Earlier this month, we wrote about how your new employees hold the key to understanding your company culture.
In a nutshell, because your recent hires lack institutional context, they’ll notice things that your more senior employees take for granted. They also have ready access to comparison (in the form of their previous positions), and they may be able to provide valuable insights into both your organization’s strengths and areas for improvement.
As a relatively new Giant, I find that I am uniquely positioned to observe our company culture now.
Here are a few of the things I’ve noticed about Giant culture, as well as some culture-building lessons that you can apply in your workplace.
The Observation: Culture comes up a LOT.
In my very first meeting at Giant Voices, our leadership team brought up the importance of building and maintaining a strong company culture. The subject has continued to come up regularly since.
The Lesson: Facilitate discussion around the things that matter.
Giant leadership understands that culture is important. Rather than taking a “set-and-forget” approach, they know that companies with strong cultures monitor and develop them on a consistent basis.
The Observation: Employees are held to high expectations—and trusted to meet them.
One of my very favorite management insights comes from Creativity Inc., a book about leading creative teams written by the Creative Director of Pixar, Ed Catmull.
Catmull writes that he presumes that his employees are talented and want to contribute meaningfully in the workplace, and that the job of management is to identify and eliminate any obstacles to their success.
At Giant Voices, team members enjoy a high degree of autonomy. Some people work in-office, some from home, and some mix it up from day to day. The shared assumption making all of this possible is that our team members are ambitious, creative, and committed to doing their best.
The Lesson: Trust motivates and empowers.
What I love about this approach is how much trust it demonstrates.
I believe that over time, people will adjust their behaviors to match the style in which they are managed. We all remember those early pandemic horror stories, for example, about employees who were forced to work camera-on so that their supervisors could keep an eye on them. No thanks!
Regardless of intent, this type of management sends a clear message that employees are not trusted. People who don’t feel trusted feel disempowered, and disempowered employees disengage—making them the exact type of employee you shouldn’t trust. It’s a vicious cycle.
Thankfully, the opposite is also true: showing your employees that you trust them is a great way to make them feel engaged, empowered, and motivated—especially when it’s coupled with a company-wide commitment to doing excellent work.
The Observation: We celebrate together.
Next week, I’ll attend my third Giant Voices social event in two months. I’m excited! This team genuinely has fun together.
The Lesson: Keep fun inclusive.
Of course, not all company gatherings are an automatic success. I’ve noticed two things that ensure that ours are enjoyable. The first is that they are always optional. It’s hard to get buy-in for mandatory fun, and allowing employees to choose not to attend prevents a celebration from feeling like a chore.
The second is that company celebrations typically take place at least partly within normal working hours. When gatherings occur only after work, they run the risk of dividing your team instead of uniting it.
For example, if your company only holds evening events, you may accidentally create a divide between employees with childcare obligations and those without—or between those who can afford to pay a little extra for a sitter and those on a tighter budget.
Keeping at least a portion of company celebrations during the workweek makes sure that these gatherings are accessible to your entire team.
The Observation: We get amped about the work.
The Giant Voices team has one all-team each week that we use exclusively to shout out strong work and share exciting projects.
It’s a considerable investment of person-hours in connection and another example that leadership understands the importance of culture.
It’s also fun and inspiring to see the creative work that my colleagues are up to.
The Lesson: Invest time in connection.
Whether your team is in-office or remote, it’s important to devote some time and space to connection, alignment, and learning from each other. Even thirty minutes a week can provide a sense of predictability and rhythm for you and your employees.
The Observation: We have boomerang Giants.
This one isn’t as scary as it sounds.
As Giant Voices approaches its tenth anniversary, a number of people who worked at Giant Voices early in their careers are now returning in more senior roles, bringing with them broader industry experience and historical knowledge of the Giant Voices clients and team.
The Lesson: Strong cultures pay off.
Of all of the things I’ve noticed that speak to the strong culture at Giant Voices, this might be the most unique.
Think about this: of all the jobs you’ve held in your life, which would you want to return to?
It’s not necessarily the job with the coolest office or the sexiest title, but it’s almost certainly a position where you genuinely trusted and enjoyed your team and felt supported in doing your best work. In other words, it was probably a place with a strong, healthy culture.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions from our clients lately about how to build and maintain a strong workplace culture, and we’re not surprised. Remote work has required employers to rethink their approaches to culture, and recruiting and retention are also top of mind for many.
Expect to hear more from us in 2022 about team dynamics, leadership, and how investing in a strong company culture is a critical business practice.
Questions? Just reach out. We’re here to help.