Culture Summit - Afeef Hussain

“How We Culture” With Afeef Hussain, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

Are you gearing up for this year’s Culture Summit? Let us help you get in the mood by introducing you to one of this year’s speakers, Afeef Hussain, Regional Director, Training, Development and Quality Assurance with LUX* RESORTS AND HOTELS – MALDIVES.

“How We Culture” With Hussain Afeef, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

Name: Afeef Hussain

Location: LUX* RESORTS AND HOTELS – MALDIVES

Position: Regional Director, Training, Development and Quality Assurance

 

What attracted you to LUX Resorts? Do you think the culture is an intentional company attribute that’s equally attractive to other employees, or something unique to you?

I was working for an International brand known as One&Only for almost six years when I had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with LUX* Resorts and Hotels CEO, Paul Jones. I knew Paul was the type of leader I wanted to follow, and during my first meeting with him I also met Dominik Ruhl who was the General Manager at the time; at that moment I realised and understood these two leaders have something great in them, and if I can work with them, it will make me a better person.

This was confirmed when I toured LUX* South Ari Atoll in 2012 and saw the smiles, friendliness, care, and attention of the employees. The culture I observed was something I did not expect from a resort brand, especially at an early stage. Immediately it clicked in my mind that I can do something better here and make this resort even a better place with these beautiful people.

The culture is indeed what attracted me to LUX* Resorts and Hotels. From its inception, the whole brand LUX* Resorts and Hotels has been built on people, and the value people can give to others, like guests or visitors to their property – it is a culture of looking after people, whether they are paying guests or team members.

 

What initially attracted you to the training and development space?

I have had the experience of working closely with operations, understanding the operational needs through various assignments and management internships. I always love teaching, sharing, and making sure I give back to other people whenever I can. This made me want to be involved in the learning and development of people.

I believe there is nothing better than teaching, sharing, and self-learning. When participants leave training or a learning experience and I notice the change in their behavior and attitude as they apply what they have learned, I am humbled. There is nothing better than seeing team members reaching their potential and striving to achieve excellence in their personal and professional goals.

 

How has that skill evolved throughout your career?

Learning and development and quality assurance are my passions, but I love doing many things. In my day-to-day, I spend a lot of times in resort operation, understanding guest perspectives, reviewing standards, observing team members performance, how they serve, communicate and their approach towards a different type of guests. Each of these elements brings me a learning experience, and I use these to develop various skills of mine such as understanding how to work with operational leaders, understanding the perception of operational leaders towards training, development, and quality assurance.

 

“How We Culture” With Hussain Afeef, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

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If you couldn’t work in the training and development space, what would you be doing?

Resort and Hotels Operations side. Even at the moment, I am heavily involved in operations, as Quality Assurance is a part of operations. It is the backbone of consistency and quality control. When one works with operations, you have a competitive advantage of learning things daily as you interact with the people element of your paying guests or clients and top line and bottom line revenue.

 

What are you reading, online or off, that you recommend?

I love reading, and I’m always reading two to three books at a time. My daily habit of reading looks like this: in the morning I read a chapter from a biography; in the afternoon during my lunchtime coffee, I read about leadership learning or stories; and in the evening, I ready about a business topic.

Right now I am reading a biography of Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia, as well as The Leader Who Had No Title, a leadership book based on a fable by Robin Sharma. I’m also reading Growth Mindset by Matthew Syed.

Online, I read a lot from Harvard Business Review articles, Forbes, INC.com and Entrepreneur Magazine. My best reading materials are always about leadership, growth mindset, and how we can serve and value each other. I admire authors who write about culture and the importance of looking after people.

 

How do you prefer to read/consume information?

I prefer to read using hardcover books. I don’t like reading things online unless it is a summary or for skim reading. When I read using online versions, I cannot focus. When I am with printed materials or a hard copy, I can keep my phone or tablet away and concentrate on the book/magazine or the printed version. This is a habit one must develop especially with the ever-increasing technology and ways to gather and read information. I love technology, but not for reading purpose.

 

What’s your technology of choice?

In our industry, technology is vital. But I must admit regardless of many types of research around, technology will not be able to replace people regarding service delivery from a human touch point. The world will become paperless and wireless but not peopleless.

Personally, I am keen on engaging with various social platforms and understanding how it works to see where I can add value to our people who use them. We use a lot of software and apps for connecting various external and internal needs, and this is something that is changing daily.

“How We Culture” With Hussain Afeef, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

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What does your workspace look like?

I don’t like to have a big office, or high tech things around at my workplace. I prefer to have a small office space, allowing me to go out of my office, meet people, and connect with our team members as much as I can. In the hospitality business, you can’t serve by sitting in an office. Even our General Manager spends 80% of his daily working hours outside his office. We can only serve our people when we are with them.

Currently, all my staff sits with me in the same office, and we can always see each other and communicate without any barriers. Plus, I always want to sit next to the entrance door of my office so I can be the first one to greet visitors.

 

How do you define culture? Do you think there is or should be a universal definition?

There are several definitions of culture because different people see it differently. For me, culture is how a group of people live, follow, and get along with each other by understanding that to be a part of something bigger they must learn how to value each other. This is where every culture forms and creates a set of value, and these values bring the behaviors that should be respected and followed by everyone who lives and works together in that particular environment.

I firmly believe culture also defines the level of energy that one can get when they visit or have the opportunity to work with a particular group of people. My favorite airline on the planet is Singapore Airlines. I have had 69 trips by this beautiful airline in the past 15 years. Every time I fly on this airline, I experience the warmth and genuine care that I don’t get from many other airlines. It is not because they know me. It is the culture of Singapore Airlines and the culture that has been created since its inception back in 1972. Meanwhile, if I take a regional airline like Srilankan Airlines, the service level depends on the crew set. The energy level differs, and one can see that there is a culture issue when it comes to service delivery and execution.

 

What are some common misconceptions about culture?

There are some who still believe that culture is just a word that is referred to specific values or beliefs followed by a group people based on their religious, nation, country or geographical location. I respect different views, but in today’s world culture has become the keyword in every business decision-making meeting or almost every aspect.

Speaking from what I know, LUX* Resorts and Hotels became one of the most admired hotel brands just because of the service culture we create, offer, and consistently strive to maintain and elevate.

 

What’s the best culture advice you’ve ever received?

Look after each other. Look after and pay attention to the person in front of you, at your back, right and left. Creating and building up the energy of a particular culture takes times. To create a culture, one must implement several initiatives to remind people about the values, beliefs, and, most importantly, leaders must role model the culture values. I believe the rise and fall of every organization depend on the culture they have created, and this starts with the leader.

 

If you had to pick one culture-enhancing practice or “tactic” most companies could or should implement, what would it be?

Companies or organizational culture comes with a set of values. Some companies may have vision and mission. Whatever their values are, they must live and breathe it internally before they can deliver and practice it with their clients. Every organization must strive to create the culture of what they believe in internally, and this should be the foremost important step in creating a culture. It has to start from the moment of hiring and at every step on onboarding and through every step of the employee’s journey within that particular company.

 

“How We Culture” With Hussain Afeef, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

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If you could impart one universal understanding about company culture to every senior executive in the world, what would it be?

Everything rises and falls on leadership. I learned this many years ago from my friend, coach and mentor John C. Maxwell. Therefore, the leaders at the top of the organization must always live, breath, and lead by the DNA of the organization, which is the values that underpin the culture. Leaders must carry the culture values wherever they go and in whatever they do. Good leaders create, maintain, and elevate great cultures.

 

It’s the year 2030, what is the workplace culture dialogue talking about?

I anticipate that in 2030 or the next few decades we will talk a lot of about what can we do to create more value for each other within the internal service culture. One may think that AI, robotics, and other innovative technology ideas or ways of doing things may reduce the value of human touch or service by living and breathe human being, but this is a misconception; the more the AI, robotics, and technologies come to life, organisations and companies will be evaluating how they can work towards excellence using people, and this will lead to a question about “value.” I foresee 2030 and decades beyond that organizations and companies will invest more time and money in making their people better. The people of the organization will make their culture a worthwhile place, not the office buildings, location, or their product offerings.

How to Keep Gen X-Ers and Baby Boomers Engaged at Work

We all know that Millennials have surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, so it makes sense that they’re getting a lot of attention in the press, on social media networks, and on the SHRM blog. But as companies compete to find and hire the most talented of this age group, it’s only natural that more senior employees – the Gen Xers and the Baby Boomers – start to wonder if their work matters anymore.

Earlier this year we discussed how to help legacy employees stay engaged when the legacy culture gets an upgrade. Today, we’re going to look at what you can do to make sure those employees know that there’s still a place in your company for their hard-won experience and expertise.

There’s one caveat worth mentioning, though: while generational stereotypes can offer insight into larger trends, there’s no one-size-fits-all label that perfectly captures every team member on your roster. There are only larger trends that can inform your approach to human resources management and give you a starting point for conversations around employee engagement.

To help facilitate those conversations – and identify those larger trends – we got in touch with Austyn Rask, Research Analyst and Consultant with the generational consulting experts at BridgeWorks. Here’s what she as to say about keeping Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers engaged at work:


Why are Gen X and Baby Boomer employees valuable assets in the workplace?

Like every diverse segment of the population within an organization, Gen X and Boomer employees have unique experiences and traits to offer. The disciplined Boomers wield a fiercely competitive yet optimistic spirit, while the independent, resourceful Xers have mastered a special balance between analog and digital.

An organization is at its strongest when multiple generations can work together and complement each others’ strengths, but this isn’t possible if a company focuses on a single generation – cough, Millennials, cough – and ignores the others.


In what ways can employers balance efforts to attract Millennial talent with efforts to avoid alienating Gen X and Boomer talent?

It all begins with generational awareness, which impacts everything from benefits to engagement—from hiring to retention. Having a perspective on who generations are and how they impact the workplace is essential. Leaders must also make it a priority to keep an open line of communication with seasoned employees. Don’t let yourself get too sucked into the Millennial hype, because there will always be a new generation entering the workforce and bringing change and hype with them, as well.

(Something we’re seeing now with Gen Edge!)


What are some of the unique needs and interests of Gen X and Baby Boomer employees in the workforce?

Here’s a brief summary of Boomers’ and Xers’ needs and interests, and more can be found in the infographics below:

Gen X employees…

  • Value honest, transparent leaders and coworkers
  • Are best motivated through flexibility and time to invest in their personal lives (Basically, time at work = time away from the fam)
  • Desire freedom to exercise independence at work amidst the inevitable team meetings and brainstorm sessions
  • May or may not still enjoy The Goonies and Donkey Kong!

BridgeWorks-GenXTraits

Gen X infographic courtesy of BridgeWorks

Baby Boomer employees…

  • Tend to prefer face-to-face communication (a notable source of tension between Baby Boomers and Millennials)
  • Value networking and building a professional community
  • Appreciate it when their contributions are publicly honored (your motivational secret sauce with Baby Boomer employees)
  • Often enjoy being on the cutting edge of technology to “keep up with the Joneses”

Bridgeworks-BabyBoomerTraits

Baby Boomer infographic courtesy of BridgeWorks


What else should HR directors know about keeping these generations of employees engaged?

With four generations working side-by-side in the workforce, seeking generational understanding is key to developing a team that capitalizes on each other’s unique strengths and experiences rather than perpetuating negative stereotypes.

With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day – a trend that will continue for another 11 years – these employees are walking out the door with decades of experience and industry knowledge. Establishing constructive cross-generational relationships and keeping seasoned employees engaged is essential to not losing their wisdom and years of hard work.

Thank you, Austyn! And if the topic of age and generational values in the workplace fascinates you, don’t miss these articles for further reading:

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens at Culture Summit doesn’t stay at Culture Summit – it follows attendees back to work and into board meetings, one-on-ones, and cultural initiatives for the rest of their careers.

Today we want to share three stories of what three Culture Summit attendees took with them from their experience at the conference and how it enhanced their ability to scale culture, explore the possibilities of their role in culture, and participate in the culture community.

You’ll hear from Hailey Adams at Loopio, Tim Kenny at Black Duck Software, and Orson Wells at the Friedkin Group, and we hope you’ll join us in congratulating them on their achievements and wishing them well in their continued efforts to maintain, build, and explore company culture:

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

Hailey Adams, People Operations Manager at Loopio Inc.

Successfully scaling culture at Loopio Inc.

Hailey Adams, People Operations Manager at Loopio Inc., attributes the education and actionable takeaways from Culture Summit with being a pivotal part of her company’s scaling culture success story:

“I’ve been to a lot of conferences where we talk about issues, but we don’t get real actionable steps on how to overcome them,” says Adams. “This was the first conference that actually gave me key takeaways to bring back to my company and take action.”

In particular, Adams saw results from the culture mapping workshop. By applying the culture mapping process to her company of 25 she was able to grow to over 50, and plans to continue expanding at a rapid rate while maintaining employee engagement and keeping ratings and reviews such as ENPS, and overall employee happiness high.

“When I returned from Culture Summit, I knew our small team would be growing quickly,” says Adams. “Since our culture was already incredibly strong, I realized we needed to do something in order for us to scale, and so we can keep improving. Culture mapping immediately came to my mind.”

Adams continues: “I met with over half the team, individual meetings for an hour each. I used materials from Culture Summit to ask strategic questions, like, ‘What does a great day look like? Why, how, and what impacted it? What does a terrible day look like?’ and dig into the answers. After just a few conversations, I saw patterns and trends that I was able to map and present to our founding team.”

As a result of actively culture mapping as the company expanded, Adams implemented culture initiatives that allowed the new, larger company to unify itself as one team, rather than siloing off into departments or expertise. She also brought new employees in with the expectation they would change and shift the culture – not fit it.

“Culture mapping will be an ongoing activity because our culture will always be changing as we grow,” says Adams. “Different employees bring different opinions, wants, and needs to the organization, and we want to support that.”

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

Tim Kenny, Vice President of Culture at Black Duck Software

Inspiring possibility for Black Duck Software

Tim Kenny, Vice President of Culture at Black Duck Software, benefited most from the community he found at the Culture Summit.

“Being able to network, talk, and share with people who care about culture as a major driving force in modern business was a delight,” says Kenny. “In fact, some of the one-on-one conversations I had were just as valuable as the presentations and keynotes. We would discuss what we’re working on and struggling with and where culture falls in the list of corporate priorities, and it was fascinating to learn about the similarities and differences from a diversity of industry and business from banking to software.”

Last year’s Culture Summit was particularly well-timed for Kenny because his company was about to be acquired by a much larger company, Synopsys. His company of 400 is now part of a company of 11,000 and they have retained him as head of culture within the larger company.

“When you’re a startup of five or 10 people in a garage, culture is natural and organic,” Kenny says. “But when you grow to 20 and 30 to 100 and 1000, it isn’t like it used to be. The speakers representing larger companies working on culture showed me it was possible to maintain or migrate culture at scale and shared perspectives on how they were fighting the good fight around cultural enablement and diversity – things that otherwise fall between the cracks in large organizations.”

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

Orson Wells, Senior Organizational Development Specialist at The Friedkin Group

Connecting with community for The Friedkin Group

When Orson Wells, Senior Organizational Development Specialist at The Friedkin Group, attended the Culture Summit, he was struck by his fellow attendees’ commitment to culture – it was important to everyone there, no exceptions.

“Coming from a place where everyone you work with is internal to the organization, there’s always a hurdle you have to jump when proving that culture is important and can profoundly impact the company,” says Wells. “At Culture Summit, you didn’t have to prove it. From the speakers to the workshops to the attendees, you were surrounded by other people who thought culture was important and who could see how culture impacts work.”

The community and education of the Culture Summit also reinforced for Wells that he was on the right track and gave him confidence to own the culture side of his company’s subsequent rebranding.

“We recently had a branding change, but instead of just a new logo and colors, we wanted to make a change from the inside out,” Wells says. “One of the big ideas we based this on was from the Culture Summit culture mapping session, the question, ‘What does a successful person look like within the company?’ We built a campaign called, ‘Owning the Brand’ and started having discussions with managers and leaders about what we would have to do to live up to this new vision and mission statement.”

Orson continues: “Starting with this question helped us really focus on authenticity and make a real culture shift. After all, if were telling our customers were more customer friendly and easy to work with, we wanted that to be true! We want a culture where when someone calls up our employees carry the challenge all the way to the solution instead of saying, ‘’This isn’t my problem.’”

“What made this culture change real is structuring it around that question,” says Wells. “We didn’t stop at just what we need to do as a company – we looked at what we need to do differently on an individual and team level to fulfill our new vision.”

Is your organization just starting to embrace a specific culture initiative, or is significant growth on the horizon? Sign up for this year’s Culture Summit today so you can get the knowledge, resources, and connections you need to be successful!

How We Culture with Helen Russell, Chief People Officer at Atlassian

How We Culture with Helen Russell, Chief People Officer at Atlassian

Are you gearing up for this year’s Culture Summit? Let us help you get in the mood by introducing you to this year’s Keynote Speaker, Helen Russell, chief people officer (CPO) of Atlassian.

Helen Russel Atlassian - Culture Summit Keynote

As CPO, Helen has global responsibility for the attraction, engagement, development, and experience of Atlassian’s most important asset – its people. She champions Atlassian’s mission: ‘to unleash the potential of every team,’ playing a critical role in enabling the company ‘to be the ultimate team.’ With a growing employee base, Helen enables Atlassian to scale, while retaining the very elements that have made the company so successful to date.

We plugged in with Helen last week to interview her about what’s on her mind, what’s new inside the Atlassian culture, and more!

Name: Helen Russell

Location: San Francisco Bay

Position: Chief People Officer at Atlassian

 

What attracted you to Atlassian? Do you think the culture is an intentional company attribute that’s the same for other employers, or something unique to you?

Definitely the values and the culture. The culture is set by the tone at the top. Our founders are authentic, straight-shooting Australians. When I came to interview with them, I felt this was a place where I could be myself. It was a heavily relational interview process where they were trying to make sure there was a personal fit first, and after that, they dug in to ensure I had the right HR skills and experience.

There are a lot of companies now with strong cultures and who put a similar emphasis on culture, so I don’t want to say we’ve mastered this, but I think it’s something we hold as extremely important and believe it to be a living, breathing thing. We have a screening process to make sure values-fit is really high.

 

What initially attracted you to the HR space?

I never considered a career in HR! I was growing up in the recruiting world and saw myself on the sales side of recruiting. At the same time, I was very focused on building relationships getting candidates to trust that I had their best interests at heart, finding them the right fit in terms of company.

I was running recruiting from Europe, and I’d shortlisted three HR leader candidates for the Head of HR role for our European business. Our CHRO was over from the US to interview the candidates and when she and I went out for dinner I asked how the interviews went – I felt good about the candidates! My heart sank when she shared that she didn’t want to hire any of them. I asked, “Why? What didn’t work for you?” and she said, “Because I want you to do it!”

What she wanted to leverage was the trust I’d built with the executive team, and that was more important than my having 10 years of HR experience behind me. She was a huge advocate for me, and pushed me outside of my comfort zone, including pulling me to the U.S. and providing me with the opportunity to assume her role when she went out on maternity leave.

 

How has that skill evolved throughout your career?

I would say the secret weapon of any recruiter is the ability to really assess a candidate’s potential and fit for the environment they’re coming into. That has proven to be hugely helpful in a talent development scenario as well.

I’m constantly looking for opportunities for people to come in and take new roles, which has benefited my team. I can just spot something in their ability that they may not even recognize in themselves, and push them to help them grow.

There’s an element of competitiveness about the role of a recruiter too, so I bring that to HR as well. I don’t want to lose! I don’t want to fall behind my peers. And there’s a level of really wanting my team to achieve and wanting the function to feel like it’s winning.

Look, it’s really difficult in this function! We don’t get recognition and awards, like, “Hey! Great job hiring that person!” As HR leaders, it’s incumbent on us to inspire and celebrate the team as a whole.

 

If you couldn’t work in the HR space, what would you be doing?

I would be in some kind of investigative role. I have this talent inherited from my mum where I have the ability to spot things other people don’t notice. I’ve just always got my radar up. So, I’d be doing something for the FBI or CIA that would allow me to leverage that ability.

 

What are you reading, online or off, that you recommend?

Atlassian was quoted in John Wood and Amalia McGibbon’s Purpose, Incorporated: Turning Cause Into Your Competitive Advantage, and I’m reading that. I’m very interested in anything about purpose and fulfillment. We spend so much time at work, and this whole “work-life balance” notion – where we used to believe they are two separate things that you try to make work in harmony – I just don’t believe they’re separate.

I grew up in a generation in which for most of my career I was one person at work, and I was a different person at home. But here, I observe in my team that they’re the same people at work and at home. I’ve been learning from my team that it’s okay to talk about family things I would otherwise only talk to friends about.

It’s as much about bettering myself as it is about learning how we can bring this more overtly to Atlassian and build that notion of belonging. How can people best show up so that they feel they truly belong in this environment?

 

How do you prefer to read/consume information?

It’s a combination. In addition to reading, I like to walk to work and listen to a lot of Audible audiobooks. I’m consuming on the journey in and home from work. It’s usually business content on the way in, and lighter stuff on the way home.

I consume most things online. I have a bookmark called “articles,” and anything interesting I drop in there. Every Friday, I calendar in time just to think and catch up – I schedule it to prevent anything else from cutting in. There’s just something about a Friday where there’s a level of calm that’s different.

 

What’s your technology of choice?

The phone is rarely picked up here – everything is video conference, in terms of communication.

I run my life on Trello. All my content from 1:1, team meetings go into Trello, and we’re even using it to develop career ladders. It’s such a simple tool. We acquired Trello last year, and we are embracing the heck out of this product. We’re also huge consumers of Confluence. It’s a major product for us that has driven a very heavy blogging culture. People will blog about anything and everything here, from living with domestic violence to being kind at work.

When we were a part of the Great Places to Work survey, the interviewers told us that our trust scores were one of the highest they’d ever seen in any company. I think that speaks to the fact that our employees can disclose things at work and feel safe doing so. Especially with the #MeToo movement strong and growing, you want to ensure that if employees sense the slightest whiff of anything, they are going to be heard, and we take it seriously.

 

What does your workspace look like?

It’s an evolving question. Our workspace is very open plan, and we have lots of collaboration spaces. As a part of my role, I also look after facilities and the workplace experience side of the house. I’ve just made an offer to someone to run that team, and the reason I got really excited about this hire is that he’s coming from the retail space.

Retail spaces are all about the customer and of course about making money, so he thinks about space in a very different way than if he was coming from the corporate world. There are a lot of great workspaces in Silicon Valley, where you say, “Wow, this feels awesome!” so I am excited about his coming in and looking at our spaces through a different lens in support of creating workspaces that will help unleash the potential of our teams.

We also want to ask the question, “And how does that look and feel for remote workers?” When you don’t have the luxury of all being in the same location – especially with the acquisition of our Trello team, where more than half our Trellists are remote – we are asking, “How do we make someone sitting in Idaho feel just as much a part of a team?”

 

How do you define culture? Do you think there is or should be a universal definition?

I define culture as the norms and behaviors expected of a person in a particular environment. Different people interpret it differently. Some people see values and culture as synonymous, but they aren’t. Culture is how you typically behave and how, when others come in and observe how that behavior manifests itself, they copy it to fit in.

 

What’s the best culture advice you’ve ever received?

My mentors would say, “culture is as culture does,” meaning that how you choose to show up every day is what’s defining the culture and setting the tone.

If I think back to my Siebel days when I had two little babies… I started to come home in the evenings, put my little ones to bed, and work in the evenings. I was often finishing email and returning calls around 10PM. But then I noticed that the majority of my team had also started to get online at 9 and 10 at night. I was inadvertently modeling that I expected that behavior. I had to sit team members down and explain that just because this was working for me at this time, it’s not what I expected from them. As leaders, we cannot underestimate the signals we send.

 

If you had to pick one culture-enhancing practice or “tactic” most companies could or should implement, what would it be?

I have to go with something we just started to do in the spirit of bringing your true self to work: at the beginning of each executive meeting, everyone has the mic for two minutes, and we each have a minute to say what’s top of mind from a personal perspective and a minute on what’s top of mind from a business perspective.

Since we started this practice, it is unbelievable what I’ve discovered about my peers. You just have no clue what’s going on in your colleague’s lives until that moment when they disclose things. It evokes a completely different level of empathy and connection. Having those moments to just situate what’s going on with colleagues enables us all to be more trusting, and to interact from a more humane and empathetic point of view.

 

If you could impart one universal understanding about company culture to every senior executive in the world, what would it be?

Every single thing you do and say contributes in some small way to your company’s culture and tone. I’m sure that knowing that would make executives check themselves ahead of responding in a certain way, being distracted looking at their phones, or other little things that feel so insignificant but have an incredible effect on the people around them.

Want to hear more from Helen? Start with her 2017 interview on 805Connect, “Building High Impact Teams,” and don’t miss her 2018 Keynote at The Culture Summit.

7 Employee Engagement Best Practices from the HR Experts at Google

This is a guest post by Mike Sonders, Head of Marketing at Spoke, a simpler, smarter way for HR and People teams to manage employee requests.

Fortune’s annual list of the “Best Companies to Work For” has featured Google every year since 2007. For the last six years, Google held the number-one position.

But Fortune isn’t the only one praising Google as a great place to work. Google’s Glassdoor rating is 4.4 stars—impressive on its own, but even more so considering its based on more than 6,000 employee reviews. Additionally, Glassdoor’s “Employees’ Choice” list of best places to work has featured Google every year since 2009.

Google is a leader in the employee engagement space, and it’s not just because of its high salaries, free chef-prepared lunches, and other quirky—and pricey—benefits. On Glassdoor, Google employees praise things like work-life balance, growth opportunities, and company culture just as frequently as their perks.

If you’re part of an HR team at a small or medium-sized business that’s looking for ways to boost engagement, discover new ideas and exciting opportunities by learning more about the employee engagement practices at Google.

How Google Measures Employee Engagement

Google’s entire approach to business—including how the company drives engagement—revolves around data.

During his tenure as Senior Vice President of People Operations (HR) at Google, Laszlo Bock instituted a long-term research study—named gDNA—focused on developing a scientific understanding of the work experience.

More than just Google’s employee engagement survey, gDNA measures how both the work environment and employees’ individual personalities shape the employee experience. Thousands of randomly selected Google employees complete the survey each year.

One of the earliest findings from gDNA results was that the idea of work-life balance is flawed.

They discovered that there are two types of people: “Segmentors” and “Integrators.” Segmentors are people who are able to go home at the end of the day and completely forget about work. Integrators, on the other hand, struggle to separate work and life.

Less than one-third (31%) of people are Segmentors. The rest are Integrators—people who want to achieve work-life balance but are incapable of making it happen on their own. This data helped Google identify an area with tremendous potential for improving engagement.

If work-life balance is important for keeping employees happy, motivated, and productive—but employees can’t achieve work-life balance on their own—there’s an opportunity to boost engagement by developing policies that enforce work-life balance.

For example, Google’s Dublin office ran a program called “Dublin Goes Dark” that required employees to drop off their devices before leaving the office.

With a team of psychologists, researchers, and data scientists, your HR team could recreate gDNA at your business. But since most SMBs don’t have access to those resources, the better approach is to look at what Google has learned and adopt those practices at your company.

Employee Engagement Practices at Google

In Google’s early days, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin focused on two things: creating a better way to find information on the internet, and making Google a great place to work.

To find out what makes a company a great place to work, they met with executives at SAS Institute. SAS Institute is one of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work for Legends,” appearing on the “Best Companies to Work For” list every year since the list began.

What they learned from SAS Institute is that the foundation of building a great place to work is valuing your employees. Or as Jim Goodnight—SAS Institute’s founder and CEO—says: “If you treat people as if they make a difference, they will make a difference.”

The starting point for engagement is making employees feel valued. Here’s how Google shows its employees that they’re valued.

1. Google Keeps People Inspired

A 2017 study conducted by Future Workplace found that employee burnout is currently the largest threat to employee engagement.

One of the biggest causes of employee burnout is lack of control at work. Studies have shown that the most capable employees at a company are often overloaded with work. This leads to incomplete tasks, frequent overtime, and halted innovation—all of which reduce employee control and increase the likelihood of burnout.

Google’s approach to this problem is 20% time. Employees spend up to 20% of their time at work every week on projects that inspire them. With their 20% time, Google employees created Gmail, Google News, AdSense, and many other highly profitable products.

A perk like 20% time inspires employees because it allows them to focus on things they’re passionate about. That inspiration prevents burnout, increasing engagement and decreasing turnover.

Implement 20% time at your company by allowing employees to set an annual goal of their choice. Let them choose anything they’re excited or passionate about. Then, work with managers to give employees the freedom to dedicate one day a week—or one week a month—to working on that project.

Including 20% time in annual goals is important because it gives HR and managers the ability to measure progress and see the outcomes of the initiative.

2. Google Supports Flexibility

Another way to prevent burnout by giving employees more control is to allow for flexibility in work schedules.

Some of Google’s more exotic benefits—like on-site haircuts, massages, bowling alleys, gaming rooms, pools, and playgrounds—aren’t necessarily designed for after-work use. Googlers enjoy those amenities any time they want—even in the middle of the workday.

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Photo Source: CNN

While most Googlers work some version of a Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, they can vary it up whenever they need to. Work six hours one day and nine the next, go swimming after a morning meeting, or work from home with a sick child—no one cares.

According to Prasad Setty, VP of People Operations at Google, one of the company’s core tenants is “if you give people freedom, they will amaze you.”

But giving their employees freedom and flexibility isn’t a matter of blind trust. Google only hires ambitious people—the types of people who do their work whether someone’s watching or not. In fact, the company is well-known for its lengthy, detailed, and thorough hiring process.

There are plenty of ways to support flexibility at your company. Allow employees to work from home when needed, adopt flex schedules, increase the amount of personal time employees get each year, or allow employees to take their personal time in hours—not days.

And remember that people are most productive in the morning before lunch. If flex time means people take the afternoon off for appointments or errands, it’s probably not as much of a blow to productivity as leadership may imagine at first.

3. Google Promotes Diversity

In 2015, Google expanded its 20%-time perk to create Diversity Core—a program that allows employees to allocate their time to diversity projects and initiatives.

Employees who participate in Diversity Core work on projects that raise the visibility of women in technology jobs and encourage more Hispanics to apply to work at Google, among many others.

According to data from Google, in 2014—before implementing Diversity Core—the company’s gender split in technical roles was 17% female and 83% male. As of the beginning of 2017, the number of females in technical roles at Google was at 20%.

Additionally, Google locations in the U.S. employed 5% more Asians and 1% more Hispanics at the beginning of 2017 than in 2014. If these numbers seem small, remember that Google employs more than 70,000 people; even a mere 1% increase is more than 700 people.

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Implement a program like Diversity Core at your company by allowing employees to set 20% time goals toward projects that promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and consider adopting some of Google’s other practices:

Google Employee Engagement Case Study

When analyzing data from gDNA results, Google’s People Analytics team noticed that fewer female software engineers were getting promoted than males. The problem, they found, was with their self-nominating approach to promotions.

At Google, software engineers nominate themselves for promotion when they feel they’re ready to take on more responsibility. The problem wasn’t that managers were promoting more men; it was that fewer women were nominating themselves for promotions.

To fix the problem, a senior leader at Google shared the data with Google employees, and HR teams encouraged managers to look for employees who were ready for promotion. Over time, the promotion rates for men and women software engineers equalized.

4. Google Listens, Responds, and Adapts

The gDNA study is just one way that Google collects feedback from its employees:

  • Employees use a tool called Google Moderator—another outcome of 20% time—to ask questions and vote on others’ questions they want answered.
  • Every Friday, the company holds an all-hands meeting where company leaders respond to the most popular questions of the week.
  • Leaders use a charting tool called Google-O-Meter to measure the popularity of different employee suggestions.
  • Leaders also schedule “Fixits” to solve big, urgent problems. Fixits are 24-hour sprints where teams focus 100% on finding solutions to specific problems.

There are plenty of ways for HR teams at SMBs to solicit employee feedback: engagement surveys, pulse surveys, anonymous forms, or even just a basic pen-and-paper suggestion box.

But remember that the only way to benefit from giving employees a voice is to respond and react to their suggestions. If you don’t have leadership buy-in on making changes, it’s probably not worth asking for feedback. Doing so will make people less likely to make suggestions in the future.

Google Employee Engagement Case Study

In its early days, Google founders Page and Brin wondered if a flat structure—one without managers—was better than a traditional workplace hierarchy. Eventually, the company turned to data to answer that question, launching a study called Project Oxygen.

Project Oxygen researchers gathered feedback data from employee surveys. They used that feedback data to create a baseline for determining management quality, and then they used that baseline to identify managers of the highest and lowest quality.

Next, they looked at survey data specifically for their highest- and lowest-quality managers. What they discovered was that managers identified as the highest quality had the lowest turnover and happiest teams.

By collecting employee feedback, Google was able to determine that a flat hierarchy wasn’t the best way to improve engagement. Additionally, they discovered the specific behaviors that their highest-quality managers exhibited, using that information to create new management training programs.

5. Google Encourages Development

There are a lot of different ways for businesses to encourage professional development:

  • Offer a professional development stipend.
  • Form a mentorship program.
  • Provide PTO specifically for time-off related to learning and development.
  • Have an on-site library of books selected by employees and leaders.
  • Reimburse employees for tuition costs.

Google has its own unique way of encouraging professional development: CareerGuru. CareerGuru provides employees with access to company leaders who explain—in great detail—what it’s like to work in different roles within the company.

This level of career coaching helps employees find roles they might want to move into one day in the future and learn what education and experience they need to qualify.

To recreate CareerGuru at your company, find managers and executives interested in offering occasional career coaching, and set up sessions for employees to meet with leaders to learn more about different roles. If confidentiality is a concern, handle all scheduling within HR, and set up one on ones instead of group meetings.

6. Google Creates a Culture of Empathy

Data doesn’t always have the answers. That’s a lesson Google learned during Project Aristotle—the company’s quest to determine the composition of the perfect team.

Using a decade’s worth of data collected about Googlers—covering everything from their educational and career backgrounds to their interests and eating habits—researchers and data scientists attempted to find patterns among Google’s highest-performing teams.

They couldn’t.

The conclusion they ultimately came to was that the perfect team had nothing to do with any qualities of the people on that team. The statisticians couldn’t find patterns. The data just didn’t contain the answers they were looking for.

So the team took a different approach: they observed high- and low-performing teams to look for consistencies in how the teams interacted and ran meetings. The discovered that members of the highest-performing teams felt safe speaking up and sharing their ideas.

Great teams trust and respect each other, providing all members with not only a voice, but also the confidence to share that voice with others.

Here’s how Charles Duhigg summarizes Project Aristotle’s findings in his piece for The New York Times:

What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy.

Emotional intelligence training is one way for HR teams at SMBs to promote trust and respect in the office. It’s also important to remember that a company’s culture starts at the top. Encourage senior leaders to be more open and honest with employees—and to encourage their reports to do the same.

7. Google Offers Unique Benefits

An article about Google just wouldn’t be complete without covering the company’s unique benefits. But many discussions of Google’s benefits focus on the wrong thing—they focus on what the benefits are and not why Google offers them.

For example, in Google’s early days, Page and Brin noticed that young software engineers were really bad about washing their clothes. This led to the company’s on-site laundry perk. No one sat down to brainstorm benefits and thought, “I bet this perk will make people want to work here.” They were simply fulfilling a need.

When putting together the benefits package for SMBs, consider what you know about company employees, and use that information to design unique benefits:

  • If many employees have young children, consider offering childcare reimbursement instead of/in addition to tuition reimbursement.
  • If many employees are recent college graduates, consider offering student loan payment matching instead of/in addition to 401k matching.
  • If many employees are nearing retirement, consider allowing them to invest their professional development funds into their retirement accounts.

If you don’t know enough about employees to know what benefits they need, collect information from managers, or include demographic questions in engagement surveys.

Building Your Own Employee Engagement Practices

Laszlo Bock offers the following advice for HR teams looking to measure engagement and find innovative ways to improve it:

  1. Determine your biggest issues. Ideally, you’ll get this information from your employees.
  2. Use surveys to collect employee feedback on how to improve or resolve the issues.
  3. Tell people what you learned and how you plan to resolve the issues.
  4. Experiment with solutions.

When experimenting, Google recommends that you “treat HR interventions like a medical researcher treats a drug trial: have a treatment group and an equivalent control group, hypotheses, a data collection period, an analysis comparing groups, and quantifiable outcomes.”

Even if your plan is to simply recreate Google’s learnings at your company, it’s important to test the changes first and measure the outcomes. It’s a lot of work, but the engagement benefits will make the hard work well worth it in the end.

Advanced Lessons on Driving Big Change at Large Organizations - Culture Summit

Advanced Lessons on Driving Big Change at Large Organizations

Whether subbing out a CEO, troubleshooting a culture of bias, or reorganizing to pursue a new market opportunity, every organization will face a point in its development when it needs to change. And while we all know the basics of implementing any new initiative (get buy-in, craft a plan, follow through), there are nuances to driving big change within an organization that only those who have “been there, done that” can point out.

Today, Tatyana Mamut, General Manager and Director of Product Management, Design, & Engineering at Amazon Web Services, and Ellen Leanse, author, Stanford instructor, and former Apple executive, are going to walk us through five advanced (and sometimes counterintuitive) lessons on the best way to approach large organizational change to make it stick:

 

1. Ambiguity is what makes change hard

It’s natural to assume that the bigger a change is, the harder it will be to implement, and the smaller the change is, the easier it is to implement, but that’s not true. In fact, some very large, significant changes, like a CEO succession, can be fairly straightforward because there’s so much information around the topic. Organizational change is hard or easy not based on the size of the change, but on the ambiguity of the change process.

“Companies will often send out a press release about what a big change it is to replace a CEO, but most of the time it’s not a difficult change because it comes with a very well known playbook – we know what needs to be done and how to accomplish it,” says Mamut. “What makes a change hard is when there’s no playbook for it and it’s ambiguous, uncharted territory. You don’t know if you have a full commitment from other leaders to head down the same path, and the machinery and mechanisms aren’t there to support the change.”

 

2. Small changes can actually be more difficult to implement

Even with a clear playbook for change, small changes can often be more difficult to implement than large ones because we assume we can accomplish them under the radar, without looking at the big picture. But we can’t.

“If you try to change one or two small things at a time, the immune system of an organization will respond and show up to attack the changes,” says Mamut. “Small changes fail because people don’t take the time to design the larger holistic playbook and the context into which those changes will fit. If there’s a big goal you want to achieve, you may have to change everything all at once in an orchestrated and coordinated move rather than making small changes over a period of time.”

 

3. The most powerful change is changing how people spend their time

Whatever particular change you’re planning for your organization, try to focus on what impact it will have on how people spend their time at work. Not only will that give your team a definite example of how the change will affect their work but it will make it clear that the change is a holistic one, meant to impact everything about the way they do their job.

“The number one thing that makes a difference in creating sustainable culture change in companies is when they have certain agreements or encouragements about how time is spent,” says Leanse. “The most powerful change is getting your team out of their time rut of easy work and meaningless checklist items in favor of real, deep thinking. Companies that can change that can change everything.”

 

4. You can’t “Do it right and be done”

Implementing a big change within an organization requires a lot of planning, and that planning can be painstaking work. But no matter how much effort you put into the coordination and strategy behind the plan, the rollout of change is the beginning of the work, not the end. Going through the process with an open mind and a sense of persistence will yield insights, integration, and value.

“When change isn’t easy right away, people tend to want to say, ‘I did it right, and it didn’t work, so I give up,’ and the business world tries to reinforce that kind of thinking,” says Leanse. “But when you’re implementing a really big change, you’ll never get to a point when you can say, ‘My work here is done!’ Real, lasting change is built on asking hard questions and embracing and reacting to input, even when it disagrees with yours.”

 

5. Successful change is always top down

The first step in making any culture change within an organization is to get buy-in from the leadership team, but it’s even more important when it comes to driving big change in a large organization. The board of directors down must understand and commit to the plans for change (and why there’s a need for it) in order to give the change the support it needs to be truly transformative.

“Middle managers are always looking for stories of how a small team did something big in a bottom-up way, but it’s very rare,” says Mamut. “I’ve worked with CEOs on large transformation initiatives – including the transformations at Life Technologies and Procter & Gamble – and it’s always led by the top and coordinated with the support of the board of directors.”

How can you initiate this kind of support? Focus on getting an advocate on the board of directors: “Find at least one person on board who understands the change and can guide the conversation for the entire board around it, asking questions like, ‘Will we need to change our metrics of success, including our financial metrics?’” and ‘How are we going to assess the success of the C-suite for the next 2-3 years for the investment?’” says Mamut. “This person needs to not just be on board with the plan – no pun intended – but actually drive the strategy around it.”

If you’re on the verge of driving big change within your organization, we hope these tips will help get you in the right mindset to be successful. And of course if you have any experience to share, please let us know in the comments!

Mindfulness in the Workplace: The What, Why and How of Building a Mindful Culture

Mindfulness in the Workplace: The What, Why and How of Building a Mindful Culture

Your employees are busy, but nothing is getting done.

Your team is working hard, but projects fall behind.

Everyone’s inboxes are abuzz with activity, but decisions don’t get made.

Individual members of your team are talented and hardworking, but as a whole, the team is not as productive as it could be.

…. Does any of that sound familiar?

We live in a distracted age. Phones buzz, watches tweet, and even the commute to work has dissolved into an endless array of options: radio? Streaming? Podcast? Sirius XM? There is a constant influx of information battling for your employee’s attention, a constant risk of distraction not just pulling them away from the work at hand but draining their mental energy and leaving them unable to perform at the level they’re capable of.

So, as a leader within your organization looking to protect your team’s ability to consistently do good work, what can you do?

The answer many high-performing companies are turning to is mindfulness.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness in the workplace is not just an excuse to splurge on branded yoga mats for the office (after all, not everyone’s flexible enough for One-Handed Tree Pose!). Rather than a specific physical practice like yoga or meditation, mindfulness is an approach to work and time that respects the mind’s ability (and need) to concentrate on one task at a time and an approach to work that leaves room to reflect on the implications of our actions and decisions.

The technical definition of mindfulness is an awareness of yourself and your surroundings in the present moment. In practice, mindfulness in the workplace is …

  • Thinking through an email before you send it so that you provide all the details the recipient needs the first time

  • Focusing on the customer’s needs and making sure you’ve met those needs before ending an interaction

  • Releasing a product that represents the best of your team’s abilities, not the result of frenzied multitasking

  • Making decisions that reflect your company’s values instead of decisions that solve the short-term problem as quickly as possible

  • Being intentional about how you communicate and how you spend your time

What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace?

There’s a reason that industry-leading companies like McKinsey & Company, Procter & Gamble, and Apple implement mindfulness programs for their employees: it’s been proven to deliver significant and long-lasting benefits in three areas that are critical to maintaining high levels of creativity and productivity: focus, attention, and behavior.

Focus

The ability to focus is really an ability to avoid distraction. By practicing mindfulness techniques, employees increase gray matter in the brain, thus increasing density in the areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory. As a result, they can maintain higher levels of attentiveness and concentration and spend more time on a given thought, project, or task, than usual.

Attention

Mindfulness stabilizes attention in the present and helps employees pay attention to visual and audio information longer. In particular, mindfulness has been shown to improve the “three qualities of attention”: control, stability, and efficiency. As a result, instead of allowing our minds to wander for approximately half of our waking hours, we gain back control over that time, and we can put it to good use.

Behavior

Mindfulness techniques have been shown to enhance the function of parts of the brain and result in superior performance in self-regulation, learning from past experiences, and decision-making. In one report, 80% of senior executives at General Mills who took a company-sponsored mindfulness course reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions and 89% said they became better listeners.

Mindfulness has also been shown to have a positive impact on resilience, collaboration, and complex leadership ability. Click here to read more.

How to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Culture

If you’re reading the Culture Summit blog and getting your plans in place to attend this year’s Culture Summit, we don’t need to tell you that you can’t just throw mindfulness into a mission statement and assume it’s a part of your culture. Like any other culture attribute, mindfulness is something that your organization needs to embrace on a deep level so that your processes and policies grow out of it.

If you want to build a more mindful company culture, plan ways you can exemplify and incorporate mindfulness into leadership decisions, company-wide processes and policies, and reinforcement opportunities. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Encourage employees to take mindfulness breaks throughout the day, whether structured (meditation, yoga, etc.) or unstructured (looking out the window, closing your eyes, etc.). Be sure to ask managers and members of the leadership team to model these breaks and share insightful thoughts or surprising benefits with the rest of the team.

  • Invite employees to turn off notifications for email and texts and instead check computers and communication tools at appointed times. (But make sure such a schedule is appropriate for your industry and your team’s job requirements – this would not be appropriate in a newsroom or marketing agency in which quick responses and approvals are critical).

  • Provide as much context as possible for leadership decisions and process and policy changes. “Because we said so,” and “Because it’s always been done this way” are not mindful policies.

  • Explain what impact the leadership team hopes each decision will have on the future to show that decisions are made in a thoughtful and deliberate way.

  • Incorporate brainstorming and thinking time into the creation of policies by setting a time limit for implementation, such as, “New policies will be approved five days after a draft of the policy has been agreed upon.” (The trade-off, of course, is that this will slow down decision-making, so it may conflict with other values such as being agile).

  • Ask managers to provide positive feedback and awards to employees who display qualities of mindfulness in their everyday work, such as setting aside time for brainstorming or provide well thought-out context to decisions.

Do you see a need for mindfulness within your workplace, or have you put in the effort to incorporate mindfulness into your company culture? Tell us in the comments!

What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 1000 Employees

What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 1000 Employees

Welcome to part three of the scaling company culture series! Don’t miss part one, “What Your Company Culture Needs at 10, 100 and 1,000 Employees,” or part two, “We Just Added Our 100th Employee… Here’s What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture.”

Whether your company is already growing at breakneck speed or you’re sure you’re on the verge of something big, one of the first things you need to start reading up on is scaling company culture.

After all, there’s a reason your company is doing well: it’s got a certain something that’s making your team and your customers flourish, and you want to make sure you don’t break whatever’s working when you multiply tenfold.

So, why not ask people who have already done it?

This is by no means a comprehensive how-to for scaling culture to 1000 and more, but we think these are three lessons worth learning from HR leaders and executives who have been there, done that:

Lesson #1: Former BlackRock Exec Says Put Your Ear to the Ground

Charting a course for company culture past 1000 employees often starts with a map of where the leadership team wants to go. There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting your values straight (in fact, that’s #1 on our list of how to scale culture), but the planning process shouldn’t be exclusively high-level leadership oriented; it should also take into account what attracted your employees to the organization in the first place.

“I start by talking to all levels of employees about what makes the company unique from their perspective and their ideas about possible improvements for the future. Then I take time to compare and reconcile the differences and opportunities amongst levels and departments,” says David Dalka, keynote speaker and Managing Director of Fearless Revival, who led numerous critical project teams that redefined industry business models at BlackRock during its 80 to 800 employee growth phase. “That feedback analyzed empirically, allows everyone to figure out which items you should attempt to scale.”

“One of the cultural values that surfaced during the early days of BlackRock was our team’s ability to incrementally innovate to create a dramatically different process from what everyone else was doing,” continues Dalka. “We were challenged to destroy the jobs we had to build new ones that contained higher and higher value work that created better outcomes for all stakeholders. You can only do that in a company that empowers its employees and sees an abundance of opportunity, not scarcity.”

Lesson #2: Lyft Says Nurture Cross-Departmental Partnerships In the Recruiting Process

Ready to be impressed? Since 2014, the San Francisco-based transportation company Lyft has scaled from 80 to 2,000 employees. The company hired 1,230 new employees in 2016 and is set to exceed that number in 2017…. all while maintaining an excellent 4.0 overall employer rating on Glassdoor.

There isn’t necessarily one secret to maintaining culture, retention, and candidate quality and satisfaction while growing so quickly. But among many great ideas like moving from “culture fit” to “values fit” to speed up the hiring process and building authentic community connections, we want to highlight the team’s focus on nurturing cross-departmental partnerships throughout the recruitment process.

Scaling Culture During Hypergrowth: The Lyft Story

Image captured from “Nailing Culture During Hypergrowth: The Lyft Story,” presented by Lever and Teammable. Click here to view the entire webinar.

“When some companies think about underrepresentation, they often set broad, company-wide diversity goals,” says Tariq Meyers, Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Lyft. “But what ends up happening if you don’t take a departmental approach is that you’re not really able to figure out what perspectives are missing by level, team, and organization. So, when I’m working with department heads, I often invite the talent acquisition leadership, recruiters, sourcers, and coordinators to join me with my team, department heads and business partners along with hiring managers in the interview loop to get in a room and ask, ‘What perspectives are missing in your room?’”

Lesson #3: Former Exxon Mobil Exec Says Don’t Forget the Follow Through

When Millie Bradley, retired Exxon Mobil exec, was scaling 200 different company cultures with 100,000 employees, the key was the follow through. Bradley was surprised to find that the culture and implementation of culture needed to be renewed over time. So right at the top of her list with clear global policies, management buy-in, and extensive training comes stewardship and monitoring.

When Millie Bradley, retired ExxonMobil exec, was scaling the company culture across 200 countries and 100,000 employees, she realized that long-term success takes follow through. Bradley realized that the implementation of culture needed to be continuously reinforced to be sustainable. So right at the top of her list of advice — along with clear global policies, management participation, and extensive training — comes stewardship and monitoring.

“Operating management is ultimately responsible for a culture of integrity and ethics, so ownership of all violations of policy, annual stewardship to senior management of organizational culture, and face-to-face participation in the training of employees is critical to sustainability,” writes Bradley. “Making stewardship of ethics a management stewardship item, along with operating excellence and financial performance, sends a clear message to the organization about the importance of culture and values.”

Are you in the process of scaling company culture past 1000? Let us know in the comments what you would add to this list!

We Just Added Our 100th Employee… Here’s What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture

What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 100 Employees

In the first article in this series, “What Your Company Culture Needs at 10, 100 and 1,000 Employees,” we took a practical look at the components that need to be in place as your company grows and reaches those milestones.

But what does it take to actually make the move from 10 to 100 employees? What challenges do organizations typically face, and how does scaling culture overcome them?

Today, we’re going to hear what our Culture Warrior community has to say about scaling culture. If you’re setting out to scale a company culture to 100 employees or your current culture isn’t scaling well, here’s what our experts think you should do:

Lesson #1: Identify what’s going wrong with your culture

People add complexity, so it’s natural that your processes and structures will grow as your roster does. But when those processes and structures have a negative impact on your company culture – when they take away from the natural give and take of your community as it works through challenges – it’s time to bring the focus back to company culture.

Here are several examples of the challenges our Culture Warrior’s organizations were facing that made it clear that scaling company culture was the solution:

  • Poor morale and high turnover
  • Lack of company direction and very green leadership team
  • Lack of accountability to goals
  • Not enough infrastructure to support growth (or to support remote growth)
  • Loss of intimacy because growing required the addition of more structured systems
  • Fear of losing control on the part of the older leaders and clinging on to old ways as part of the “old guard”
  • Fast growth and increased diversity leading team members to feel that they did not know each other well
  • Cliques forming and competing for influence

If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, there’s a strong chance that what’s ailing your organization is culture-related and can be improved with intentional effort.

Lesson #2: Focus on one thing at a time

High-performing (and fast-growing) companies like Zappos, Google, and Apple know the truth about company culture: you can’t do more than one or two big things at a time. That’s why we weren’t surprised by our expert’s second lesson for scaling culture: you need to focus on one thing at a time and grow buy-in among your team members by moving from one small victory to another.

“Introducing one new idea at a time allowed everyone to experience the benefits,” writes Dada Nabhaniilananda, Head Instructor at The Monk Dude, LLC. “The group adopted some new ideas so completely that now they think it was their idea!”

Focusing on one or two big changes also has the benefit of limiting the amount of confusion your employees experience, leading to better implementation. Or, as another contributor mentioned, “Once you have a structure to follow for meetings or a roadmap that you’ve communicated effectively, people just ‘get it’ better.”

Lesson #3: Scale company culture with the three Cs

Our contributing Culture Champs were very clear that the key to achieving successful culture change at scale lies in three important words: clarity, commitment, and communication:

Clarity

Successfully scaling company culture requires that you know what you’re changing and why before you bring it to your leadership or employees. If you don’t have complete clarity around where you’re going and why, your efforts won’t get you very far.

One human resources professional shared the steps he took to make sure there was clarity around the culture:

We created a company playbook so everyone knows who we are, how we work, how we will succeed as a company, our core values, etc.

 

We also aligned all core values and job-specific key goals to a new performance management process and created a company interdepartmental operations manual so everyone knows the rules to follow for certain internal procedures.

 

This improved clarity and communication across the organization lead to shorter weekly stand-ups for the entire company that were more effective and fun.

It will also help you gain consensus around what’s changing and what’s not. For example, Justyna Krzych, current Change Manager at Zalando who scaled in her previous role as Head of People & Culture at Mindvalley writes that, “we revisited our values to ensure we’re inclusive of all perspectives and realized that our values remain the same.”

Through this communication exercise, she discovered something very helpful: “There were new points to incorporate, but fundamentally, in all our diversity, we were still unified by the values that were there since the beginning. We’re diverse, but fundamentals unite us.”

Commitment

It’s also critical to gain the support of the higher-ups. Without an official pledge from senior leadership, your efforts won’t have the gravitas they need.

“Get commitment from C-level players to support the change,” writes Ron Branch, HR Director at Kellogg. “A lack of buy-in from management and employees can lead to negative surprises.”

Nabhaniilananda adds to the importance of commitment: “Spend time, especially with the leaders, explaining the benefits to them of scaling the culture and inviting their input and listening to them,” she writes. “Don’t be too hasty to move forward without getting buy-in from anyone who might feel threatened by growth.”

Communication

The final piece of the puzzle in successfully scaling culture is to make communication a priority. Even with a clear mission and committed support from leadership, your employees can’t move forward with your plans if they don’t know what they’re supposed to do.

“Listen with an open mind and don’t assume that “everyone knows,’” writes Krzych. “Once you engage in the conversation, you can really understand and incorporate different perspectives to make your company more than just a workplace.”

Part of that communication process for Nabhaniilananda was introducing a specific process for encouraging communication between veteran employees and new employees:

“Some long-term employees seemed to be threatened by the idea of our organization growing and engaged in unconscious sabotage to try to prevent that growth,” she writes. “We introduced a system of mentorship so that the older, more experienced leaders coached the rising younger leaders, got to know and trust them, and felt that their knowledge and experience was appreciated.”

We’re so impressed with the extensive knowledge our contributors brought to this discussion on scaling culture. So, we have to ask:

What can you add on these thoughts on scaling culture?

4 Ways to Re-Energize a Legacy Culture Without Alienating Original Employees

4 Ways to Re-Energize a Legacy Culture Without Alienating Original Employees

Few organizations have the luxury of focusing on company culture from the start. More often than not, it’s simply the byproduct of habits and attitudes of the founding members, original employees, and first hires resulting in a legacy culture.

But what happens when you look up and realize you’ve grown to that benchmark you thought was a long way off and your culture isn’t scaling well? Or that your culture has taken a turn for the worse and too much of a certain something has crept in, like negativity, gossip, or competitiveness?

There’s no starting over. Your veteran employees are good at what they do, and you value the loyalty they’ve shown over the years. So how do you reset an out-of-date company culture – or fix a broken one – without turning off employees who have been around since day one?

Read on:

1. Tie change to meaning, not mandates

As the global innovation company IDEO wrote for The Harvard Business Review, movements start with emotions, not calls-to-action. You can ask, beg, demand, or force your team to do anything, but the results won’t be nearly as powerful as true culture change would be. At best, entrenched employees will humor you and hope the phase passes quickly; at worst, they’ll roll their eyes and start looking for a new job.

Instead, bring the focus back to the deeper purpose of your organization and tease out what that should look like in the emotional landscape of your team. Use the push for a culture change as an opportunity to check in with the employees who have been there from the start and help them connect with the new vibe.

For example, what is it about your company’s mission that originally attracted your veteran employees? Has that mission changed? (In which case you’ll need to address that and see if they can get behind the new vision.) Has that mission evolved? (In which case you’ll just need to help connect the dots). Let every conversation come back to a meaningful, “Why?” instead of a behavior-focused, “What?”

2. Welcome tense conversations

There’s no dodging the fact that change management is hard. You could be implementing a new 50% raise policy with every employee and you would still probably run into one employee who’s upset, one who’s going to quit, and one who feels like it’s a slap in the face to all the ways they’ve contributed to the company. (Just ask CEO Dan Price, who raised everyone’s minimum annual salary to $70,000 and still had a few people leave over it).

Before you start to work with your team through some of these company culture changes, embrace the fact that there will be difficulties and that people won’t always see it the same way. Welcome frustrated and discontent conversations and try to bring the conversation back around to the deeper “Why,” of the changes.

For example, when Kronos CEO Aron Ain implemented an unlimited time off policy, a lot of veteran employees actually didn’t like it! They felt like the vacation time they’d accrued was going to waste, that new employees shouldn’t get so much time off when they themselves had to work for it, and so on. Instead of smiling and nodding, Ain and his HR leadership team sat down with each employee and heard them out. They weren’t about to change the policy, but addressing each of the employee’s frustrations went a long way towards bringing the focus back on the benefits.

Related: Creating Culture Across Remote Teams: 10 Tips from Pioneering Companies

3. Honor your employee’s commitment – long-term and short-term

Jumping right to, “This is the way it is – adapt or leave,” will drive your experienced employees right to the job boards. But if you spend too much social capital on honoring the old-timers, you’ll end up alienating new employees. (After all, if there’s anything worse than feeling left out of the future it’s feeling like you’ve joined a team that lives in the past – you’re just walking around stuck in someone else’s inside joke.)

How can you walk this line? By bringing the attention to commitment and loyalty to the company’s purpose, not necessarily duration or “who was there first.”

For example, communicate to veteran employees that you value their time and the longevity of their commitment to the company, but keep relating it to where you are now and where you plan to go (not just that one isolated moment in the past). Express your excitement for the contribution of new team members freely, but bring it back to how it furthers your organization’s original or founding goals (if possible).

In practice, this could mean balancing awards or bonuses for service time, like longest tenure with the company or biggest client network, with equally valuable prizes for accomplishments not tied to service or seniority, such as most improved, biggest collaborator or contributor, or “Put Out the Biggest Fire.”

4. Ask them to lead

When you’ve been a part of a team or organization for a long time, it’s natural (and healthy) to feel a sense of ownership over how things are done and what changes are made. Put yourself in the shoes of one of your most senior employees – wouldn’t you feel powerless or left out if you thought your company was growing without you?

Instead of bringing culture change to your legacy employees as an  “Us Versus Them” event, turn it into a partnership by asking them to lead a particular change. When legacy employees are change agents – especially if they feel informed and connected to the new value – they’ll be less likely to undermine the change and more likely to promote it. Here are some scripts you can use to ask for buy-in and leadership on these company culture changes:

  • Your feedback about X has been incredibly helpful. Now that you’re confident X will help you X, what do you think about helping us bring the rest of the team on board with the change?
  • You’ve been very clear with your feedback, and I appreciate that. The leadership you’ve shown here will be really helpful when we make X change next – can we count on you to support us with that?

Don’t miss this one: A Step-by-Step Strategy for Communicating Change Across Distributed Teams

Culture is behavior. If you tell people to think a certain way or ask them to behave in a certain way, they might comply for a week or two, but you won’t achieve any of the benefits of true, fundamental culture change. If you want to change the way your company works, collaborates, and communicates – without alienating your first hires – you need to encourage new relationships, behaviors, and habits among new and old employees alike.

We hope this list can help you start brainstorming ways to welcome legacy employees into the company culture change process, but we’d love for you to share your wisdom, too.

What would you add to this list?

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