Sometimes it pays to lighten up a little. Every organisation has some down time at one point or another. If not, some downtime should be built in - particularly if you have all been working hard - in order to make sure you get some time together with your whole group to relax together and have a little fun. Your morale and spirits will all be boosted by the change of pace.
We had a tradition for awhile in one of my previous organisations: every time we submitted a big bid, we’d order pizza for everyone in the office. When we were a very small company (under 20 people), every big bid usually ended up with everyone working on it to get it out the door, from the accountant to the PhD scientist. Pizza for everyone made sense. We just had to make sure people washed their hands if they were working on the documents!
Once we got bigger, not everyone got involved in the bid preparations, so we stopped the big group pizzas except maybe when we won a big award, and then we’d do something for everyone. But we realised those little gestures of group effort and time for celebration had gone a long way towards pulling us together, so we created a few other activities for us to do in order to keep the bonds across the company in effect.
We had our annual Halloween staff meeting and party of course, where all staff change into costume before the late afternoon live-streamed meeting, and usually hilarity breaks out after a short attempt at trying to conduct a bit of business. We also started a few monthly Friday afternoon activities organised by our staff, in groups by hallway location. Since we tended to mix staff disciplines along the hallways, that ensured there were a variety of functions and skills in each hallway group. Some of the activities included: wine-tasting, where each office of 2-3 people hosted a different wine and we could wander down the hall to sample and learn about the wines; a similar beer-tasting activity; we had a hallway nerf bowling game; and there was a treasure hunt using obscure facts about various staff and company history.
Obviously you can come up with myriad other activities that resonate with your staff, and the point is to do something out of the usual together, and make it all about fun. Even better if you task your staff to come up with the ideas. Make sure there is no work and no hierarchies involved - just enjoy the range of talents and creativity of your staff, and see what fun happens!
5 Things you can do now:
Here are five ways to gather in the next month, with a few suggestions to get your started:
Fun Friday Workplaces
What kind of workplace do you have - is it corporate with many levels and and a long history, is more of a smaller, more informal start-up? Do you work in multiple locations or can you all see each other? Do you often talk to your clients face to face, or are the remotely accessed, or all on-line?
These factors and and many others affect the kind of communication you and your colleagues have with each other and with your customers. For example, your Internal Communication probably includes email, in-person meetings, perhaps instant messaging, conference calls, staff manuals, policy change memos. Your External Communication probably includes social media posts, email newsletters, press releases, website content, advertisements for new job openings, and so on. And those are just a few of the classic, easy to think of types of communication that happen in an organisation.
But what about hallway conversations? How do you communicate decisions that are made by one group in the organisation to another group? Who eats lunch together? How are your meetings conducted? Do you have remote workers - how are they integrated? Does everyone talk to your clients/customers, or only a few people? Do they get special training? Does anyone? When someone new starts working with you, how do they learn about all of the internal and external communication? How is it communicated to them? Does everyone in the organisation have the same rules and philosophy by which they communicate and behave? Is it easy to articulate?
When there are 6 of you in the organisation, you don’t even think about these things very often, you just do things. And as you grow, the new staff watch and see how you do your work, such as who checks in with what other person before implementing a new effort (or not!). The processes increase and as they repeat they naturally morph into repeatable behaviours, and so your culture - including how you communicate with each other and externally - begins.
Starting in the earliest days of your organisation, it is good practice to think about your core values when you implement your communication style. Every employee represents the organisation, so the best way for staff to understand and embrace the organisation’s style of communication is by making sure the style is true to your values. When your communication reflects your brand values, and everyone in your organisation can articulate those values, your new staff can quickly learn the right culture ‘code’ to doing their job successfully. If your external communication also reflects that same set of values, your customers will understand more clearly what you stand for, and know what to expect from you and your product or service.
Linked below are some great articles that address a broad range of ways you communicate in your organisation; let me know what you think.
Retention, voice, and making meetings for everyone
Communication is key for retention
Although this article focuses on employee retention, the strategies described are almost all based on clear and transparent communication both externally and internally.
Creating a company voice
This is a great description of how Slack tried to figure out how to empower their staff to speak consistently externally, and in doing so, clearly articulated what they stood for as an organisation.
Making meetings more inclusive for women, introverts & remote workers
This article gives some clear tips to make sure some of the possibly hidden talent in your organisation gets the chance to communicate equally.
Fun Friday Workplaces
If you think you should always be customer focused, you are right, but you should also put your employees first. If your employees are taken care of with sufficient pay and thoughtful benefits, are well-respected, given opportunities to learn and grow, as well as have flexibility in how they do their job, the returns to you, your customers, and your business will increase many times over.
What the doctor said
When my son was a toddler he suffered from repeated ear infections. Neither of us got much sleep, and we spent a lot of time at the pediatrician's office. Finally the doctor told me we needed to take a different approach because I was getting worn down, and he reminded me that if I was run down, everyone else would suffer. I needed to make sure that I was taking care of myself first, otherwise, how could I expect to take care of my two young children. He was right of course, and that idea stuck with me.
As my work responsibilities increased over the years, and I was now responsible for others, I realised that this advice actually applied really well to our staff as a whole team. When our staff was well-taken care of, and feeling engaged in our work, involved in decision-making, and appreciated for their amazing contributions, our work output soared, our clients were delighted and it was a great place to work.
Focusing on our staff well-being actually flowed directly to client satisfaction because when our staff were happy and engaged, they worked hard, came up with creative solutions to our clients problems, and our clients loved working with us as the energy was infectious.
Does this sound like your organisation? Is there anything you can do to improve how well your staff are engaged with their work? Take a read through the articles below for a few other perspectives on staff engagement and how focusing on your staff creates benefits that flow directly to your customers and to your organisation's financial performance.
People desire to be the best in their field
By creating a culture where every staff member feels valued, your staff will perform at levels that are thrilling for them and rewarding for you and your business. Here is a short article that explains why:
How work and health can go together
I first was made aware of this 'radical' new way of thinking when reading an article by Steelcase, the furniture manufacturer. While Steelcase focuses on the way the workplace itself can be physically organised to improve your health, this article (and soon-to-be-published book) focus on how reducing stress in the workplace can make us more successful and yes, even more healthy. Makes a lot of sense, and I am looking forward to reading the book.
Unleash your employees' super powers
This is another recent article about a relatively easy way to convert your successful but not rockstar staff into super-performers. It requires you to make a connection with these staff individually in order to find out what they love about their work. Then try to recast the job so that it focuses on those things. You don't have to exclude everything they don't like, just re-jiggy their assignments as best you can and see if that doesn't provide a quick boost. Read more here:
Fun Friday Workplaces
This week I want to highlight the world of introverts. I was first introduced to introversion as a 'thing' when I first watched Susan Cain's TED talk on Introverts in the workplace. It was one of those lightening bolt moments for me. As I had been labeled shy as a child, and have trouble speaking up in large groups, I was always sure it was my 'problem' and that if I was just a little bit more clever, I could 'fix' it. Listening to Susan Cain's talk, and subsequently reading just about everything she has published, and much, much more on the topic, I have now claimed my ground as one proud version of Introverted. If you are introverted, or work with any introverted people (which I think should cover just about everyone!), I hope you find the information in this week's post useful.
Strategies for working as an introvert
When I wanted to reach out to new audiences to promote my coworking business a few years ago, I discovered there were only large networking events that took place at times and places inconvenient to me, as well as not allowing me to showcase my best self. My intolerance for loud, crowded spaces, and preference for deeper conversations with one or two people over quick small talk meant these kinds of networking events were a wee form of torture. As a result, I decided to start my own networking group: these were small, personal events at my coworking space that allowed for more in-depth conversations, the opportunity to learn a skill from one of the participants, engage in conversations around a common topic, and to go away more refreshed rather than depleted.
Since learning so much more about introversion, I now understand the many tricks I have developed to manoeuvre my way through a work life and practices dominated by extroverts. I am very aware of the importance for introverts of managing energy, space and time, and know also that these tricks can help everyone manage their work life more effectively.
I encourage you to learn more about introverts: how they work best, and strategies to include introverts in meetings and other group conversations. You may have untapped resources available to you in your current organisation that haven't had the opportunity to showcase their most amazing attributes. You will gain amazing loyalty and a more comprehensive range of abilities to help your business succeed once you create a workplace that frees up the diversity of thought and ideas to be heard amongst the loud extroverts.
If you want more suggestions, I've included strategies for creating introvert-friendly workplaces in my free pdf '18 Ways to improve staff engagement' available to download below.
Some additional resources for you
Marze creates a fabulous series of comics and sketches for introverts and those who want to know more about the mind of an introvert. Great way to introduce extroverts to another 'way of being' in the world.
Designing space to support introverts (and everyone else)
This article is a really nice summary of the benefits of open plan offices, as well as the ways open-plan offices can succeed, if they incorporate more than one way to work into their overall plan.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet (see below) identifies 5 ways more quiet staff (or introverts) can use their strengths to provide brilliant and effective leadership. Empowering introverts and the people who work with them is an effective way to expand the skill set of your staff in ways that will help them and your bottom line immeasurably. Imagine giving someone the tools to step up to another level of performance in ways even they didn’t believe was possible! This is a fantastic way to increase engagement and loyalty, create a successful internal career path, and avoid hiring someone new.
The Book, Quiet
I can’t say enough good about this book. Everyone - introverts and those who know them - should read this book. Besides discussing introversion in all it’s colours, shapes and flavours, Cain also discusses information around motivation, collaboration, leadership, in a way that is surprisingly compelling. In addition to providing strategies for introverts to succeed in an extroverted world, there are also useful tips for extroverts who work with introverts. You can also listen to Cain's ground-breaking TED talk, here: https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en
Fun Friday Workplaces
That's the first full week of July gone then! I hope you all have a summerlicious weekend.
If you want to chat about anything discussed here, comment below or get in touch via any of the media below or the contact form on my contact page. See you next week!
Start at home....
This week's post focuses on recruiting, and ways to bring the best possible potential candidates to your organisation. Recruiting can be a bit of a minefield, and if you are growing quickly, can create lots of growing pains for your staff, and numerous unintended consequences. I hope the information and articles linked here give you some useful food for thought, and ideas for you to implement in your organisation.
5 Suggestions for finding and keeping your talented staff
Finding and keeping talent is a common issue with growing companies – and can take a lot of time and energy away from getting your paying work done. In an increasingly global market for talent, where people can work from anywhere, you may need to be more creative about how you attract top talent to your organisation, and keep those exceptional staff you already have. If the way you have been finding your staff isn’t working as well as you would like, here are 5 suggestions for finding the best quality staff you need to grow your organisation.
1. Does your website and other communication appeal to your target staff?
If the way you communicate to your customers isn’t relevant or it doesn’t show a commitment to values that resonate with your potential staff, it will be a lot harder to convince them to work for you. Make sure your website reflects the personality of your organisation, and the values behind the products or services you provide. Check out http://careers.socrata.com/ to see an example of an inspiring careers page (disclaimer: my daughter works there.)
2. Does your current staff know you are looking for more talent?
Are there incentives for them to refer people they know to your company? Reminding staff that you would love to have more great people just like them working at your company is always a great place to start. Small hiring bonuses can go a long way as well to encourage referrals. Bonuses can be cash, vouchers for nice restaurants, or other benefits that make sense for your business and staff interests.
3. Do you have a presence where your target hires are?
If you hire University graduates, do you attend career fairs on campus? In addition, developing relationships with professors in the disciplines relevant to your skill needs may lead to interesting collaborations and projects, as well as give you an inside track with soon to be graduating staff. If you hire computer engineers, do you go to Meetups and conferences where your potential staff spend time?
4. Is your workplace appealing to your target employees?
Does your staff have flexibility in where they work based on the type of work they are doing (e.g., small conference rooms for meetings versus quiet space for heads-down concentration)? Can they work from home? In general, the more autonomy and flexibility your staff enjoys, the more likely you will be able to attract and keep top quality employees.
5. Do you offer industry-leading perks for your current staff?
Perks don’t have to be extravagant – we can’t all provide Google-level benefits. The more benefits you offer that are tuned to the needs of your staff and reflect the character and brand of your organisation, the more unique and personal your offer to all staff will be. Free healthy snacks, event tickets, periodic free lunches, outside or inside game breaks, continuing education opportunities…use your imagination, and better yet, ask your staff! At one company I worked for, staff were given 20 hours paid time each year to work on journal publications, as this was an important professional achievement in our industry, and of course benefited the organisation as well.
Some additional resources & reading for you
Who do you need on your staff?
This article from IDEO offers up some types of talent you many want to consider including in your suite of on-staff expertise. As mentioned in the article, the brilliance of these roles is that they can be embodied by anyone in the organisation.
This article looks at some of the factors that lead to employee satisfaction as a method for creating better, more motivating and satisfying jobs for current and your future staff.
If you hire university graduates
This Harvard Business Review Article provides some surprising strategies for how to reach the university graduates you want to recruit. (note: I wrote the article above listing my 5 strategies before I read this!)
Fun Friday Workplaces