The concept of “Company Culture” is different depending on who you ask.
I never really knew what it meant until I joined InsightSquared. After my first few weeks, friends in the Boston area started to ask me “what’s the culture like over there?” Follow-up questions may revolve around beer kegs, snacks, company softball or curiosity around management-employee communication, goals v. benefits and internal promotion paths.
While all of those elements are contributors, a good company culture is so much more than making sure the cold brew is refilled for employees every morning or even that reps can access their progress towards individual goals at any given moment. It’s all of that and more.
Company Culture shouldn’t be about the company. It should be about the people.
The hard work and talent of a diverse team with varying skill sets and an eagerness to learn will drive a company forward, but only if the culture supports both performance and well-being. I found that here at InsightSquared and I am forever grateful for it. The culture at InsightSquared is every reason why, for the first time in my life, I do not feel anxiety on a Sunday night before a new work week. Even if I am managing a seemingly impossible task list or dreading a meeting; even during a time of transition and unforeseen challenges; I know that I will have the space and support to get through it—because that’s the culture that we cultivate.
So what ingredients have we alchemized to build and maintain this culture? Here are some critical components of a strong company culture:
Communicate and set expectations:
Whether the result of our products or the philosophy of the founding team, InsightSquared encourages transparency and communication across the board. Using that same line of thinking, my managers at InsightSquared have always articulated what would be expected of me in both terms of results and behaviors around the office. If any of those factors change, expect to be informed.
Be open to new ideas:
You can read any blog, listen to every expert and follow every rule in your company playbook, but if you ignore feedback from the people on the floor, you’ll be flying blind and doing your employees a disservice. Companies need to embrace change and incorporate feedback from employees if they are to maintain a working environment that motivates employees and creates a space that they enjoy being in.
- Did one of your reps discover a new way to open a conversation that spurred an increase in their quota attainment? Celebrate it, learn what they’re doing and be open to introducing something new to other members of the team.
- Is one of your departments experiencing headaches or eye strain from neon lights? Listen to the feedback and adapt. New lights are hardly an excessive expense when they make your employees feel more comfortable and focused.
Look, we all make mistakes. A struggling rep might find an easy way to boost their number by intruding into another rep’s territory. A stressed manager might run a contest to reward their team only to find that reps are burned out from an overly aggressive ask. A company leader might introduce a new initiative that employees don’t feel equipped or prepared to pursue yet. In any of these situations, the worst thing for a company’s culture is to ignore the feedback or become overly-defensive when someone asks a question.
Not every new idea will be a success. If you take ownership when things don’t go as planned, not only will the company will feel more comfortable communicating feedback but it will more easily embrace new challenges.
Celebrate the behaviors you want to replicate:
I’ve worked in environments where people scoff at the idea of celebrating employee behaviors outside of measurable revenue adds. “Little wins” or “everyone gets a trophy” are tired, condescending notions that need to be put out to pasture. Results are driven by behavior. If positive behaviors are ignored, they will get lost in the shuffle. If a rep steps away from their daily responsibilities to sit with a new, nervous employee to answer those questions that a new employee might feel too shy to ask for the third time, take notice and give it a shout-out. If someone on your customer service team deploys a new tactic that starts to elicit positive reception from your users, mention it at a company meeting.
Replicate success by celebrating gestures or tactics that will not only lead to more revenue for the business, but behaviors that help foster a positive and motivating work environment.
We’re pretty fortunate to work in a building that has an incredibly nice workout facility a few floors below, but I realize that this is an advantage not every company has, so what else can be done? Our executive team and primarily our CEO, Fred, are big believers in healthier living and have sponsored some pretty impactful initiatives at InsightSquared
- Compt – Compt is a program that provides each employee with a monthly or quarterly budget to reimburse purchases that go towards a healthy lifestyle, be that physical or mental. This means that while workout equipment, clothing or classes can be reimbursed, the company also promotes and supports medical expenses, pet care, therapy and even financial stressors like student loans.
- Equipment in the office – we have a Peleton bike with a signup sheet in the office, weights and a separate space for other kinds of workouts in the office.
- Outside activities – It’s always good for the team to have opportunities to hang out together outside of the office; anything from 5k runs to summer outings are chances for team members to learn more about each other and become friends instead of just colleges. Every summer, the InsightSquared team spends a day together on George’s Island, and honestly it’s the most anticipated company’s event of the entire season.
Company-sponsored non-profit programs are perfect ways to help employees give back to the community and boost their morale. I’m actually very proud of the work we’ve done with non-profit groups in the Boston area. We have long-standing relationships with some incredible organizations like Resilient Coders, Katie’s Closet and ICW.
We have a monthly lunch and learn where we gather to learn from a non-profit group and converse with their founder to learn how to get involved.
Finally, once or twice a year employees are encouraged to take a day off of work to select from 2 or 3 charitable activities to support as a group, whether it be crafting beds for children from low-income households or pulling trash from a river to create a more habitable space for the wildlife in the area. Forget the meetings, the presentations and the reports; these activities help promote team bonding in a meaningful way.
Create a space that supports both work and fun:
If you can truly nurture a working environment that encourages employees to communicate openly, achieve their given metrics and embrace new company initiatives as discussed above, why do so many companies see their employees flee the office as soon as the clock strikes 5 pm? Often times it’s simply because the physical space around the “9-5” is unpleasant to experience in any other circumstance. The challenge is creating a fun space that doesn’t distract or demotivate. These are a few ideas based on what we’ve seen and tried to varying success.
- Snacks, coffee, beer – having a frequently replenished assortment of snacks in the kitchen is a great perk that I take advantage of on a near-daily basis. If I’m locked up with six back-to-back meetings, it’s nice to know I have quick access to fresh fruit, yogurt, crackers, granola bars, bagels. The coffee options in the office have probably saved me more than a few bucks each day by not going to Starbucks. Also, it’s it’s pretty nice to grab a beer from one of our kegs and relax with my teammates on a late Friday afternoon.
- Music – when I initially joined the company, I perceived music as a distraction. I noticed that the volume would get way too loud or way too low, and I heard people complaining that playlists were monopolized by only one genre of music or even one artist, and it seemed to create unnecessary stress.
Once we created a democratic system of shared playlists, reasonable volume control and some pretty common-sense rules (uncensored DMX and Danny Brown were quickly overruled), it suddenly became a motivator and a mood booster. Call blitzes would be backed by playlists of Stevie Wonder, Daft Punk, Fleetwood Mac and Wu-Tang Clan (whom all of our conferences are named after) while reps stood up, cranked dials and bobbed their heads.
Of course, it needs to be maintained and common sense etiquette should be reinforced but letting reps share and play music as they work can be incredibly energizing and social.
- Contests – Contests can push your team to stretch beyond their limits, fill in tiny gaps to meet a goal and add excitement to the floor. Make sure that the goal is challenging but attainable and the prize is something excites them.
- Outings – You don’t have to wait for the company to hold an annual holiday party or a summer outing. Take your team out and celebrate their efforts. Let them know that you appreciate them by submitting to something fun that they want to do, even if that means going to an ax-throwing pub or letting them pull you on stage to sing Disney songs at a karaoke bar (which may or may not have happened to me).
- I would recommend having a group of people dedicated to the cause. We would certainly have not been able to maintain the initiatives above without the help of our Culture Committee here at InsightSquared
These practices have helped create a comfortable and encouraging culture at InsightSquared. Different companies may have different needs and capacities that warrant other practices, but never forget to put your employees at the heart of any company policies. The team at InsightSquared never fails to listen to one another, learn from one another, work and have fun together, and ultimately grow together every day, and for that, I’m thankful.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?