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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting. With me is my co-host and friend JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm. Today our topic is creating an engaging company culture. Recognizing the power of having a JoyPowered® culture really was the inspiration for this podcast series that we do. What we really haven’t spent time on until today is exploring what are the practical and tactical things we can do as business leaders and HR professionals to create a culture that engages our employees and fits our company’s mission, vision and values. You know, JoDee, I have seen company culture defined many ways, shared attitudes, values, goals, practices. My favorite definition is the personality of a company. That simple. I’m a firm believer that every company has a culture or a personality, whether the leaders are paying attention to it, or actually doing anything to enhance it.
Yeah, and when I say that, it’s like, I often say, like, when you walk into a place of employment, it could be, you know, a retail place, or just maybe you’re walking in into the office space. The personality just starts, you know, presenting itself to you, right, by the way people are treating each other.
Right, right. That’s, I’ve long been fascinated by this concept of people that say, culture starts at the top. And although I firmly believe that, that leadership and the top of the organization can have a huge impact on that, I think many times there is a disconnect. You know, if you talk to a leader who says here’s our culture, and then you go to a store or restaurant or you meet with people who have the boots on the ground, and they seem to have a totally different theory of what the culture of the organization is. So I’m not – I just am not always believing of that phrase, “culture starts at the top.”
I, you know, I think you could ask every single person who works for a company, describe the culture, and it’s all going to be different, right? So the reality is something in there in the middle.
So let’s assume that you’re a business leader listening today, and you want to know, you know, how do I figure out what my culture is? How do I get a pulse on it? Well, in researching for today’s podcast, I read on thebalancecareers.com an article that was written by Susan Heathfield, back on May 9 of 2019, and she presented in this article ideas of how to assess your current culture. Susan suggests that you periodically do culture walks, where you get into all the nooks and crevices of your organization where people are, and while there, there’s some things that you should do. Why don’t we share those, JoDee?
So one is try to become an impartial observer of your culture and action. Thinking about how are people treating each other, your customers, their bosses, their staff, or their vendors? That one reminds me of the TV show “Undercover Boss.” Right?
Where you really get in the ground and see what’s happening.
Can I just say about that show is I think the costumes are terrible. I mean, I always think that these wigs they’re wearing and the mustaches are like, oh, come on. That can’t be real.
Yeah, they look awful goofy.
But they do seem to fool their employees. So maybe it’s okay. I do I think that is true. I – we in HR sometimes have to be careful, or those of you who are the leaders of the business, when you start visiting areas they don’t normally visit, people tend to act perhaps a little differently. So in these culture walk arounds, you gotta be there pretty frequently so people let their hair – hair down, don’t you think?
Right, right. Yeah.
Yeah. Good, well, the second idea she has while you’re on the culture walk that could be helpful as you’re trying to assess your culture: Take a look at emotions. Really see if people are smiling, if they’re speaking short with each other, snapping at each other, if you hear laughter, right, those are things that, you know, I don’t think I – and I have done walk arounds before – really listened as much as I was looking, I think that listening is kind of important.
I like that too. Number three was look at the objects and artifacts that sit on desks and hang on the walls. I think that’s an interesting one, too, right? Do people have – I know in some organizations, they might have little prizes or trinkets or awards that people keep on the desk, but also do they have pictures of their family? Or do they have – is it about the internal branding of the company itself? Or is it about family? Maybe no right or wrong answer on what it should be?
Unless it’s a calendar of scantily clad, clad people, then take that down!
Yeah, that might send a different message! But I thought that was an interesting one, too.
What do you observe.
Yeah, how comfortable are people at work? Are they sharing their personal life? Are they bringing their authentic self? Are they celebrating the company? Yeah, it’s interesting. Yeah, I think I don’t know right or wrong, but what are people putting on their desk? And then the fourth thing to maybe watch for, look for things that are not there. If you’re out there walking around, and people aren’t really talking about what the organization’s challenges are, if they’re not brainstorming growth ideas, if you’re not hearing buzz about kind of excitement, what people are working on, maybe there’s a message there the culture is not where you want it to be.
Yeah, I think in some organizations you can, you can feel an energy, or I like your word “buzz” about the place, and sometimes you just don’t sense anything at all.
I have walked into some places and I felt like all the air in the room, it was gone. It was just like really stale and down and you just couldn’t help but go down. Right? So we don’t want that for you. Yeah. So what are some other ways? I thought her culture walk was a good idea. What are some other places, if you’re trying to assess your culture, what are other ways to do it?
Well, I think, you know, some of the online sites like Glassdoor, or maybe even depending on your industry, if it’s a Yelp or, or LinkedIn comments, or what, you know, what are people saying about it online, check their Twitter accounts or, you know, do a keyword search or a search to see what comments people have.
I agree, I – you know, we often say, you know, look at your exit interviews, you know, why are people leaving, or there’s something in your culture that’s driving people away, and of course, stay interviews, which is let’s not wait till they walk out the door. Let’s take employees that are with us, and ask them what’s keeping you here, and they’ll start to hopefully tell you things that they like in your culture, that they don’t, what they see as your culture.
Yeah. One – another one is just networking, you know, just asking people, what do you know about ABC Company? And seeing what kind of responses you get from that. Oh, I hear great things. Oh, I hear they have lots of turnover. Oh, I hear they have great benefits. I – they have great branding. What, what is, what is the buzz from just people in your network saying about them?
That’s such a good idea. You know, there was an early podcast that we did, JoDee, that was entitled “Measuring Employee Engagement.” And that’s when we had Nikki from Emplify, a firm that’s headquartered in the Indianapolis area. She came and talked to us about the importance of doing employee engagement surveys, you know, either the traditional ones or even just short pulse checks with your employees to find out you know, how people are feeling about the environment, good ideas, and things that, that over time as you’re measuring it that are maybe getting out of whack, maybe people’s feelings about things in your culture are, are starting to stray and you want to get in there and do some remedial action. One of the things that Nikki talked about in that podcast, I think it’s really relevant to this podcast about your culture, is that Emplify, they define a an engaged employee as someone who feels comfortable bringing their authentic self to work, having work that you feel that really matters, and finally having the tools and resources to do your jobs.
So maybe those are questions that we’d want to make sure we asked during those stay interviews or exit interviews or in our networking with even employees like, you know, how is your job? What are you working on right now? And sense if people feel like their work matters.
I love those questions too. And I think it’s, sometimes, that doesn’t necessarily mean a culture is bad if you can’t bring your authentic self to work, but it might not be the right culture for you. Right? Or maybe if you don’t feel your work matters, again, doesn’t mean that culture isn’t right, but maybe it’s not right for you. Maybe it’s right for other people who do feel like their, their work matters. So it might just be a disconnect between the employee and the overall company of the work and the culture of the organization as well.
I think that’s right, that that job fit and that company fit, it’s, it’s two sided, right? It’s the company feeling like you’re the fit, but you as the employee, you can always vote with your feet, and you – sometimes you’re going to get somewhere and maybe it isn’t the fit you want it to be. Now we definitely want people to feel safe to bring their authentic self, so if there’s any type of discrimination, that’s that’s a no go. But, but where it’s – who the – who you are and who you’re comfortable being with and maybe, maybe it’s not for you, every company. So good. That’s an interesting perspective. So KazooHR has a blog online, entitled “10 Ways to Create an Employee Engagement Culture.” I thought these were pretty good, JoDee, that’s a good list I think for us to consider and maybe our listeners to reflect on. So “10 Ways to Create an Employee Engagement Culture,” their number one was communicate and reward core values. I think, I think Zappos is a great example of that. The shoe company, if you haven’t ever ordered shoes through Zappos, you probably – hopefully – they say they don’t deliver shoes, they deliver happiness, and I have to agree. But they are very strong about their their 10, their 10 core values, that they insist that everybody understand what they are and that you want to sign up to do these, live the – these 10 ways and, for example, one of them is being humble. I think a little bit of goofiness, customer focus, things like that. And then when people exhibit those behaviors, that, that’s what’s important in your culture. Make sure you celebrate it and you acknowledge when people live the – live those values, right.
Number two is consistent timely communication. I mean, who doesn’t want that one?
Yeah, people don’t want to be in the dark, that people want to know what’s happening in their company, so they feel engaged, and they feel good in that culture. Yeah. Number three real time coaching from a manager. Almost every study we look at, employees are hungry to hear, how am I doing? And it’s about doing something right. Most employees want to hear, what can I do better?
Absolutely. Number four’s employee development. That might be a lot of – that could come from that coaching in number three, but also are you investing in, in training or learning, whether it’s internally or externally or with opportunities for them to take on different assignments?
I think people want to grow, and I think they’re, they’re much more likely to stay in a culture where they feel like they’re growing. Yeah. Number five on the KazooHR blog list was team environment. That people want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. So in your culture, if you can promote the fact that, that you are a team, that very well might create the culture that you want.
Now, number six is a culture of trust. And that’s, you know, so many things. We have to trust in our company brand. We have to trust that they’re communicating with us. We have to trust that our, that our managers, supervisors, leaders care about us. Just trust in the relationships we have with our co-workers.
Number seven is clear expectations. People want to understand how they’re going to be evaluated. What is it that they’re supposed to do? So I think that’s really important.
Number eight, show appreciation. People, that can be saying “thank you.” Sending a personal note, right. This doesn’t have to be about rewards and bonuses. It can just be saying thank you for coming to work today. Thank you for being on time today. Thank you for doing your best today.
You know, when I walk around an office and I see a thank you note, like, pinned up in somebody’s cubicle or desk, it just touches my heart and the person’s like, I can’t believe that the CEO wrote this to me that, you know, it probably took that CEO two minutes, right, but it meant so much. Yeah. Don’t forget, it does mean a lot. Number nine, give employees a voice. And so let’s remember all the communication that you do should not just be one way, right? Listen, make sure you have listening posts, make sure that employees feel comfortable when they have suggestions, voicing them or they have ideas or if they have a conflicting opinion, you know, it’s healthy cultures, they have lots of two way communication.
And then number 10, competitive pay and benefits. I mean, that’s important to most all of us, and we can’t just pay people a lot of money and give them good benefits. That’s only one of the 10 answers.
And I love the fact it’s number 10 –
on the list, right, it wasn’t number one, it was number 10.
So, JoDee, there was an article in Forbes on December 13, 2018, entitled “The best Companies for Corporate Culture in 2018. My guess is these company cultures, unless they do something dramatically wrong in 2019, they probably still are some of the best cultures. Well, let’s, let’s share them. Let’s talk about each one.
All right, number one is Costco. And one of their employees, the comment they said was, “I love the fact that while I’m at work, I don’t feel like I’m working. Most of my colleagues are having fun doing what they do every day, which makes for an extremely happy work atmosphere.”
Wow. And you know, when I walk into Costco, I really do get good vibes from the employees.
I was thinking that same thing, from the checkout to the people working behind the deli counter.
I think it’s because, not only because of the pay, the benefits, but because they really do focus on culture. That’s great. So number two on the Forbes list was Google. No surprise, I know so many people who would love to work at Google.
One of the employees there said employees are encouraged to be productive without overexerting themselves. “We’re encouraged to take our vacation.”
Yeah, when’s the last time you see you’ve seen an employer say, hey, don’t overexert? Not that often.
To be honest, that surprises me. I think those big tech companies, I think about them, I sort of assume, I guess, that they’re working tons of hours. The – company number three is T-Mobile out of Bellevue, Washington. Someone said “People are happy and upbeat. We live our culture every day. Magenta isn’t just a color, it’s a verb and a big part of what makes us different.” I might have to steal that one for Purple Ink, which did not make the top 10.
Oh, JoDee, I think that was an oversight. I think we got to make sure you meet somebody at Forbes. So number four in the list was HubSpot. I do believe they’re a technology company. They’re headquartered out of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
And number five is Aflac from Columbus, Georgia.
I do like their, their, is it the duck? That is their mascot? Yeah, I do like that – kind of makes me think they have a sense of fun. Yeah. Number six is Insight Global out of Atlanta, Georgia.
Number seven is Intuit in Mountain View, California.
Number eight, I’m thrilled to say is Salesforce, obviously headquartered in San Francisco, but for our listeners who may not be aware of it, their number two headquarters is in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Exactly. Number nine, another California company, California must have something going on out there, is Blizzard Entertainment.
And number 10, I think your favorite, my favorite, and probably many of our listeners’ favorite place to get coffee, Starbucks out of Seattle, Washington. Well, that’s great. Well, I think it’s important to think about what are they doing? Or maybe good ones to research. Just take a look at, what are they doing that’s making their employees say, this is a culture I want to come to and a culture I want to stay in. So, you know, there is an exercise, JoDee, that I use, and I have used it for a variety of reasons. I think many of our listeners may be familiar with it. It’s called “start, stop, and continue.” And I think it’s actually an exercise that could be helpful to an organization who’s thinking about where do we start? How do we actually figure out, what are the things in our culture that’s working? What are the things that aren’t working? And how do we make some changes? So –
I’ve heard of this exercise, Susan. But I have to admit, I haven’t done it before. So tell us more.
Sure. The times that I have used it, it’s generally been a leader of a team or even in fact, the whole organization who has said, you know, I feel like things here are okay, but I don’t think they’re, I want to take it from okay to really great. And so what I’ve done is I said, we’ll do a “start, stop, continue.” And I have the leader leave the room, not be part of the the initial meeting, and I have just the team members there. And what I do is I say, we’re going to take some time, and I would love as a group to fill as many flip charts or blackboard or whiteboard or whatever you have with things in three different iterations. So the first iteration is going to be, what are the things that we really need our leader here to start doing, or what are the things in our culture that we need to start doing? So we have that – things that are not currently present that need to start. So the group will brainstorm, I usually scribe for them, it’s usually, there’s a lot of really rich dialogue around that, then we get done with that, that might take, depending on the size of the group, it could take a good 15, 20, 25 minutes, then we move to stop, what are the things that the leader or this organization needs to stop doing? And honestly, that’s usually the dialogue that gets really exciting, because people get, sometimes, worked up about, can you believe after all these years, they’re still doing XYZ. So come up with a list to stop. And then finally, we – our last iteration of the exercise is, what do – what are the things that we need to continue doing, and this, actually, is probably the most reaffirming, because they’re things that are working well, but we want to make sure doesn’t leave because they’re so integral to this workplace or to this culture. So we do that and, you know, obviously, if it takes 20, 25 minutes for each one of those iterations, it’s a good hour, half, you know, an hour 15, hour and a half. Then I let the group kind of, like, go do whatever they need to do, and I bring the leader in, and I have the leader go through each of those start, stop, and continue lists with me, and I let them kind of digest it. We talk it through, and then I asked the leader, what are the things on the start, stop, and the continue that you can subscribe to. Sometimes they say that, okay, they want us to stop doing card access, or they want us to stop doing whatever, we can’t stop that, you know, we’ve got a contract that says x, y, z, we’re going to do that. Or it’s something that the leader says, I just – that’s something that is integral, I’m not going to do it. So we spend time, what are the things that you actually can start, you can stop, or you want to continue? And then we’ll take as long as we need with that. Then we call the rest of the group back in, and I let the leader facilitate this. Here’s what you said on start, and here’s what I think we can do. Here’s what you said on stop, here’s what I think we can do, and on continue, usually everybody at that point wants to just do a group hug because they’re like, yeah, that’s really cool here that we do that. We got to continue it.
Yeah, I bet you find some things, too, that maybe other people didn’t even realize how important things were to other – you know, for example, I don’t know, free coffee or weekly meetings, or that some people might think, wow, I didn’t realize people love that or hated that.
Exactly right. The dialogue is what’s really rich about it. Now, I will tell you, there are some times in the start, that it’s something big and the leader’s like, well, guys, yeah, I would like to do that too, and – but I’m not really sure how, and so my advice is, maybe we we put together some action plans from this week, we agree that we’re going to get together again in a week, maybe we put together a committee, you know, there’s things it’s not so easy, like start giving free coffee, maybe it’s something like, you know, figuring out an Employee Activities Committee or something. So let’s come out of that, and I’m happy to do that when I facilitate, is come up with, what are the – after the meetings that we’re going to do and then let’s make sure we go back to the team and say, revisit that start, stop, and get three months down the road, six months down the road. So they know that that was really meaningful. We have followed up on what came up.
That’s a great idea and simple.
Anyone can do that.
So simple. All right. I hope some of you listeners do. If you do, we’d love to hear from you and see how it works in your organization.
JoDee, I recently read where Johnny C. Taylor, who’s the president and CEO of SHRM, was speaking about how culture is the very best defense against workplace harassment and bullying. And I think that is really kind of a profound observation. If you have a strong culture, you’re not going to tolerate, first of all, nor – and nor are employees more likely to have bad attitudes to bully other people, to actually think they could get away with harassment.
Right, right. And that’s a good reason to really – for companies to assess what their culture is, right? To understand that, because that’s a – that can be creating a liability and/or creating a cost savings, not, not, not that we want it just for cost savings, but understanding that the power of your culture can drive so many things like that, where people, not only do they feel good about coming to work, but they feel safe. They feel safe in their workspace. So.
Yeah, you know, and clearly with harassment, which has just gotten so much press over the last couple of years, thanks to the #MeToo movement. I think that, you know, potential perpetrators do understand that you know, you cannot in the workplace, you know, physically or, you know, verbally harass people. I think that’s becoming much more, you know, prevalent and people trying to pull things off is, is really reduced. But I think the whole concept of bullying is really getting to be more popular. I don’t know if you’re having clients mention it to you, but I certainly have had people say, you know, I think that person is just a jerk, and I think they’re an equal opportunity jerk. I mean, they’re mean to everybody, but they aren’t just a big bully, and they look for advice on what can we do to help, you know, tame that – the beast inside them?
Are you seeing that?
I have, I’ve had several conversations, actually, ironically, just in the past few weeks about that concept, where it’s – and we gotta not be afraid to stand up to that, or to what I say “get people off the bus,” right, or get people who are trying to sink our boat. And we shouldn’t tolerate that in our workspaces. And that’s always so surprising to me, really, to have so many conversations where people talk about bullies, and my first question is always, what are you doing about it?
Why are we tolerating that?
And I think coming at it from the culture standpoint is absolutely the right way to do it, is to say, you know, the person’ll say, I’m not do anything wrong, I, you know, I expect high performance. That’s usually what I hear. It’s a, it’s a boss who says, yeah, I have always demanded, I demand nothing more than I myself would be willing to give, and so on and so forth. I don’t ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do. But they come at it in such a way that it doesn’t fit in, and what most of us aspire to have is workplace culture, right. So I think that’s a really good way to frame it up with someone and say, okay, what you’re doing, you know, I think is crossing that line of what we want to be as a place we want people coming to work, feeling not only safe, but they want to feel confident and comfortable. And yes, we have high expectations, but we don’t want people to feel as though they’re beaten down.
Exactly. Another thing I think that goes along with that, that I’ve long been an advocate for, but yet, I have to say a lot of books or speakers talk about it in a different format than the way I think of it. That is, I just cringe sometimes when I hear people say “culture starts at the top.” I, I just disagree with that. Now, I do believe that the top of the organization, whether that’s the CEO, the owner, the President, the senior leadership team, can certainly have a significant impact on culture. I think it’s important for for each employee to take responsibility to understand that culture can be – it can start anywhere, and even just in talking about bullies or harassment, right. It’s our responsibility to, to report those things and not just to, to cringe and say, Oh, that’s how they are, or they’re always a bully, but, but to be that whistleblower or to be that one who, who calls them out and says this is unacceptable in, in our environment here.
You know, I think it was the EEOC, they weighed in when there was all the issues that were surfacing, gosh, I’m gonna say sometime in the past decade, on college campuses about, you know, women being harassed and people being taken advantage of, and so on and so forth. And they came out with a suggested campaign, I think it was called, gosh, “it’s on us” or “this is us,” “it’s on us.” I’ll look this up. And what was beautiful about it, it was that everybody has a role, and when it, when people aren’t treated well or treated right, or people are abused or bullied or whatever, everybody has a role. So clearly, we – if you see something, you need to say something, if somebody is hurting, you know, just walking over and saying, hey, listen, I just heard overheard what so and so said to you, how are you feeling? What can I do to assist, and maybe sometimes, depending where you are in the organization, is going to that person who said it, certainly with a colleague or someone that you feel you – feel that you can go to and say, I heard what you just said to JoDee, and it made me uncomfortable, I’m going to share with you that I would not want to receive that kind of comment. Now, if you’re not in the level of organization where you can say that, right, then go into your manager to say the exact stuff that I heard and saw, it didn’t happen to me, but I’m not feeling good about it. Because our culture here is important.
Right. Right. I think on the flip side, too, even just being one, you know, a regular core employee, sometimes we point fingers to think, oh, we don’t have a positive culture in my department, because my boss is, you know, slow, or my boss doesn’t reward, or my boss, or my peers, or where we tend to point fingers at other people is my point, instead of taking responsibility to, to be the role model or to set the example. Now I’ll repeat again, yes, it’s significantly better if we have those role models at the top. I’m not suggesting it’s easy to change culture from the bottom. But I liked what you said, that it’s each of our responsibilities to, to be a part of establishing a positive culture for others, no matter what our role is, right?
So it was actually the, it is, “It’s on Us.” It was a social movement created by Barack Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls to raise awareness and fight against sexual assault on college campuses for both men and women. So I do think that that certainly can really be powerful in the world of work, too, right? It’s on us, all of us.
Right. Right. I like it.
JoDee, I think that of all the places that I have been a part of or I visited, one of the more unique cultures is Purple Ink. Why don’t you talk about that a little bit, because I’d be interested, did you put thoughts into the culture you wanted to have, or did it just kind of organically evolve?
Well, you know, our values are creativity, positivity, and flexibility, and those always have been very important to me, and interestingly I, I created those values on my own, but then as we added people, I kept asking the question of others, like, these were my values, I don’t want to just project them on the entire company, if you don’t feel that, that, that those are the values of the entire company. But I think they have continued over time, and, and that people have really bought into those, so the whole concept for me of positivity, which of course is one of my strengths, and that’s not the strength of every person on our team, but I think we value that belief in being positive with our clients, being positive with each other, being positive in our approach, and, and our style. And then the flexibility, although it was always important to me to be flexible with our clients, that one sort of did just evolve, I think in that I started working from home and as I started hiring more people, they worked from home and, and so we’ve always had this very flexible style, and, flexibility is more than just our work hours. It’s how we approach our clients and work with our clients. But, but in terms of the remote work and the flexible hours, I did sort of think, oh, as we add more people, maybe we’ll get a real office and work eight to five every day and it just, it never came to fruition, and –
You don’t need to, really.
We didn’t need to!
Yeah, and I thought it might need to.
So it did, some of those things that, you know, I wasn’t sure that they just would stay on forever as we grew, they really have.
JoDee, we have a guest today to educate us on this topic, Carrie Frash, former Global Director of Culture at Verizon Media, Yahoo, and DDB Advertising Agency. Carrie is currently Lead Consultant at The Culture Tribe, who focuses on developing cultural tribes within brands, global companies, startups, and teams of any kind. Carrie has proven she is an innovative and strategic culture and engagement expert, and we are so happy she could join us.
Carrie, you’re joining us today from LA, thank you so much.
Yes, hello, it’s great to virtually be here. Hi!
We’d love for you to share with our listeners, Carrie, how you landed as a Global Director of Culture for these huge companies. And really, what did that mean? What were your responsibilities?
Sure. So I was recruited from an account management leader role at an advertising agency to lead a culture team at a competing ad agency, DDB, as you mentioned, which was a newly created position for me. So this really catapulted my career in culture and engagement. I was then hired on at Yahoo as the Operational Lead and Chief of Staff for the Head of Employee Experience. And as we were acquired, like you said, by Verizon, my role transitioned into the Global Director of Culture at Verizon Media.
Wow! How many employees was, was at Verizon Media when you became the Director of Culture?
13,000, about. Yes.
Yeah, it was pretty massive. We doubled in size. So Yahoo was about half of that, and then when we were acquired, we we doubled up to about 13,000.
So Carrie, I lead a team of 13 people, and I’m not sure if I’m doing a very good job of leading culture for that, and you’re leading 13,000 people! I’m interested to hear more about your story.
Yeah, it was, it was a lot, but I learned so much, and I, you know, I had – there were a lot of different responsibilities that were really impactful and rewarding all at the same time. So, you know, overall, you know, my goal was to create culture focused programs to unify employees and create a culture of collaboration. That was really the goal. So with the acquisition, there was change management, of course, that was a big piece of it. So we, you know, created innovative employee focused experiences that really utilized technology to help employees learn about and embrace the culture during and after the acquisition. That was a big part of it. So we actually leveraged virtual reality and augmented reality, because we were a tech – we are a tech focused company. So I feel like that was a really important piece, to really bringing the culture to life. And another piece of, you know, the responsibilities were partnering with the internal communications team to really create an employee focused, employee focused programs. experiences, events, to really help employees learn and develop both professionally and personally. And another piece of that was really developing programs that were catered to educating and utilizing the internal brands to enable employees to be ambassadors of their brand that we had in-house and really be champion behind the brand, because during the acquisition, we, we had employees that have never heard of some of the brands, because we had 50, 50 different brands within our household brand. So it was important to both educate as well as you know, have, have the employees use, use the technology and any of the brands that they were interested in to then share it with your friends and family and really be ambassadors behind it.
You know, that does make sense that your culture was, you were trying to get your employees passionate about the products and things that you had to sell so that they could really go out and be the best, you know, sellers of it and communicators of it. Can you tell us a little bit about the virtual reality and augmented reality? Like, what type of things did you create? Or how did you leverage that technology in, in, as part of your culture building and culture sustaining.
Of course, so, yeah, after the acquisition, and employees were unfamiliar with the brands, and even where our offices were located, because we have 60 different global locations, but with the acquisition, people were just very unfamiliar with what that was and where they were and the culture overall. So we actually went out and captured virtual reality content in nine of our global offices to really embrace what the people were like there, what the culture was, like, the external culture in those locations that influenced the internal culture. And then we created quick little videos that our employees could actually watch within virtual reality headsets and be able to feel like they were in that in that space and learning what those employees were working on brand-wise and what their culture was like. And so it was really a fun learning experience. And it really felt like you were in that country and we went all over, to India, we did Dublin, we did Germany, we did Israel. So it was really a fun experience and it was really helpful and educational too.
Oh my gosh, sounds really fun.
Fascinating. I love it. And Carrie, tell us also about what are you doing now?
Sure. So I have moved on from Verizon Media, but I am consulting with a new company called Intivine that is doing some really fun and exciting work in the culture and engagement space. So we have a proprietary tool called The Shine Scale. We use it to build dynamic programs that range from keynotes and workshops to full scale event design and cultural activation. So if a company’s culture could use a little boost, or needs an offsite facilitated or a special event that needs to sparkle, we, we can help with that. So, specifically, I’m leading one of the arms of the company, which is called The Culture Tribe. So, you know, we develop tribes within any type or size of an organization, and we have a unique approach to creating cultures that shine. So what that means is really cultures that value emotional intelligence and empathy. So we have a structure that we believe helps to support the development of that, which is, you know, supported by collaboration and accountability.
Yeah. Based on your work in corporate America, and now based on your work in build – helping other companies build cultures, what have you learned about building and sustaining culture that our listeners would want to know?
Wow, that’s a great question. There’s a lot of elements that go into it, you know, typical engagement strategies really include, you know, committing long term, that’s huge to an engagement strategy, measuring consistently, and then, you know, connecting engagement and business results is, is pretty important. Seeking employee input is vital. And then, you know, the last piece is really gaining leadership support. So those are kind of all, you know, important engagement strategies that you have to think about. And keep in mind as you’re developing culture and engagement within a company, we take a four step approach to implement – implementing our strategy at The Culture Tribe. So specifically, the first one is clarity, so it’s all about you know, finding alignment, understanding what the goal is. And from there, step two is influence. And so this is really inspiring adoption, I think, you know, internally when there you have to really lean on the influencers at the company, you know, maybe the leadership or other influencers within that really helped tease out kind of what the goals are and what we’re seeking to accomplish. And whatever you’re trying to put out there, whether it’s a program and experience, an event, whatever it may be, from there. The third piece of the approach is codify. This is really where you find implement. And then the fourth is practice makes permanent. This is really where you see engagement take place. It really doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s the, you know, overall, I think this four step process, from my experience in working in this space for a while now, I’ve seen a lot of success with this approach.
Excellent, excellent. And what about any mistakes that maybe you’ve seen that, that we could avoid making in this arena? Or there’s some common, typical mistakes you’ve come across?
There are. There are. Good, good question. There are a few, there’s going to be two that I’m going to talk about real quick. So first, you know, I think it’s important to actively conduct both qualitative and quantitative research at your company and with the employees. So that’s a combination of an online survey and one-on-one or, you know, focus group type of in-person discussions. And the mistakes that I see with this is when there is no action taken after research has been conducted, so really providing timely and actionable feedback on the results is vital to seeing success in this space. So really doing that versus not sharing anything or waiting too long to the point where it’s, it’s not relevant anymore. So that is the first piece that I think is really important. I see it a lot where, you know, surveys go out and then the employees don’t see any sort of change, or notice anything coming out of that in terms of action plans. So that’s number one, and I would say number two is really listening and understanding how to grasp sentiment and, and – from the employees and internally. So this is – I’m saying listening is key here because, you know, there are tools to help understand sentiment that you can use internally, but from a qualitative standpoint, it’s really important to understand the nuances, especially globally. So this is where cross-cultural awareness comes into play. One size does not fit all. It’s – there is a specific corporate culture at your company. There likely is a different micro-culture at different locations within that country or internationally. So just, you know, be aware of that, and receptive to those nuances, because you have to be, you know, able to kind of shift and do what’s right for those specific locations or organizations within the company.
Yeah, I really liked that you started by talking about the importance of data, I would suspect a lot of assumptions are made about that, that a lot of assumptions are made about culture, that – of how the culture’s good or bad or flexible or, or loyal or whatever it might be, that people aren’t actually measuring.
Completely. Yeah, I think it’s a really good place to start. When you, when you’re at an organization and you, you don’t really, you know, how are people feeling, you, you do want to talk to people, you know, face to face and have those conversations, but having the data is crucial to understanding where is your baseline and how, you know, where you can go from there.
I would think, Carrie, that developing your own employee engagement survey is probably, you know, the best. But if you’re a small or medium sized company, is there any, any resources out there that you would recommend people go to to start measuring?
I think every company is different, and that’s where it is tough. I think depending on what you’re seeking out from an engagement perspective and a culture perspective for your company it really varies. So you know, that’s where our you know, our company can come into play and help advise in terms of what you’re looking for and creating specialized surveys for, for what you’re seeking out. I am, you know, I don’t really rely on any specific website, because I do feel like every company is so different. And there’s just not one blanket place where you can – a blanket statement where you can look and say, oh, this will solve all the things. So I think that it really addresses – that’s what makes this a little bit interesting, right? So you really have to be creative and dig deep and think about what do we need? What are the goals? And then go from there.
No, that’s very smart. Yeah. So what other advice do you have for any listener who’s really decided that 2020 they’re going to tackle their employee engagement?
Well, I would say it’s really important as an HR leader to make the business case for investing in employee engagement. So really working with the leadership team at your company and, and making that business case and making it important that, you know, making it an investment for the company, because it really will serve the company well. And then, you know, transparency and clear communication from a lead – from leadership is key to successful employee engagement based on my experience, just ensuring that, you know, as an HR leader, you’re working really closely with the leadership team to ensure that, you know, there’s a lot of transparency and clear communication happening throughout the company internally.
Very good. Carrie, I’m curious what you might what you think about the phrase “culture starts at the top.” Do you think that’s true or not?
I do. I really do. Leader – if the leader – if leadership is on board. I see both sides to it, but I really do think that you cannot have a successful culture at a company without the leadership on board. So I do think that the leaders need to lead by example, you know, they believe in a work life balance, and that will trickle down to the rest of the employee base, and everybody will, will feel the effects of that. So I really, truly believe that it does start at the top. I think that there are influencers within the company that can help guide it to be a specific way or, you know, but I do think that overall it starts at the top. Yes.
I often hear the expression that HR is the keeper of the culture, and HR people are like, I’m not owning that. I’m happy to help, I’m happy to influence, but don’t make me the keeper.
Well, that’s, that’s a really good point you bring up, so I, you know, I headed up a program at Verizon Media, and it was our culture program and this, you know, we, we oversaw and managed the program, but we had 300 high performers that were all self appointed or nominated. That, you know, basically, we’re passionate about the culture at the company and they, they help us bring it to life. They were our people on the ground at all the different locations within the different business organizations that helped, you know, with managing the budget that we were delegating to all of those locations and organizations, and, you know, they were also incentivized if, you know, the more engaged they were, the more recognition they got. So, this was kind of their second job. This wasn’t their, you know, they, their first job was their, you know, job at hand, but they were, you know, had approval from their managers to be – to participate in this program. And I do think that it comes from everyone in the organization. It’s just, it’s not just HR. So I think that’s another important thing, too, that you mentioned.
Yeah, thank you. So Carrie, how can our listeners reach you if they have questions or just want to connect with you?
Sure. So you can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond to you. You can also reach out to theculturetribe.com and submit inquiries. And also, I would encourage you to try out The Shine Scale at theshinescale.com. And see, see where you – see how you can improve in terms of shine. And eventually we look to actually create a giant scale for organizations. So that’s next on our list, which is, is – has something to do with kind of your question around, you know, surveys for organizations, and that, that could be something you could tap into in the future once we develop that.
Oh, that’s great. Oh, my gosh, Carrie, thank you.
Yeah, I love it. I’m gonna try The Shine Scale myself.
Good, good. Good. Well, Carrie, thank you so much. I really appreciate it and wish you the very best on The Culture Tribe.
Oh, thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
All right. Thanks for joining The JoyPowered® Podcast.
Our listener question today comes from a listener who filled out a survey on our Switching Careers episode. Thank you for sharing. We love your feedback. The question is, “Can you give me advice for a career change into HR?”
Yeah, you know, JoDee and I, because we’re HR consultants, we do hear from a lot of people who say, you know, I’d like to come and do that. How do I get into HR? And there’s certainly a number of universities that have HR programs, or there’s business schools that have an HR area of concentration, and that’s certainly a academic path on your way into HR. But I’m going to tell you that I don’t think it’s necessary for a lot of HR jobs. HR, for me, it’s about common sense. It’s, there is sales to it, especially if you’re in the recruiting end. You have to be able to sell your brand, to sell the organization to people who are contemplating whether they want to join you or not. I’ve seen a number of people who have done different types of sales with no HR experience go into recruiting and be quite effective.
So that’s that’s one career path. I do think from a training standpoint, I’ve seen a number of people who’ve been teachers, who really love helping people have aha moments. And they really do understand, you know, instruction and instruction design, move into training and development, which is another nice pathway into HR.
JoDee, how about you? What are some ways you’ve seen people make that switch?
Well, interesting, Susan, I was coaching someone this morning, who has worked, spent her whole career and marketing and is interested in moving into an HR role, and we were talking about all of, all of the things, all of the skill sets that she had that could make her a perfect fit for HR, just thinking about great communication skills, right, and marketing, the power of marketing open recruiting positions, right, or how she might –
Source candidates through her social media marketing,
Right, right. And even – I was talking to her about benefits, although she doesn’t have any sort of experience in understanding the technical side of the benefits, about agencies and life insurance plans and that specific, obviously, she personally has chosen benefits before. But I said think about how someone from Marketing and Communications might be able to better sell the benefits or communicate the benefit packages to employees. So I think that whatever your background might be, of thinking about what are my strengths, what are my skills, what do I do well, and how might that connect with HR, just, you know, you mentioned about teachers, it can be a more obvious one to think about as being trainers, right? So what, what are those skill sets and, of course, there’s always – although we’re not specifically suggesting that you have to go back to school and get a degree in it, you could also look into the SHRM certification program, to consider getting a certification as well.
And that gets you a lot of education in HR, and it, really, you have to keep it up in order to maintain your certification. So your continuing ed hours, I think really makes you a very, very valuable HR person. The only other thing I might just mention is that I although I had a degree in business with area of concentration in HR, I went out into the world of work in the business side of it, and we found that a number of people who are very effective in HR came from the different lines of businesses, and they brought into HR technical knowledge that was so useful to us in HR, and we could teach them that – they had good communication skills, we could teach them the HR side of the business. So for those of you who have decided that that’s what you want to be really, I think there’s lots of different avenues.
So in – it’s time for “In the News.” In September 2019, the California State Legislature passed an employment bill that says if an employer wants to treat someone as a contractor, they will need to prove the person is free from the company’s control and direction, that the work falls outside the organization’s usual business, and that the contractor is truly independent. You might be asking, how is that different than how we operate in the other 49 states? Well, the Department of Labor and the IRS has good resources on how to determine from a federal perspective if someone is truly a contractor or not. What is different now is that in California, where startups such as Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, and other well known gig business models are headquartered, and we know that they rely on independent contractors for the human muscle behind the technology platforms that these firms operate. We believe that convincing the state and the courts of California, now since this law has been passed, that an individual who a company classifies as a contractor is really going to be more of a rigorous, rigorous challenge than in the past. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
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