Unlimited vacation and volunteering time. Jobs built around strengths. Eager mentors. Policies that focus on treating people like humans. You would think I was describing Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory or some other working utopia. Actually, it's a perfect description of two real-life company cultures that would knock your socks off.
Talent Plus and Next Jump are two midsize companies determined to be great places to work, by creating a version of a work-life that most people would think is fantasy. Talent Plus is the Leading Talent Assessment Partner in the talent industry and Next Jump powers other corporation's rewards, loyalty platforms and engagement solutions.
I am constantly on the hunt for companies with this "employee focused" commitment, because I know that being happy at work is a powerful tool for not only individual performance but also company performance. I first came across these two companies, because of the many awards they have won, and I was curious to see if they really walk the talk. Based on my one-on-one interactions with them, I can say they do, by creating rewarding environments that help with recruiting and retention, which helps the companies thrive as a whole.
But we're still living in a business world where this is far from the norm, and building a "great culture" is easier said than done, especially for busy entrepreneurs. With that in mind, I recently sat down with the leaders at Talent Plus and Next Jump, to identify some of their culture-building secrets.
1. Share everything. At Next Jump, there are no secrets. Business results and strategies are discussed in an open forum and transparency is practiced regularly. From the get-go, the primary goal was to build a company that would make your mother and father proud.
2. Engage in "daily formation." Every morning the entire team at Talent Plus gathers in a circle in their large dining room. They vocalize one of the 35 core values and then people volunteer to share examples of those values in action. They then have a "Play of the Day," in which associates are able to recognize anyone that has gone above and beyond in their contribution or performance. They then take a moment and celebrate any birthdays or life-stage events.
3. Give credit where credit is due. Next Jump has set up an environment that is meant to help people reach their full potential. Their motto? "Consistency Over Intensity." The company has frequent recognition programs--weekly, monthly, annually--to recognize people regularly.
4. Consider the "One Coffee Pot Rule." Talent Plus has more than 200 associates, but the company has just one coffee pot in the kitchen area. Seems simple, but this facilitates organic interaction and forces everyone to have a central location for spontaneous interactions.
5. Provide mentoring. Mentorship is a cornerstone of Next Jump's culture. Each member of the team has a "talking partner," and they consistently meet every day for breakfast and hold each other accountable for greatness. The goal is to understand each other's world and then provide the support needed to succeed. For example the CEO and the Chief of Staff are "talking partners" who run the company together.
6. "Focus on You." This is an activity at Talent Plus that is used as a tool to build strong relationships and to strengthen its culture. The company uses it when someone first starts, lands a new internal job, or when strengthens relationships with valued clients. Members of the team are even encouraged to take it home and use it with their families or other organizations they're a part of. The Focus on You exercise is a series of questions that you answer about yourself and share with others, including: What is the name you liked to be called? What do I get paid to do? What are your hot buttons, the things that you really care about in life? What are your successes, one professional and one personal? What do you do best? What are your goals professionally and personally? These questions break barriers and open the door to understanding what makes each other click.
7. Declare and document. Next Jumpers are encouraged to declare their intentions and then document them. It has been a tipping point in the culture because it has allowed members of the team to get behind that culture. Previously, the company defined the culture with core values and it was hard to remember them in action and amid stress. Once they began declaring what they wanted to do and documenting it, they began to see culture-specific actions happen more organically.
8. Perks! Talent Plus allows its employees to manage their own time--unlimited vacation and otherwise--and goes as far as offering up the company's beautiful space to use as needed, including baby showers, birthday celebrations and lots of family-focused celebrations.