Have I mentioned that I work for a rapidly growing company recently? I was conducting an interview today and the candidate asked me what the number one concern was that I brought home with me every day was. This was a good question! After a few seconds of thinking about it though it became obvious to me that it was staffing up with talented people. My last post was about that specific topic, but this week I want to dive deeper into a point I made in it. Specifically, I want to think about how to become the best place to work in Dallas. I’m not just saying that as some sort of feel good goal, this is a measurable goal. I’ve set the goal to win the 2016 Best Place To Work In Dallas Award, presented annually by the Dallas Business Journal. I’ve also told the team about this goal so that I’m accountable to it.
Every town has this award for a variety of company sizes and I think it’s an excellent goal to shoot for. Through working towards this goal you will not only enrich the lives of everyone working at the company, thereby making it a more productive and enjoyable workplace with less turnover, but you will also be able to attract top talent as your reputation grows. It’s a win win for everyone, and I can’t think of any reasons other than laziness, carelessness, or a terrible boss, to NOT try to go for this.
I’m currently working out my game plan for achieving this goal. I think as we keep improving, more and more ideas will come from the team that will really get the flywheel going. Until then I’m going to try and jump-start things with the following approaches.
Review an award questionnaire and discuss it openly and thoroughly. I did a little searching and came across a great, thorough employee questionnaire to determine the satisfaction of employees at their workplace. I have to imagine the business journals use a similar questionnaire so I’m going to use this as my primary guide for the year. In my weekly department meeting I’ve been presenting the group with 3 of the questions, this is a heads up that we’re going to discuss them the following week, then we review the ones that I had showed them the prior week. Although I’m not there yet with the feedback, I’m asking each employee to contribute one idea, critique, comment, or concern about any of these questions each week. My goal is to trigger actual conversations on how we can improve. I started this by pointing out things that I think we’re doing poorly at, and at least I was able to get nods of agreement! Hopefully over the span of this massive questionnaire people will learn that it’s safe to speak up and give management the feedback we need to be able to improve. At this same time this list is a great “examination of conscience” to check ourselves and realize that we are being judged on these topics, so as a followup I’ve been meeting with all supervisors to discuss how we are going to improve where we are weak. I’m hoping this too will show the employees that we’re honestly trying to make the work environment as great as possible for them. Talk is cheap though so I think there will need to be noticeable improvements for people to understand that they can have an impact on their work environment by providing feedback.
Give your employees something to brag about. People need to be proud of where they work! So we need to give them reasons to be proud. Aside from enjoying the company of their coworkers, we need to be able to brag about our growth, and any other perks that we enjoy. We do already have amazing benefits, which is unheard of for a small startup eCommerce company, but aside from that we happen to be one of the fastest growing companies in the country! 3 years ago this company would not have hit the second 500 of the Internet Retailer list. Now based on revenue we would be in the top 75 nationwide! That’s quite a thing to brag about! So I’ve been speaking about that more and sharing more numbers with the crew. Additionally we’ve introduced some new perks: a weekly lunch where we pass around products and hang out catered and paid for by the company, and of course, my trademarked weekly Beer Thursday event. Setting up some regular social events that are intended to make life a little better is a great way to improve morale and the sense of community in your company. Additionally, the cross-departmental insights I’ve gained during beer thursdays at prior companies were extremely valuable, it allows you to talk with people you wouldn’t normally interact with during a regular day at work. If you’re not doing this you should try it out, it’s cheaper than you think!
Appreciate you employees out loud, and in a considerate way. This sort of thing seems to be controversial. I’ve worked with some people that would never say a positive thing about their subordinate, and I also remember a 2 month period that I held a corporate job and was given a $20 movie theater gift card in what seemed like the most awkward corporate pat on the back you can imagine. I’ve also heard people say they only want to give positive feedback on rare occasions so that the person knows they really mean it. The way I see it, it’s difficult to overpraise people unless you do it generically. A “great job” might work once but after that it’ll get old. I try to catch people doing a great job and then tell them exactly why I think they did a great job. This is also something I’m trying to get the supervisors to start doing. Right now for example I feature a weekly employee in our meeting and display a list of reasons why that specific person is awesome. Sometimes it requires research into their customer ratings and stats, but if it were the same praise for each person I don’t think it would really have that much of an affect. I will definitely improve this feedback over time too as I get to know everyone better. And yes I hand out a gift card which feels stiff and corporate to me, but they were purchased in bulk before I was hired so I refuse to take full responsibility for it!
Give each employee individual attention. This is such a hard thing to be disciplined enough to do, but each person deserves some one on one attention, feedback, coaching, and an opportunity to express their feedback. I have met with each person once in the last 3 months but I intend to do it monthly. Caring enough to set aside half an hour to discuss that individual is a bare minimum I’d say. I should also clarify that the supervisors are spending more time on individuals and coaching them, so it’s not like we’re only speaking to the team once a month, but I’d personally like a chance to speak with each team member once a month to get to know them, gather feedback, and give them feedback. The annual review is a crazy concept. Are we really not going to correct issues or provide answers or guidance for a whole year?! My team is about 20 people so I can easily bang this out in 3 busy days. Easily worth it if your primary responsibility is to manage people.
So there you have it, my initial strategy. I’m sure I will learn a lot and have to adjust course over the next few months, but these 4 initial strategies will keep me plenty busy. This is a big hairy audacious goal I can get behind, and you better believe if we win this contest in a year from now you’ll see an update below!