When I hear the term “team building”, I immediately think of the silly trust exercises where employees fall backwards into the arms of their co-workers or a select small group going to a retreat house where they are expected to bond via ropes courses and “honesty circles”. I really had a hard time equating those types of exercises to something that would bring value to a company. So, when a couple of employees approached me about wanting to put together a company golf tournament in an effort to build a stronger team, I felt it would be nothing more than a distraction from all of the looming deadlines. I have to say, I was wrong.
Every employee ended up signing up for the event, which was appropriately called the HOG (Hackers Only Golf) Tournament. There were employees who had never played golf that were coerced into playing, and others whose competitive resolves would not allow them to miss it. We all arrived at the course early for lunch, hit some golf balls, and showed off our golf outfits that each team created. The variety of costume themes ranged from Caddyshack movie characters (see pic above), to pirates, to cowboys (Dukes of Hazard). Once our 9-holes had been successfully conquered by all, we convened for team and individual prizes that included rewards for the best and less than stellar accomplishments like the highest score and the worst drive. It was a great time.
I appreciate that the employees came together and enjoyed their time with one another, but the most amazing accomplishment occurred in the office the next day when I received the following email from an employee who wanted to nominate Cindy, the employee that planned the HOG tournament, for the Wall of Wow. (For your reference, the Wall of Wow program allows colleagues and clients to nominate EM employees for their amazing performance.)
“I’d like to nominate Cindy for the Wall of Wow for living EM Values. By spending her personal time organizing the HOG event, she exhibited the values of “be positive and have fun” as well as “go above and beyond”. In addition, her efforts allowed the rest of the company to embrace the value of “work as a team”.
I think that pretty much sums up our tournament and makes me realize that team building can be exceedingly beneficial in the right circumstances. I am much more curious now to hear how others promote their company values at events and work to build a strong team, so please feel free to share your ideas with me.
I am already getting excited for next years’ HOG Tournament!
Several employees at Educational Measures assisted Project C.U.R.E. with packing medical supplies this holiday season. The team helped categorize and prepare the supplies for shipment to less fortunate countries to be used for medical assistance.
Project C.U.R.E. was founded in 1987 by James Jackson, who was working as an international economic consultant in developing countries when his work led him face to face with the needs of the sick and dying. During a trip to Brazil, Dr. Jackson visited a small clinic near Rio de Janeiro, where he learned that patients were often turned away due to a lack of basic medical supplies and functioning equipment. Jackson was moved to action, making a promise to the clinic doctor that he would help provide relief to the people there.
To learn more about Project C.U.R.E., please click here http://www.projectcure.org
Back in July, I wrote a blog on the positive experience I had working with two Gen Y interns. As mentioned, I was originally concerned about the impact technology had on this generations ability to communicate only to realize that they had great communication skills. Anyway, a friend of mine that works for Prime-Core Executive Search recently sent me this article and I wanted to share it with all of you:
Leading The Multi-Generational Workplace
Walk into most companies and you will find a very unique cross-section of employees. For the first time ever, there are four generations working side by side. Even though those from the Traditionalist or Mature generation are slowly leaving the workforce, they still contribute to this interesting workplace dynamic.
This five part series will explore the generational differences in the workplace, mainly how Generation X and Y will change how we hire, train and manage our newest employees.
This week we will begin with defining who makes up today’s workforce.
To fully understand the impact of the multigenerational workplace, one must understand how each of the four generations tick.
- Traditionalists/Veterans/Mature Generation – These are people born before 1946. While this generation has fewer and fewer employed each year, they still have a significant influence on the workplace. This generation has a strong military connection. Since they grew during the Great Depression, are very comfortable with delayed gratification.
- Baby Boomers – This generation includes anyone born between 1946 and 1964. These employees have seen the most change in the workplace. Baby Boomers define and measure work ethic by how many hours per week you log in. Success can only be achieved through long hours at your desk. Loyalty to the company is also an attribute of this generation, but they are also the generation who witnessed large-scaled mergers and layoffs.
- Generation X – Today’s middle management is largely comprised of employees born between 1965 and 1977. This generation is defined by the fact that they were the least supervised generation growing up. Television, video games and computers were the Gen X babysitters. Change does not effect this generation, they actually expect it. Nature skepticism is a norm creating an “Actions speak louder than words” phenomenon. While they are loyal, that loyalty is only to individuals, not corporations.
- Generation Y – Anyone born between 1977 and 1995 falls into this category. The majority of entry level positions are filled by Generation Y employees. While Generation X was mostly unsupervised, Generation Y was raised with parents who managed every moment of their day. This is the generation of highly scheduled children who grew up with every means of technology at their disposal.
Add all four of these generations into a workplace environment and you will get some interesting results. It is thought that there would be a great disconnect between the oldest and youngest generations. That is not the case at all, actually it is the opposite. Interestingly, Generation Y identifies with Traditionalists more than any other generation.
The largest conflict seen is between Generation X and Generation Y. This conflict comes more from the style of parenting between the generations than status in the workplace. As Traditionalists and Baby Boomers leave the workforce, conflicts will need to be identified and managed.
I recently finished reading a book called “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, and I have to say it really made me think about the importance of good customer service. The book explains how customer service transformed Zappos from a modest start-up to an industry leader in on-line shoe sales. By coupling their products with amazing customer service, Zappos became a billion dollar company. So what did I learn from Zappos?
- It takes good people to deliver good customer service.
- Great customer service needs to be consistent.
After realizing this, I wanted to promote the best customer service practices our employees developed, so we implemented a “Wall of Wow”, an area in our office where we observe our staff (the idea came from the founder of 1800GOTJUNK). If our clients give positive feedback to us or if an employee wants to observe another employee for great service, we place the compliment on the wall and then celebrate the employee. It’s a great way to create positive momentum and continue to remain focused on providing what we (and Tony Hsieh) think is a game changer: amazing customer service that ‘wows’ our clients.
I am always looking for ways to observe and reward good customer service, so if you have any thoughts, please let me know.
A couple months ago, a pipe in my house was leaking water and it started to flood my basement. I wanted to fix it myself, but I couldn’t figure out what piece I needed to replace as the water continued to pour out everywhere. So, I begrudgingly picked up the phone and called a plumber. He showed up and was very nice, he fixed the leak, replaced the part, and the bill was surprisingly low. I had to re-learn a valuable lesson that day; it’s sometimes much more efficient to bring in a partner to help solve a problem.
In business, we are constantly faced with problems to solve and issues to overcome. Our company is no exception to the rule. We are confronted with problems everyday and our team is eager to solve them. I don’t know if it’s our egos that like the gratification or if we simply want to cross a problem off a list so we can move on, but at the end of the day, it’s likely we try to solve problems ourselves because we think it saves time and money.
I spent time reflecting on this and began to think about work issues we chose to tackle internally. I started asking myself a series of questions about these problems:
- Did we have the time to address these problems and still meet our other obligations?
- Were we really qualified to solve these problems?
- Could someone else solve the problems more effectively?
It quickly became apparent that bringing in a partner made a lot of sense because we were actually spending MORE time and money doing it ourselves. So we needed to find some quality partners that were aligned with our company values. Much like shopping, we had to sift through several options before settling on some that met our expectations. However, once the partnerships were established, we quickly realized that our partners brought more value to problem solving than we originally thought possible and problems got resolved more efficiently.
We’ve embraced partnerships at our company and have learned valuable lessons from doing so. We’ve learned to leverage each other’s skills and abilities, we’ve learned to appreciate differences in opinions and leadership styles, and we’ve learned that together, we can accomplish much more and with much greater success. Perhaps most importantly, we learned that our clients benefit the most from our collaboration.
For the longest time, I heard that technology is going to negatively impact our younger generation’s ability to communicate. I read articles and talked to business leaders who fear that younger people rely too heavily on texting, Tweeting and Facebook to communicate with each other. I even spoke to my Realtor who said her clients will only communicate with her via text and that cell phones were off limits. Not only did I question whether graduates are prepared for the work force, I wondered if face-to-face interaction was becoming a thing of the past for them. I have to say, I wasn’t terribly excited about our future work force.
However, my entire perspective changed when something happened right before my presentation to a public school board. There were two high school students presenting the results of a project they completed for the school district. I was scheduled to speak right after them and as I sat there, I listened to them talk. I couldn’t believe my ears, these two girls were the most articulate, confident, intelligent high school students I have ever heard. In an attempt to congratulate them on a job well done, I secretly added a fourth bullet point to my presentation that said “Offer these two girls an internship”. To my surprise, they both agreed to take me up on the offer.
Both of them spent about four weeks working on various projects at our office. They finished tasks with little direction, solved problems and came up with innovative ideas. And, they communicated perfectly by giving presentations, conducting working groups and speaking to employees. I was so impressed by them that my opinion of the younger generation has forever changed; I feel much more confident about the future of our country.
Thank you Kianna and Sophie for educating and inspiring me.
(Also, I won’t tell people that I introduced you to LinkedIn, one of the most popular social media sites)
As I was leaving the house this morning, I overheard my wife talking to my daughter about the significance of the “4th of July”. I heard her explain that it was America’s birthday and a time to celebrate our freedom at which my daughter responded “Happy Birthday America!” Her comment made me think about the importance of freedom and how some of us take it for granted, especially in the workplace.
I think it’s fair to say that many of us have worked for companies that limited our freedom to some extent. Maybe there were restrictions in the office that prevented us from speaking freely, acting a certain way, dressing a certain way, etc. I feel that situations like this change the way we think, act and speak and have the potential to create low morale and compromised work ethics.
In an effort to ensure our employees felt ‘free’, I recently started meeting with them individually to discuss their short- and long-term professional goals. I wanted to hear from them what they aspired to be but also to learn how we can improve the company. At the beginning of each meeting, I was clear to communicate that “Educational Measures works for them” and that our company is here to help them improve professionally. We discussed their current role with the company, what goals they wanted to set for themselves, and what additional training they needed to reach those goals.
At one of the earlier meetings, I had an employee tell me he wanted to improve the company’s internal processes. I discussed with him the value of Six Sigma in process improvement initiatives and although he never heard of Six Sigma, he agreed it was something he would consider. Briefly after we met, I discovered he had researched Six Sigma, taken an on-line class, and received his white belt degree (belts are based on achievement levels within Six Sigma). He then established areas in need of process improvement within the company and is working with our operations department to improve those processes and ultimately the bottom line. He was free to pursue his passions, with the support of the company, and he ran with it.
Freedom allows people to create, explore, invent, improve, etc. We are trying to encourage this self-discovery at our company and position our employees to reach their professional goals by providing them the freedom necessary to utilize all the skills they possess.
Happy Birthday America!
Most business owners would agree that creating a great company culture is important for several reasons; morale, customer service, motivation, etc. Over the years, I’ve discussed this topic with several entrepreneurs and they all agree that a company culture starts from the top down and involves hiring employees that are good people and have a certain moral compass.
Last weekend we sponsored a 5k race to support Pancreatic Cancer Research and did so because one of my closest friends (who happens to be the first employee I hired) was diagnosed with the disease a little over six months ago. We felt it was one way we could support him and ultimately help find a cure for the disease. As we began to discuss the event around the office, I found out that almost every employee planned to be there to support our friend and colleague. When race day arrived, not only were all the employees there, but their families were as well. Everyone came out to support him.
I was so proud of every employee that showed up that day and realized we had developed a culture of support, respect, team-work, and generosity (ironically these were the values we developed as a company several years ago when we created our mission and vision). I also realized the culture was created by the employees and for the employees and had little to do with the owners. Although we hired good people, it was the people who came together as a team to unite against a disease that afflicted one of our own.
I will never forget that day and the feeling I can only describe as something similar to a family reunion. There were kids playing games, people running and walking together, and others getting their pictures taken with fake mustaches (our team was called Less Chemo, More Mustache).
All I can say is thank you to our employees for creating this amazing culture. I’d love to hear what other companies do to create a positive culture so please drop me a note…
Here at Educational Measures, we have often debated the best ways to use our blog and deciding if it made more sense to hire someone else to manage it or just assign the responsibility to an employee. I was then approached by our social media manager about the possibility of having me regularly write the blog on behalf of our company.
At first, I was hesitant because of the time needed to regularly post content and I also wasn’t sure if the content would be valuable to others. After further research, I’ve realized that a blog would be the perfect medium to share the ‘inner workings’ of our company so others can gain a better understanding of our culture as explained directly by the CEO. My goal is simple, share with employees, current clients, and prospects, the various ideas and thoughts that have helped shape the culture of Educational Measures.
So it is with great excitement that I begin a series of blogs to provide you with a glimpse into the internal ‘workings’ of our company so that you may learn a little more about what makes us proud and excited to come to work everyday. I will make it a point to share my thought process for certain decisions, various anecdotes that I come across, and business ideas or concepts. I will try my best to keep the blogs interesting and not too long winded. I hope you find this blog useful but more importantly, I hope it provides you with a good understanding of the values that drive our company and make it successful.
President and CEO
Check out the video below to watch Educational Measures President Marc Crawford discuss exporting and analyzing data through utilizing Turning Technologies: