I spend a lot of time thinking about how to continue to build on our amazing culture at Cossette in the Western offices. Without smart, passionate and happy people – you don’t have much. We strive for an environment that is devoid of ego, and one that exudes an energetic vibe. We want potential new staff, new clients and existing clients to feel it when they get off the elevator.
It starts with the hiring. We try our best to find like-minded people to add to our team of 43 people. It’s amazing how toxic one bad apple can be. So taking the time during the interview stage is hugely important. What’s interesting is that people can give a good interview in a boardroom or office setting, but take them out of that scenario and their real personality kicks in. I’ve made it part of my interview process to meet with the final candidate in a coffee shop. I tell them to come casual and have a coffee and muffin and then I either watch them shine and engage in easy conversation – or watch them unravel and struggle to engage. Part of our role in an Agency is making people feel comfortable in various situations – helping team members under pressure, advising on relationships in reporting up or down, managing nervous clients and having to make small talk to create a great environment in a meeting room for a presentation or new business situation, etc. So interviewing people in various settings can be key.
I also find it a great idea to have people in the agency who would be reporting into the potential candidate meet with them. Again, change the regular dynamic of an interview to get a good sense of what that person is like in different situations and what kind of vibe they may give off.
So now that you have the right staff…what do you do with them to ensure they feel appreciated and become part of creating that great culture? A great team bond often won’t naturally happen – you have to create opportunities for staff to bond during and outside of office hours. I’m not suggesting throwing elaborate staff parties – it can be very simple.
A few tactics we’ve employed is an every other month creative team-building task. One idea is “Mug Shots,” where we pull a name from the hat, get to know that person really well and create a coffee mug design for them. Another is “Loonie Toonie”, where we buy the most amazing thing for a Toonie and present back to the group. Fun ways for people to let their creative spirits run wild and show their individual personalities.
We also share. We’ve created a weekly get together at 4:45 p.m. on Friday and called it “Mix on Six” (our office is on the 6th floor – clever yes?). At Mix on Six we share what’s on deck for new business pitches, our losses and wins, provide back-fill as to why we lost, give credit on the wins, share our employee or client survey results and any large corporate updates. When staff feel that they are in the loop, there is less concern over closed door meetings (even when those closed door meetings don’t mean anything). And we share this all over a beer/glass of wine.
It’s a small investment that has everyone showing up and staying until 6 p.m. or later on a Friday night – imagine that. The goal truly is to make the work environment fun and enjoyable. If the statement is true that happy people are more committed and produce better results, then I say we’re making great progress at Cossette.
I’ve shared just a few of the examples on where I’ve seen success in building a great culture, but I’d really like to hear what other suggestions exist. I’m always looking to improve and change – it’s an organic process in my mind. I’m looking to improve so much so that I pick up books that have great case studies – the most recent one I’ve read that I’d recommend is: ‘ Delivering Happiness’ by Tony Hsieh the creator of Zappos. Talk about a man who truly understands the importance of culture.
So – there you have it! Not a foolproof system, but insight into what I’ve been using to create the culture here in the West. Share your ideas and even great reads on building great company cultures. I’m looking forward to planning out the rest of 2012 and want to keep progressing and impressing staff with our evolving Cossette culture so I look forward to suggestions.
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