Anybots, 15% time and Mom’s Hours: Green Goldfish Project Top Ten List #2


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11 Examples of Putting Employees First

The Green Goldfish Project is an attempt to crowdsource 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Companies that put “employees first” through actions, not just words.

[Bonus: In honor of ‘Back to School’ week, I’m giving away free copies of the book “What’s Your Purple Goldfish? How to Win Customer and Influence Word of Mouth” between 9/5 – 9/9. Click here on Amazon to get a copy]

Here is the second Top Ten List from the Project:

10. The Mother of all benefits @StewLeonards

Stew Leonard’s (#94)

Mom Hours
“Mom’s hours” enable mothers to work while their children are in school – and take off the whole summer to be with them. School delays, no problem.

9. A team that runs 203 miles together, stays together @ooyala

Ooyala (#64)

Taken from a post by Adam Sewall:

“…a group of us headed south to tackle Ragnar Southern California, a 203-mile relay race between Huntington Beach and San Diego. Picture 12 dudes piled into two vans. Picture non-stop running. Picture Sean Knapp, Ooyala’s CTO, singing along to “Welcome to the Jungle” at the top of his lungs somewhere between Carlsbad and Solana Beach. You get the idea…

As with any group undertaking, we learned a number of important life lessons:

Sean should never be allowed to sing Karaoke
Cheddar Goldfish are the world’s greatest energy food
There’s no “i” in “team,” but there is in “aspirin,” “ice,” and “pizza”
Contrary to what you might think, spending 20+ straight hours with co-workers can actually be a blast
It was an incredible journey. And despite having some decidedly slow runners on the team (e.g., yours truly) we somehow managed to place second, with an average pace of 6:24. Not bad for a bunch of desk jockeys, right?”

Here is a YouTube video with the founders. Running is a metaphor at Ooyala.

8. One hour per week to volunteer using professional skills and passions for good @HP

HP (#52)

HP empowers employees to make a difference and give back. 4 hours per month x 300,000 employees = HP social impact

Video on HP’s Social Impact:

7. Keepin’ it real and OPEN @KAYAK (#64)
Taken from a post at INC:

We have an open office environment. I sit out with the product managers. We hold design meetings at one another’s desks throughout the day. We do design interaction like that, where everyone can hear and anyone can jump in. If anyone needs to make a private phone call, there are a few private offices, but our general philosophy is that an open environment facilitates intellectual intensity. Most engineers are introverted. Here, when people overhear a discussion, we encourage them to walk over and say, “There’s another way to do that.”

YouTube video with Donny Deutsch and the founders of

6. Giving new Moms the time they need is more than a nice benefit, it’s good business @aetna

Aetna (#68)

Aetna Life & Casualty Co. reduced resignations of new mothers by 50 percent by extending its unpaid parental leave policy to six months, saving the company $1 million a year in training, recruiting and hiring expenses.

5. Before 20% time, there was 15% time @3M

3M (#53)

Taken from a post by FastDesignCo:

Founded in 1902 in a little town on the shores of Lake Superior, 3M started out in the mining business as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. The company thought it had found corundum, a mineral ideal for making sandpaper. But instead, it was low-grade anorthosite — of little value. With mining hopes dashed, the founders bought a sandpaper factory and struggled for years over how to run it. New investors had to pour in cash to keep it afloat. Eventually, one of them, Lucius Ordway, moved the company to St. Paul, where 3M hit upon some key inventions, among them: masking tape and cellophane tape.

3M launched the 15 percent program in 1948. If it seems radical now, think of how it played as post-war America was suiting up and going to the office, with rigid hierarchies and increasingly defined work and home roles. But it was also a logical next step. All those early years in the red taught 3M a key lesson: Innovate or die, an ethos the company has carried dutifully into the 21st century.

15 percent time is extended to everyone. Who knows who’ll create the next Post-It Note?

“It’s one of the things that sets 3M apart as an innovative company, by sticking to that culture of giving every one of our employees the ability to follow their instincts to take advantage of opportunities for the company,” says Beinlich, who tries to get most of his 70-person technical lab team to participate.

Once a year, about 200 employees from dozens of divisions make cardboard posters describing their 15 percent time project as if they were presenting volcano models at a middle school science fair. They stand up their poster, then hang out next to it, awaiting feedback, suggestions, and potential co-collaborators. Wayne Maurer is an R&D manager in 3M’s abrasives division and calls it a chance for people to unhinge their “inner geek.” He elaborates: “For technical people, it’s the most passionate and engaged event we have at 3M.”

YouTube video on 3M’s culture:

4. Put me in Coach @zappos

Zappos (#72)

Zappos provides a life coach for employees.

YouTube interview with Head Life Coach Augusta Scott:

3. Doubling Down @EmbraceHomeLoan

Embrace Home Loans of Newport, RI (#57)

“Embrace Cares” program, the company offers 100 hours of paid time off per year for volunteering, and donates $10 for every hour worked by the employee to the volunteer organization of their choice.

YouTube video about Embrace:

2. Officer Training on the job @evernote

Evernote (#83)

Taken from an NY Times interview by Adam Bryant with CEO Phil Libin:

We recently implemented something called Evernote Officer Training. I got this idea from a friend who served on a Trident nuclear submarine. He said that in order to be an officer on one of these subs, you have to know how to do everyone else’s job. Those skills are repeatedly trained and taught. And I remember thinking, “That’s really cool.”

So we implemented officer training at Evernote. The program is voluntary. If you sign up, we will randomly assign you to any other meeting. So pretty much anytime I have a meeting with anyone, or anyone else has a meeting with anyone, very often there is somebody else in there from a totally different department who’s in officer training. They’re there to absorb what we’re talking about. They’re not just spectators. They ask questions; they talk. My assistant runs it, and she won’t schedule any individual for more than two extra meetings a week. We don’t want this consuming too much of anybody’s time.

and the #1 in the second Top Ten List . . .

An extra with starch in it @eBay

eBay (#88)

eBay understand how hectic it can be to balance personal and professional responsibilities. It offer s dry cleaning pick up and delivery and oil changes—giving back to employees a little time and peace of mind.

YouTube video of an eBay flash mob on the importance of recycling:

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – This one is too good not to share:

Hold the Phones, cue the Robot @evernote

Evernote (#99)

According to a NY Times article:

We got rid of phones in the office. Just on a whim, I thought that at every company we start, and this is the third one, we’re going to eliminate one piece of unnecessary technology. So this time it was phones. We thought, why do you really need a phone? If you have a phone at your desk, it’s just sitting there and you’re kind of encouraging people to talk on it. Everyone’s got a cellphone, and the company pays for the plans. There are phones in the conference room. We’re not a sales organization, so we’re not making a lot of calls, either. If you’re at your desk, you should be working. And that’s actually worked really well. I don’t think anyone misses phones. Even though it’s one big room, it’s actually fairly quiet because no one is sitting there talking at their desk. The culture very much is that if you want to talk, you go 10 or 20 feet in some direction to a quiet area.

We have an Anybots robot with telepresence. When I’m not at the office, I can log in through a browser and I drive it around. It balances on two wheels, and it’s six feet tall. I see through its eyes and ears, and it’s got a screen, so people can see me. And so you can have casual conversations at someone’s desk through the robot. It’s got a laser pointer, so you can shoot lasers, which is just good design. You shouldn’t build a robot without a laser.

YouTube video on Anybots . . . Your Personal Remote Avatar:

[Reminder: In honor of ‘Back to School’ week, I’m giving away free copies of the book “What’s Your Purple Goldfish?” between 9/5 – 9/9. Click here on Amazon to get a copy. Feel free to tell a friend or 3,000]

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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