Tag Archives: Democratic workplace

Why you should let your staff go surfing

21 Dec

We like this approach to management, in fact not enough companies think like this. Yvon Chouinard does and it this approach to business that makes Patagonia a company that people want to work for. The fact that they regularly have 900 applicants for each position within the company is a testament to this. But we at Wake Up! like companies that think differently and are conscious of the environment they inhabit and Patagonia who make climbing gear and outdoor clothing  are one of those companies.

Yvon Chouinard doesn’t have a business degree in fact most of his staff don’t have one either. He prefers to take on people he likes that have an interest in the outdoor life and teach them to be businesspeople rather than the other way around.He likes to break rules and make them work. We like him a lot.

Here are a few of Yvon’s thinkings when it comes to business

  • He employs people who are independent and lets them do what they have to do without any need to supervise.
  • He quite happily sees the benefits of having women in his workplace around 79% of his staff are women. He provides childcare facilities so he can keep his female employees for longer.
  • He tells his customers to buy less. Yes less!! you don’t need a separate pair of shorts for every sporting event. He wants his customers to think with a conscience just as Patagonia do as a company.
  • His staff are friends or Patagoniacs as they are called. He employs people he would like to go to dinner with. “Were surrounded by friends who could dress however they wanted, even barefooted. People ran or surfed at lunch, or played volleyball in the sandpit at the back of the building. The company sponsored ski and climbing trips”
  • He wrote a book called “Let my people go surfing“where he espouses the need to give your staff the freedom to do what they love to do. It makes for a connected and engaged workforce. We love the Patagonia way.
Behind all this is the strength to be able to allow your employees understand that they are trusted to do the right thing.  We spoke about this in the article on X and Y employees. Yvon is definitely a Y employer. If you can trust your staff to complete the tasks they are given then they should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of frisbee when the sun is shining or surfing when the waves are up. The fear is that your staff will take advantage of these opportunities to your detriment. The likelihood whatever you think it is,is probably true. Not only does Yvon trust his employees to do the right thing he also wants to ensure that Patagonia as a company do the right thing.
The Patagonia Mission statement is a testament to this
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm,use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Patagonia creates a happy workplace and it is working towards building a business that thinks with a conscience and also creates a happier world.

We can no longer do business without thinking of the consequences on the world we live in and the people who live here. The time to awaken is now.

Will Coffee and Apples make us happy at work?

30 Nov

I have just read an article from last Fridays Guardian  where journalist Graham Snowdon referred to a study on happiness within the workplace. It made the connection between happiness within the workplace and up to date technology a good desk and access to decent coffee.

According to research commissioned by office developers Goodman, the things that keep us most happy and motivated at work are both conceptually simple and reasonably cost-effective: namely, up to date computers, a desk for keeping personal things on, and access to decent coffee.

The simple things are always the best. Access to these items in themselves are a bonus to any office (some might even say a basic requirement) but discovering why our staff are happy requires that we delve a little deeper into why our staff keep turning up each day and being happy to be there.

Yes we do like shiny new computers and the best Italian coffees but If you want your staff to feel happy in the workplace they need to feel

  • That they have a meaningful contribution to the organization that they work for and have a say in the direction that the company is taking.
  • That the job that they have is engaging and they have a sense of fulfilment in their role.
  • That they are appreciated for what they do. We like to be praised for what we do. Not empty praise or praise for the sake of it. We need to really appreciate the people that work for and with us. When was the last time you let them know they mattered.
  • That enjoying coming to work is ok. Having fun in the workplace breaks up the routine and once again brings out a side of us we all love. Once it doesn’t hurt anyone you can be as wacky as you want to be. Try it some time.
  • That they are growing within your organization. We are creative ,inquisitive beings we like to learn. encourage your employees to take up a course in what ever they want to do. It does not have to be in a subject related to what they work at. It could be artistic, creative or based in logics or mathematics.  If it is what they want to do ir will only benefit you and them in the long run.
  • Trusted. I don’t mean security wise, that should be a given. I mean do you trust your staff to make the right decisions. We all make mistakes so be prepared to see some happen. Learn from it and move forward. As I spoke about in a previous blog. Ricardo Semler saw his company Semco grow once he was prepared to delegate responsibility and trust the decisions that his workers make. Go for it.

Access to Italian espresso and Apple computers are great plusses to any workplace. But if you hate where you work and what you do, no amount of coffee and Apple macs will change that.

Happiness at work comes from being engaged, feeling trusted, feeling appreciated,having control over what you do,enjoying turning up to where you work and apparently staplers!!! as Graham Snowdon says

Another interesting titbit from the Goodman survey concerns the vital importance of staplers on office morale. This is apparently particularly true in London, where one in 10 workers complain there are not enough to go around. In Scotland, curiously, there appears to something of a stapler surplus, with one in five saying they have too many of the things. Have the Scots been quietly stealing them all?

Happy days.

Delivering Wow!

21 Nov

One of the companies that I love to talk about when I present workshops is Zappos.com. I love companies that turn the nature of business as we know it on its head. One of the tenets we go by at Wake Up! is that “Nothing has to be the way you think it is” and Zappos do this very well. They are run by CEO Tony Hseih and he has an interesting outlook to the way Zappos is run and to the employees that are employed as part of the organization.

First of all what do Zappos do? They sell shoes and sneakers online throughout the United States. They have recently included clothing as part of their online sales stock.  Nothing too out of the world about that you might say. Lots of companies sell products online, including clothing. Where Zappos began to stand out was at the formative stages of their company structure when they had decided that values were going to be an integral part of the way the approached their market. I teach students the importance of values within not only our personal lives but also within business. Companies who have a clear identity of what their values are have a greater idea of where they are going. Values are our moral compass they can also be seen as our company’s compass too. Within Zappos they are clearly defined.

1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

I particularly like “Delivering Wow through Customer service” which they do with unscripted conversations at their call centre. All delivery through the United States is free which is no mean feat when you are talking 3,994 km from their warehouse in Kentucky to Seattle. If you do not like the sneakers that you purchased you have a 365 days to return them(once they are in the same state you received them) no quibble. I recently read of a customer who had contacted Zappos about returning a pair of shoes she had purchased from them. Customer service had noticed that they had still not received the shoes a few weeks after they had been contacted by the customer. When they decided to make contact with the customer they discovered that the customers mother had passed away and returning shoes was the last thing on her mind. Zappos said that they would take care of the shoes and duly sent UPS around next day to pick up the shoes. The woman was also surprised to discover that she had received a bouquet of flowers the following week with condolences from Zappos. That is customer service!!

The interview stage at Zappos has potential employees being asked “On a scale of 1-10 how weird are you?’ I am not sure about you but I might be weird, I might even be very weird but am I going to impart this information at an interview. I don’t think so. Unless it is Zappos that I am looking to be employed by. They want people who grade themselves high on the weird scale and are willing to admit it. The weirder the better. Workers can wear what they want to work and can decide to decorate their workplace in whatever manner they want. No better way to brighten up dull offices or dull souls.

Training lasts for 4 weeks where a salary is paid. On the Friday of your first week training with Zappos you will probably be asked how you enjoyed your first week with Zappos and then you will be offered $3000 to leave the company. If you don’t take up the offer this week you can avail of the offer the following week as it will be a choice you will be given each Friday of your training. Why? you ask. It makes sense to have you leave the organization at this stage rather than discovering that you are a poor fit for the company 6 months down the road when the company has invested more time and money into you. It also instills a great sense of belonging to the workers that are left, knowing that they have  all turned down the $3000 to be there.

Watch any of the videos of Zappos staff on Zappos.tv to see a happy engaged workforce that are excited about coming to work. In a world of substandard customer service that leaves us waiting on the end of phone lines for answers to queries that make us feel maybe we where the problem in the first place, Zappos is a welcome breath of fresh air. With a turnover of over $1billion a year, a committed workforce and customers who keep happily returning. We can learn a lot from thinking different.

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