Many don’t see the direct connection between workplace culture and their bottom line.
Praise publicly. An effective but underutilized strategy to increase morale in your office is to make sure you and your leadership teams know to celebrate your team’s wins. Do this publically and loudly. Many executives don’t feel value public praise themselves, so they believe that their teams don’t need it as well. Perhaps they prefer to celebrate their team's success by giving an extra bonus, or holiday, or by individual email. When you praise publicly, not only does that individual feel great, but the rest of your team will feel proud as well. Learn how to uplift your team and your company’s performance and morale will skyrocket.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Madeleine Park from Together She Can for the ongoing series: CEOs Share Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture.
Madeleine Park, Founder & CEO, of Together She Can works to help homeless communities with hygiene care. Madeleine was featured as Boston’s Women of the Week in 2017 and has recently garnered partnerships with all of the major homeless shelters in the Boston area as well as corporations including Sephora, Garnet Hill, and Girl Scouts of America.
Krish Chopra: What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?
- Belief in Helping Others — Our top core value is the belief in helping others. As a nonprofit, we are able to push this value front and center. This is the foundation for what, why, and how we do everything.
- Flexibility is Key — In our industry, flexibility is needed in order to operate properly. This extends from our operations all the way to our employee’s everyday needs. With guidelines in place, we allow the staff flexibility to schedule their work around their lives, not the other way around. This has been a key driver for our company culture.
- Harnessing Inspiration — In our line of work we get to see, what I call, “mini miracles” all the time. People helping people is a wonderful thing and often gives our staff a boost of motivation and inspiration every time they see their hard work directly impacting someone else’s life. After these “mini miracles”, we will meet as a team to discuss the program or event and brainstorm new ways (or better ways) our business can continue to fulfill our mission. These meetings are great for team bonding, moral boosting, and encouraging new ideas.
Krish: Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”
Madeleine: Millennials aren’t too different from any other employee segment in terms of what they want in a workplace, they just tend to be more vocal about it. I have actually found this really refreshing. Knowing what our employees want and need upfront makes it much more efficient for creating a workplace that fits their desired lifestyle. My advice for dealing with millennials is don’t puff-out-your-chest when needs are vocalized in a direct manner. Instead, listen and realize that this will save you a lot of time and resources.
Krish: What are your “5 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture” and why.
- Show Them Off — Public recognition is a key driver for a lot of people. If your staff is doing great work, don’t just tell them — tell the world! Don’t be afraid of others poaching your employees, if you are executing on a great work place then they won’t leave! For example, we like to blast out social media posts recognizing our employees and our partners. This really helps drive home how appreciative we are of all their hard work. It is easy, free, and also helps personalize our brand.
- Take Down the Walls — Put less of an emphasis on people’s positions and offices and more on the work they are doing. For example, business titles mean a lot to some employees. Instead of handing out standard titles, we let our employees brainstorm ideas and we work with them to create a title they are comfortable with and proud to have.
- Set Business & Personal Goals — Many companies require their employees to set quarterly or annual goals. Along with these, we recommend that they also set goals to help with their personal and/or professional development. For example, our employees set annual goals to help the company reach certain milestones. They are also encouraged to set goals that will help them grow personally and/or professionally. This includes taking a new educational course, attending a conference or seminar, or traveling to some place new.
- Do Good Together — For us, this is a daily occurrence but for those in the for-profit sector, organize an event that helps others. This could be a community event, global cause, humans or animals, etc. Survey your employees and find out what is near and dear to their hearts. This will create a stronger bond between you and your employees while also encouraging teamwork and giving back. For example, our organization works to help homeless women with hygiene care. A few times a quarter, we partner with Sephora to help set-up free beauty classes. Seeing all the women (from Together She Can, Sephora, and the shelters) come together to support one another and share their stories has created a positive narrative that permeates through our organization long after the event is over.
- Evolve with Your Employees — To keep a great workplace culture you will have to continually evolve with your employees. This means that something that worked last year may need to be re-visited this year. People’s needs and wants change and so should your company’s benefits. For example, we used to have a staff that really enjoyed working together, in the same place, every day. As our staff and initiatives changed, so did our workplace. The majority of our staff now work remotely and although this is different than what we are used to, we have been able to create guidelines and implement new communication mediums to ensure that the work is still being completed, our growth stays on track, and everyone is still in-tune with each other.
Krish: Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?
Madeleine: Because they don’t see how it impacts ROI. Many don’t see the direct connection between workplace culture and their bottom line. Fact, happy employees produce better work. It may seem like an easy thing to comprehend however, creating true happiness is tough. Just providing a beer fridge or some free snacks won’t do it. You have to get to the root of what people need then deliver on it. After the needs are met then come the wants. That’s how you create a strong, healthy work environment.
Krish: What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?
Madeleine: I was young when I started Together She Can. The first mistake I made was not asking for help when I needed it. This led to me feeling overwhelmed and putting off, what I thought, was less of a priority, like culture. My employees got burnt out and I lost some good people. It took me a while to realize that culture was one of the most important pieces that help make a business grow.
Krish: To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?
Madeleine: As a young CEO, I do feel pressure to perform and succeed. It is almost a sense of having to prove I can do this job despite my age. I have found over the years that the key to relieving this pressure is to hire people that you can trust. It seems simple but, when you are building a business, it’s not easy to let go of the reins and let someone else make decisions on behalf of your company. When you find a person that has your company’s best interest in mind and whose personal values align with your company’s values, go the extra mile to keep them. These people are rare, and they are worth it!
Happy employees produce better work. It may seem like an easy thing to comprehend however, creating true happiness is tough. Just providing a beer fridge or some free snacks won’t do it
Krish: Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?
Madeleine: The biggest influence in my leadership strategy has been speaking and learning from people that have “been there before.” I make sure to keep in contact with friends (many of which have been in the position for years) who also own their own businesses, nonprofits, and the like. They have been able to provide me with both situational and global advice on everything from workplace culture to operations. You can’t put a price tag on experience and knowledge.
Krish: What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?
Madeleine: You’re Not Alone — Chances are your boss isn’t only managing you. Speak with your co-workers that are also being managed by your boss and see if they are having similar. Organize your thoughts collectively and then present them to human resources or someone higher-up. Be careful not to “gang-up” on your boss but understand that there is certainly power in numbers. Talking with others can also show patterns which are much easier to understand and fix compared to one-off situations.
Krish: Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?
Madeleine: One unique thing that our company does is let our employees (even interns) set-up shop wherever it’s most convenient for them. We do have a central office location but because our work is often done on-the-road, we don’t require them to come into the office every day. Our communication and administration are done digitally, and we have found that our people have been able to get more done when we eliminated their commute time. This also gave them greater availability to work with our donors and partners and has helped to increase our growth.
A note to the readers: Improving company culture happens at any level in an organization. If you learned one thing in this interview, please share this with someone close to you.
A special thanks to Madeleine again!
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