Covid-19 and a no-bullshit approach to employee experience. — fruitkit

Note: This is a re-post from our corporate blog over at fruitkit.fi — Head over to our site to support our business!

This is a story that needs to be told in 2 parts.

Part 1: Origin story

If the concept of a “silver lining” is in any way admissible during these times of uncertainty, quarantine, pandemic and all the “fun” words getting thrown about — we at fruitkit would have to be grateful for an opportunity to slow down.

And through slowing down, an opportunity to get in touch with our core values — to revisit them in a no bullshit -kind of way. It has been sobering and profoundly formative.

No bullshit.

We are borrowing these words from one of our new favourite people — but more about this later).

So, without holding anything back, let us paint you a picture through a short story:

An auspicious start

A small Finnish company starts out in 2015 by delivering top-quality produce to B2B and B2C clients. Through obsessive bootstrapping, self-sufficiency and trial and error — they discover that the “sweet spot” in their scene is made up of companies with a common characteristic. So fruitkit decide to double down on B2B and this works great for us — until 2020.

But what did all these companies have in common? They are a veritable who-is-who of Finland’s best places to work.

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So, this process of discovery took us about a year (give or take) and the introspection that followed led us to defining some of our values as:

  • Look beyond fruit
  • Fanatical about employee experience
  • Uncompromising about quality of life
  • Going above and beyond
  • Remain open to learning

Coronavirus strikes

Fast-forward 5 years, and business was looking great. Enter Covid-19: 95 % of revenues wiped out within a month, poof!

Sure, we had been experimenting with new sources of revenue — but none of these had yet evolved to a point where they could realistically take over from our B2B subscriptions.

No bullshit: We got comfortable and did not see it coming.

So, we allowed ourselves a couple of days to grieve and panic; but then it was time to get to work. And when faced with a situation such as this, you can take one of two roads: the “what can we do that will make money?” -road; or the “what do we stand for?” and therefore the “what are we willing to obsess about, so we can do it better than anybody else?” — road. It’s one of the points that differentiates necessity entrepreneurs from growth entrepreneurs (Leon Sanchez, 2018).

Part 2: What are we willing to obsess about, so we can do it better than anybody else?

Back to basics

This is when it was time to revisit the values and principles we say we are unwilling to compromise on, but may have taken for granted. So our thought process went something like:

  • Look beyond fruit
  • Fanatical about employee experience
  • Uncompromising about quality of life
  • Going above and beyond
  • Remain open to learning

No bullshit. How fanatical are we willing to be about employee experience, even during such an uncertain time? And whoever said providing an outstanding and empathy-based employee experience was limited to the times when it’s business as usual? If anything, the case could be made for it being even more critical right now.

Then it dawned on us. The time to see who is who in terms of employee experience is now . We decided to reach out to our clients (who had previously cancelled their office subscriptions), as well as a few new potential ones to see how they were handling the Covid-19 situation; and things took a fascinating turn: some of them, it seemed — had also gone back to revisit their values; and as it turns out, we had been thinking alike all along.

And what does this mean in our business?

These customers too, were unwilling to compromise upon employee experience during a time such as we’re in. And in spite of some of these businesses facing financial challenges of their own — they have chosen to put the wellbeing of their people first, and for fruitkit to be their partner in such endeavour.

For us at fruitkit, this meant drastically adapting our logistics and operations to suit an increased number of decentralised deliveries to employees’ homes; but It also has meant our business might just survive — and we’re having fun evolving through this crisis and learning from our customers!

So who is doing employee experience right?

We had the opportunity to look deeper into the topic of employee experience at Futureplay Games.

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You may have heard of Futureplay. They are a 5-year old, independent game studio from Helsinki — with a healthy number of successful titles under their belt and not stopping any time soon. Their very diverse team is now 34-strong, and they exhibit all the traits one would expect of a great place to work: autonomy, transparency, flat hierarchy and employee ownership among others.

And who better to give us an account of what this means in practice than Futureplay’s own Head of Employee Experience, Salla Niemelä?

Salla is a seasoned Human Resources, recruitment and Employee Experience professional; who has honed her craft across some big names in the Finnish landscape. Observing what is now quarantine etiquette, we both jumped on a video call during the early afternoon, in our comfiest loungewear — which would set the tone for a warm, invigorating and inspiring discussion that neither of us wanted to end!

So, this is when I admit to having borrowed the No bullshit mantra from Futureplay. She drops the expression early into our call, when referring to a common desire at Futureplay that people at the company remain equals; and the culture free from any unnecessary hierarchies or corporate structures.

Sounds nice enough, but are they really doing it?

Salla explains that, in this young company — the Employee Experience post has only existed for 11 months — which is precisely the time Salla has been with the company. I want to know more, so I press on with questions from her everyday tasks during the coronavirus pandemic; through to why invest in sending each employee fruit to their homes. Some of the highlights are below:

About employee power and autonomy

“Employees have a direct effect on our direction and the things that are important to us. They are also empowered to make decisions that affect the product they’re working on.”

About Covid-19 and Futureplay’s readiness to support employees

“I think the move from the office to home office actually went quite smoothly. It didn’t take a lot of extra planning from us in the admin team to decide on the roles and procedures. We had had weekly meetings with the company about it prior, so when it happened — the implementation took us about 2 days. There was a day when our CEO himself was delivering office supplies to employees’ homes, simply because that’s what the situation called for.”

“Things still move on, and in my opinion it has been a positive to be forced to make things work remotely. Technology has advanced to a point where it’s not as painful to do team work from different locations”

What message do you emphasise to your employees during this time?

“Your family and your home come first. Work only after that. If that means we need to postpone the global launch for our new game, then that’s just what we will do.”

So what role does fruit delivery play here? Why bother, and why not something else?

“We wanted to do something to make our employees feel happy and to get them to think of something other than the current situation. So the idea of sending them something at home came up — and fruitkit was the thing we thought would work best at that specific moment”

Thank you, Salla and Futureplay!

Dear reader:

How are you providing a great employee experience during the current disruptions?

At fruitkit, we would love to hear from other businesses and their challenges during this time.

How is your company handling the current situation when it comes to work arrangements?

Are you being supportive of your staff throughout this situation? And in doing so, what challenges are you facing, who are your key partners along that journey?

If you are looking for the right balance between supporting your remote workers during this quarantine and a flexible/cost-conscious partner, get in touch with us!

Originally published at https://fruitkit.fi on April 6, 2020.

Written by

The human side of tech. I ask the “why’s?”, “how’s?”, “who’s” and “when’s?” when others think just tech. Talk to me about travel, dogs or ecosystem innovation.

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