The original version of this post can be found on LinkedIn Pulse.
Are you familiar with the abbreviation TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday)? I haven’t seen it much since I moved to Canada, but in the United States it was a common end-of-the-week email sign off. By the time Monday rolled around, I would hear weary voices moaning, “Ugh, it’s Monday again…”. They would drag their feet throughout the day and begin counting down the minutes to the weekend.
If you spend your entire work week wishing for Friday, that equals to four, 8-hour days (32 hours or 80% of your work week). If, like me, you’ve watched a video by the founder of Buzzfeed titled, “The Time You Have (In JellyBeans)”, you’ll know that the average American spends 3,202 days of their life at work, hopefully doing something satisfying. 80% of 3,202 is 2,562. That is 7 years of your life you wish did not exist.
I’m lucky to be able to say that I love what I do, but the people I work with is what makes the biggest difference. I’ve always had this dream of creating an environment in which my employees were not just employees; where co-workers were not just co-workers. But rather, where co-workers could become friends both inside and outside of the office. I wanted to have an environment where people share the same values and interests; where they have fun together; where they know it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they learn, innovate, and look forward.
It’s not a fancy office with ping pong tables, a bar with unlimited beer, and segways that bring us from place to place – we have none of it at Globalme. What we have are people who genuinely enjoy spending time with each other; something that is exponentially more important than material benefits. When you’re surrounded by people who inspire you with their actions, who make you laugh, who are there for you when you need them, and who make you a better person – that’s when you feel truly motivated for Mondays.
A Great Workplace is Stunning Colleagues.
Great workplace is not espresso, lush benefits, sushi lunches, grand parties, or nice offices.
I don’t have formal education in HR, team building or leadership. However, with the help of many books and conversations with various mentors, I think I’ve created a solid base for a powerful, happy and innovative work culture.
Here’s how I did it:
Hiring The Right People
Hiring is not easy. It’s time consuming, exhausting, and can get extremely discouraging. Especially when you end up investing hours and hours reviewing candidates and just can’t find Mr. or Ms. Right. But that’s where the success starts. It isn’t a coincidence that our team works so well together; hiring the right people goes far beyond meeting the basic qualifications to do the job well.
Candidates prepare very well for the interviews. They rehearse the answers, they know what to say and what not to say. Their resumes are well polished and filled with fancy words and accomplishments that often seem far-fetched. I try not to get blinded by what’s on paper, and instead focus on people’s values and talent when I interview. I look for people who not only uphold our company values, but also inherently embody them in their efforts and actions.
A single person with a conflicting personality, pessimistic attitude, or lack of motivation can have a hugely negative effect on our team dynamic. It’s my responsibility to make sure every new team member fits well with all the others.
Making Quick Separations
My friend, a successful business owner, once advised me to “fire fast”. While this may sound a bit cruel, it’s actually a good thing for all parties involved. In fact, it’s one of the best pieces of advice that I have been given.
Despite having an amazing recruiting process, there will be a time where you end up with the wrong person on your team. Soon after they start, you begin to have doubts. First, you doubt yourself; how is it possible that someone with such great credentials and background experience isn’t integrating well on your team. But soon, your gut begins to tell you that, perhaps, that person just isn’t the right fit.
Guess what. They don’t say “follow your gut” for nothing. The sooner you make the separation, the better. You’ll save your team from wasted effort and from using valuable resources on training. You’ll also help give the employee that push they needed to realize that maybe your team isn’t the right team for them, either; it goes both ways, after all. By making the cut sooner rather than later, you also make space for a soon-to-be-hired ‘A’ player. “Hire fast, fire fast” is exactly what my friend said.
Setting The Ground Rules
Set up a clear on-boarding process for new employees to make them feel welcome from day one. Go over company procedures, goals, who’s in charge of what, and so on. But also make sure to go over your company culture, values, and expectations. It will help ease the transition from ‘new hire’ to ‘active team member’ in no time. First impressions matter.
I have to admit, we weren’t great at this from the beginning. Running a small business often means struggling with limited resources and learning on-the-go. While a proper on-boarding process was on the list of things to develop, that list is always long and ever-growing what with all the exciting projects we’re involved in. We threw many new employees in the deep-end and had them figure it out. Luckily, most of them held their own – but I knew we could have done better.
As soon as we had a bit more breathing room, I started putting together a list of strategies and rituals to improve our on-boarding process. Here are a few things that we’ve already implemented, and/or are planning to implement down the line:
A Welcome Goodie Package
What better way to start a new job than with a bunch of flowers, a welcome note, and an inspirational book? I like to gift each of Globalme’s new employees with a book titled, “A Leader Who Had No Title” by Robin Sharma. It’s filled with insight into becoming a “merchant of wow” as a leader (both personally and professionally), real-world ways to defeat stress, and how to build an unbeatable mind-set.
I can’t force others to read it, but those who do read it definitely get noticed.
Globalme Buddy Program
Some of our employees also have the lofty title of being a “Globalme Buddy”. These are the employees who get the company and its culture to its very core. They’re matched with new hires and are in charge of making sure they feel included in the team, have all their questions answered, and explain the company culture and values.
Work Culture Training
New hires also take part in ‘work culture training’. They’re taken through the background history of the company, operations information (hours, vacation, and other logistics), as well as company values and expectations. We lay it all out very clearly to ensure there is no miscommunication, and to ensure new hires have a space to ask questions before they dive into the thick of it.
Having lunches together is our daily tradition. When we have a new hire, we make sure everyone is present. Group lunch gives an opportunity for new employees to get to know other team members in a relaxed and casual setting. Not only will this ritual remove any awkwardness and help break the ice, but it also encourages a friendly, welcoming dialogue right off the bat.
Evaluation and Constant Feedback
Each new employee is informed that they are being evaluated on how well they display company values, and their performance is discussed in weekly one-on-ones. At the same time, Globalme Buddies are trained to give consistent feedback if a behavior of the new employee goes against the company culture.
Recognizing Hard Work and Celebrating Small Wins
To uphold our values and make sure they’re not forgotten, we also developed an internal program dubbed ‘IMPACT’. It’s used to congratulate and reward each other for outstanding work. We set aside a monthly budget for team members to recognize one another’s efforts by gifting them with a present, a dinner, a gift card, a makeover (you name it!).
The only catch? You have to publicly announce the impact that person made on our Glip IMPACT channel. This has allowed us to develop a team where ego is non-existent; everybody wants their teammates to succeed alongside them.
Departments have daily 15-minute huddles where each person goes over what they’ll be working on, what they hope to achieve, and what they might need help with that day. Every Friday afternoon, we host company-wide huddles. Each department gives a fast-paced, check-in on their weekly happenings and project updates; we celebrate our achievements, and offer help on any challenging projects. Beyond that (and if time permits) individuals will also give a 15-minute presentation about themselves, something they’re working on, or a topic they’re interested in.
Having daily and weekly check-ins as a team helps us to practice our value of transparency. It helps to not only understand the company vision, but also everyone’s role within it.
Opportunities To Grow
Giving our employees the chance to grow and advance their careers helps retain valued team members. It also keeps everyone interested, and motivated to try new things. Plus, the more each individual grows, the more the company grows with them. As employees move from department to department, or simply expand to take over more responsibilities, it also makes room for new talent to enter the field. A win-win situation if I do say so myself.
So what if we’re corny and sound like a mid-to-late 90’s corporate culture video? Team building is the most important investment you can make for your people and for the health of the company. It builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration. If you can do all that while having fun, that’s an extra bonus for stronger team.
Create an atmosphere where it’s totally normal to send silly GIF’s to each other; where joking around is a daily culture of your team. Or, where mid-afternoon coffee (and pastry) runs are encouraged. Have you ever heard the saying “Who eats together, stick together?” At Globalme, we have daily team lunches where everyone who is available gathers around a Knights-of-the-Round-Table-esque table and eats together. Having a break in the middle of the day to take a walk and engage in casual conversation with your peers is essential to your effectiveness and happiness at work. Plus, there’s no stigma involved when the whole office (co-founders included) takes lunch together.
Out-of-office events are another big part of our culture. We have team barbecues, movie nights, beach volleyball outings, and after-work beers regularly. By taking the team out of the office and away from the pressure of project deadlines and to-do lists, you’re increasing engagement and breaking down barriers. Your employees become more invested and comfortable with one another, and ultimately helps improve the team dynamic.
Is It Working?
Most team-building falls flat because it’s a one-time activity – done and then forgotten. It’s key to find ways to keep the excitement going, and that is what I am most passionate about. The challenge is creating opportunities for people to connect and interact in meaningful ways, outside of regular meetings or presentations.
How do you know if you’ve gotten it right? If there was laughter, a sense of excitement, learning and accomplishment, and maybe a few photo-worthy moments. If, like me, you find yourself missing your team while you’re away and actually looking forward to Mondays, that’s a sure sign you’re in the right place with the right people.
I guess I should start signing my emails with “TGIM” now!
All that being said, we do happen to have an opening at Globalme for a People and Culture Lead. If you have a background in HR and passion for building successful teams, leadership and coaching, we want to talk to you.