9 Keys to Winning the Hearts of Your Employees and Building a Strong Culture


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Originally featured on MENG Blend:

Making the Journey

Motivation for employees is sagging. Recent reports show that motivation has fallen off at more that half of all companies. In difficult economic times, how can companies boost employee morale and drive high performance?

green goldfish projectThe simple answer is doing the little extras beyond compensation to demonstrate commitment to your employees. The Green Goldfish Project examined how companies go above and beyond to create signature extras, little things that help capture the heart of your employees. Upon reviewing the 1,001 examples from the Project, a few key themes emerged. Specifically, the different types of green goldfish can be categorized as the Three B‘s:

1. Basics — The first three inches. Creating a stable environment where people can thrive.

2. Belonging — The middle three inches. Enabling high functioning teams and recognizing their efforts.

3. Building — The final three inches. Empowering employees to learn, give back, and take control of their destiny.

Let’s examine the nine inch journey:

1st inch – Onboarding

You never get a chance to make a first impression. Example: Online glasses manufacturer Warby Parker (#171) gives a welcome package to new employees. The package includes the founder’s favorite pretzels and a gift certificate to a Thai restaurant, since the founders lived off Thai food during their startup phase (Source: New York Times).

2nd inch – Space

The design of the workplace, the type of the work, and where people are situated will influence collaboration and engagement. Example: XPLANE (#708), which was founded in 1993, has an “Inspiration Wall”—a designated space in the office kitchen where employees can post anything they have created or want to share that inspires them. “It helps us express new ideas and personal findings which foster surprising connections, creative collaborations, and, at its simplest, helps us all know each other better.”

3rd inch – Transparency

According to Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” If you want a strong culture, keep things open by default. Example: Feedback Plus (#59) has an open ledger policy for employees. They can read the company’s financial statements any time they wish. Their compensation is based upon their work teams and the company’s performance vs. the annual goals and action plans they’ve collectively developed. Of course it may not be feasible for every company to have an open ledger policy, but it is important that, whatever the size of the organization, each employee knows where they are going and how they’re supposed to get there (Source: CareerCast.com).

4th inch – Flexibility

No longer an extra, flexibility is an expectation. Example: “Orionites,” as they call themselves at Orion Trading (#742), don’t like to stay in one place. The company encourages employees to try different jobs from time to time, moving in and out of marketing, sales, client services, or media investment. The goal is to grow employees’ skills, which Orion has found increases everyone’s output. (Source: Advertising Age).

5th – Recognition

Actions speak louder than words. Example: The Container Store (#459) has an award calledThe Gumby. Being Gumby is about doing whatever needs to be done to serve a customer, help a co-worker or complete a task. It’s about not getting “bent out of shape” when a customer makes a request of you that you’d rather not do. And it’s also about bouncing back quickly after having a tough encounter with a challenging customer. Every Container Store employee is strategically trained to think flexibly to solve customers’ organization problems. And the company does this with an air of excitement by using the 1950’s Gumby clay-figure TV star. The company constantly reinforces the Gumby culture by having a 6 foot tall wooden Gumby in the lobby at the company’s headquarters and giving away the annual Gumby award to the employee who exemplifies flexibility (Source: Myra Golden).

6th – Team Building

A team that plays together stays together. Example: Assurance Agency Ltd., (#842) a Schaumburg based insurance brokerage, has a whole host of incentives. There’s Starbucks coffee, yoga classes, and a Wii station, plus big-ticket items such as referral bonuses for new clients, education reimbursements, and companywide bonuses for reaching goals. Yet the benefits with the biggest impact on culture seem to be those that bring employees together. “I think we’re really thoughtful about the things we emphasize,” says Jackie Gould, the company’s chief operating officer. “A lot of them aren’t really about the money. It’s more about fosteringthe relationships” (Source: ChicagoBusiness.com).

7th – Training and Development

Investing in the development of your people. Example: Colliers founded Colliers University (CU) in 2002. It was truly a novel concept within the commercial real estate industry. Built on the premise that learning can be a competitive advantage, CU has grown to include more than 1,000 classes and has helped accelerate the professional and personal success of more than 7,000 Colliers professionals. The curriculum offers a 360 degree approach to learning with courses in commercial real estate, business, and personal development. CU is not only a culture driver for the company internally but also an outwardly competitive recruitment tool, raising the bar in terms of the expertise of their professionals. This expertise directly benefits clients through better results and memorable experiences.

8th inch – Pay It Forward

Giving back and paying it forward. Example: Decisive Analytics Corporation (#250), a military contractor, believes in giving back. Each quarter, staffers assemble care packages for soldiers overseas.

9th inch – Empowerment

Tapping into the creativity of your team powers innovation. Example: One of Europe’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of single-use medical products, Molnlycke Health Care (#61) allowed production teams to decide how to meet their goals. With the responsibility for quality products moved to individuals on those teams, nearly 70% of the company’s new products launch on time, compared with just 15% previously. As a result, the company will have quadrupled its shareholder value in only five years (Source: InnoSupport).

What's Your Green Goldfish Amazon

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A few closing thoughts about Green Goldfish:

A Daily Regiment of Exercise vs. Liposuction

A green goldfish is not a quick fix or for those seeking immediate results. Translation: it’s not liposuction. It’s equivalent to working out everyday. Culture gradually builds and improves over time.

Authentic vs. Forced

A green goldfish is a beacon. It’s a small gift or benefit that demonstrates you care. Green Goldfish need to be given in an authentic way. If it comes across as forced or contrived, you’ll eliminate all of the goodwill and negatively impact your culture.

It’s a Commitment, Not a Campaign

A green goldfish is different than a one off or limited offer. Add one or a school of green goldfish at your convenience, remove them at your peril.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is a recent interview on Marketing Made Simple TV with Jeff Ogden. We chat Green Goldfish:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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