When you're cultivating the growth of a company, you want to develop it to be around for a hundred years at a minimum. And what makes the difference for your 100 year company? Without a doubt, it’s the people.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a Business of Software (BoS) Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. All of the speakers were impressive, and I managed to absorb more than just one nugget of information. However, one presentation in particular stood out even amongst the many gifted lecturers, and that was Promise Phelon’s “Perks vs. Culture: The Ping-Pong Table Fallacy.”
Like Promise, I effectively multi-task many things, and people operations is one of my favorites to focus on. Truthfully, I believe that people are the most important asset to a business. With these similarities I felt as though I could relate to Promise and the presentation.
When Promise came onstage I knew we were in for a treat.
She was very spunky and energetic, but that’s what you need when a conference starts so early in the morning. Her energy was infectious and it was like starting your day with that perfect cup of coffee.
She began by telling us about her past in Silicon Valley, and her move to Colorado where she was transitioning out a founder of Tap Influence and transitioning into a new kind of culture.
Promise mentioned many people in this situation would try to make sure everybody in the office liked them by becoming more like them. However, instead of doing that, she took another approach to begin to build a 100 year company while also simultaneously making her people happy and bringing a new intensity into their current culture.
Is it the Perks?
But how do you make your people happy and fulfilled? Is it the free perks like Starbucks, gym memberships, slides in the office, or awesome swag??? Or is it the feeling in the office of camaraderie, and the synergy of people?
Personally, I always thought it was the perks. I read all these articles about the Google culture, and since those articles typically revolved around how cool Google was, I assumed that people needed those perks in order to be happy. This whole time I was thinking that we had to give all of these perks to our team in order for them to love working at FrogSlayer, but in reality, what we needed to give them were not these tangible things. Instead, through trial and error, I learned that perks aren’t what makes people happy in the workplace. It is, in fact, what Promise called “a Culture of Ownership.”
What is a Culture of Ownership?
I had never heard the phrase before Promise’s presentation. Promise put it fairly simple by explaining that it is having employees/people who feel they can take ownership in the company. According to Promise, she finds that most often people want to know “how does this information affect me; how can I help; how much do I own?”
This sounds hard, but this can be done with a few changes.
Transparency & Career Paths
Promise pointed out that creating a Culture of Ownership is not something that would happen instantaneously. As Promise exhibited, you have to be extremely transparent with your people. If you share what happens and what matters to each aspect of the company, then the people in your company become invested in how this information applies to them and how they can make a difference in the information that you have presented them.
And to further embrace transparency Promise instructed us that we can contribute to the ownership culture by being so transparent that our people can quite clearly see their career path. Promise brought up the fact that a recent LinkedIn study found that if people feel there is no room for growth, then they feel discouraged and begin looking for fulfillment elsewhere. So if your goal is to not only retain your people, but to keep them engaged, enthusiastic, and committed, then transparency and ownership is a good place to build your foundation.
It Starts During On-boarding!
Promise informed us that transparency and a Culture of Ownership is something that can begin from the moment you hire a new employee. She personally believes that the company history and grand vision need to be taught and discussed with every new hire. This can easily be done on a new-hires first day in order to begin to foster a close connection with the company from the start.
All in all, perks are absolutely awesome, but they are just that: PERKS. A company can have a great culture on a very very small budget. Because in the end, it’s all in the people.
A huge thank you to Promise Phelon for this eye-opening presentation!