opportunities to interact with the public on behalf of the company. And acknowledge the contributions of each of your workers, ensuring they feel valued for the individual contribution their strengths and efforts make to the functioning of the workplace. In this way, you will ensure you attract and retain the most talented and motivated workers for your individual business.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.