Employee Engagement

In-Depth Culture Advice from CEO and Co-Founder of Madwire

Madwire’s Glassdoor ratings could hardly be any better, which is why in 2016, they ranked first for both Highest Rated CEO and Best Places to Work in the US – and remained high on both lists in 2017. Because both lists are based on quantitative measures of employee ratings, it’s often the qualitative traits that influence employees to accept job offers and stay with a company.

These ‘soft’ factors like mission, culture, people and transparency motivate employees

to show up to work every day – and their reviews on Glassdoor reflect that.

To understand what drives culture at a winning company like Madwire, we sat down with CEO and co-founder, JB Kellogg. We hope some of the culture advice here will inspire you to work on your company’s mission, culture, people and transparency in new ways within your organisation and on Glassdoor.

Culture in Transition

GD: How can you establish company culture if it is not readily identifiable, and how can you revamp outdated culture?

JB: I’d start with the leadership team and get their ideas and buy-in. Then discuss who you want to be, what you want the culture to look like and how you can make it happen! Consider making some changes to your workspace, branding/logo (if outdated), handing out some free ‘swag’, etc. Something to show you’ve made a shift and are investing in culture.

Have an all-hands meeting with your team, tell them you’re investing in culture. It’s your goal to have a great place to work, ask for their ideas and what they’d like the culture to be, etc.

GD: How do you integrate different cultures after a company acquisition?

I think it helps to do some team building events, company parties, etc. to get people mixed together and build some bonds. Maybe put together some nice videos for these parties which tell the story and showcase the value of both sides. Make sure everyone understands the overall mission and is behind the cause.

[For more actionable advice from today’s top company leaders, read  11 Tips From Top CEOs.]

GD: How do you create a unified culture when many employees work from home or other remote offices?

That can be difficult. But we’ve found being active on social media, sharing client stories, making sure everyone understands the mission and how it’s making a difference is key. Also, meeting for a company party/event every 6 months (max) is always nice to reconnect, celebrate successes, review future goals/plans, etc.

[Learn more about clever ways to engage with all types of employees on social media.]

GD: If your culture is negative, but you already have a clear mission and a variety of perks, how do you start improving it?

JB: I think you need to start with getting honest feedback from your team as to what they think needs to change in order to change the culture from negative to positive. Then review that feedback with your leadership team, be open to it – not combative – and understand that whether you like it or not, perception is reality and something needs to change. Then put a plan in place to make the changes needed to build a positive vibe.

[For more ideas about how to improve your culture, download the  Culture Codes of Best Places to Work.]

Taking Action on Culture

GD: What can be done in the interview process to make sure that a new hire will build on/add to company culture?

JB: We try to see who will fit our culture right from our application (which is not your normal app). We also have a bunch of videos on our apply page to help people understand our culture and if it’s a good fit before they even apply. Then, in the interview, we dive deeper into who they are and if they’ll be a good fit almost more than their actual skillsets.

[Want tips for executing great interviews? Check out the Master Interviewing Tool Kit.]

GD: What are some practical steps you can take to turn things around when employees start to seem disengaged?

JB: We recommend talking to them one-on-one.  Be honest with them and let them know you’ve noticed they’re not as engaged anymore. Show them you care and ask them what you can do to help get them back on track. Be open to their honest feedback. Once you gather all their ideas, put a plan in place to re-align and press forward fully engaged.

[For more on how to engage your employees year-round, download the Complete Guide to Employee Engagement Activities.]

GD: How do you build a great culture without creating an environment where staff become unproductive or lose focus?

JB: Make sure to keep your production/sales goals high so everyone continues to press hard and stay focused along the way. Do goal celebrations, etc. so people are rewarded for their hard work. Do NOT have parties if you miss a goal. They will start to understand that success = reward.

GD: What are some techniques for building a culture of accountability?

JB: We have a motto of ‘Execution Excellence is our standard and our standard is non-negotiable’. We take this very seriously. If somebody cuts corners or does not do their part, they do not last long. We look at three things: attitude, effort and performance. If attitude and effort are good, we’ll give somebody a lot of time to get better with regards to performance. But if effort, attitude or both are weak, we have a pretty short leash. It’s a pretty simple process for determining how much time you give somebody to get on track.

GD: How do you gain traction in establishing mission, vision, and goals?

JB: We have an all-hands meeting every Friday which is only about 15 minutes but keeps everyone on the same page.

Reviews and feedback

GD: How do negative Glassdoor reviews affect company culture internally and externally?

JB: Negative reviews can and will eventually happen. The key is how you respond. Stay professional, don’t be combative. Lay down the facts. Defend your case, but be fair/kind. Take responsibility if you did in fact mess up and make it clear you’re thankful for the feedback and used it to make sure those issues are corrected, etc.  Negative reviews can actually be a powerful positive for you if you respond the right way. So don’t’ be afraid of it.  Overall, if you do a good job with culture, the negative reviews will be few and far between.

[For more guidance about responding, download  How to Respond to Glassdoor Reviews.]

GD: Did you have an internal company campaign where you asked your employees to post their reviews on Glassdoor?

JB: We generally ask employees after their annual reviews if they’d be open to providing their feedback on Glassdoor if they’ve not already done so. We do not require it.

GD: What kind of data do you use when trying to get buy in or more investment in company culture from the top?

JB: Generally employee turnover stats, employee satisfaction stats (from surveys), Glassdoor ratings/reviews, etc. If you track these things, you can compare year-over-year improvements, etc.

[Want help getting started with Glassdoor analytics? Here’s what you should be tracking and why.]

GD: What are the benefits of retention?

JB: For us, the time/cost of training a new person is high. Plus interviews, hiring process, etc. are time consuming for other leaders/managers. Generally, we don’t see a new employee perform at veteran level for at least 12 months. The first  6 months are really slow. Experienced employees perform much better for us and drive more revenue. Plus, they can do more work in less time and do not need to be micromanaged. So it just makes sense to try to keep people around vs. hiring new people constantly and starting from ground zero.

For insights from 2017’s Highest Rated CEOs and their CHROs, download 25 Tips From Top CEOs. And learn the Culture Codes of Best Places to Work from winners like SpaceX and Clorox.

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