You Don't Need A Boat In Your Boardroom To Be A Cool Company

As our corporate structures morph before our eyes, new business models and cultures are emerging. For old-school thinkers, this may seem extremely eccentric. Most people immediately associate the words 'cool company' with Google. One of my favorite photos and inspiration for the title of this piece is that of three people looking at a massive white board. One person is writing ideas; one is on a bean bag chair and the other is sitting in a canoe.


For those of you who were fans of The Far Side you can certainly imagine the comics that could spring out of this image! I understand the anxiety small and large companies are feeling when confronted with the notion that the best place to work involves hiring a Director of Hoopla. One of my clients would schedule a conga line in the mid afternoon to rev everyone up!


I can also fully appreciate the apprehension of risking tampering with structure and procedures used for years by your company when they seem to have worked  for you in the past.  Why wouldn't they continue to do so? The problem is, times and attitudes have changed. These aging models existed to sustain businesses and industries that were relevant for a given time period.  


Now the roles of supply and demand have shifted with technology changes and they have created a completely new pallet to work with for business development and marketing.  While this shift is nothing new I believe what has company management so alarmed is the magnitude of the shift which no one anticipated. Many companies across the globe are experiencing this but there is definite evidence that our European neighbors have already jumped on board.


A new generation of entrepreneurs, professionals, parents, philanthropists, researchers, educators, artists are emerging who have adopted the fact that time is currency and in some cases are exchanging at a higher rate than the dollar (of any country). As a result, the model that was built upon a straight exchange of employee service for cash no longer has the same allure.


This generation is looking for an employer that will support the growth of their personal goals as well as their professional goals. They are looking for an employer that recognizes the value of quality of work over quantity of hours. They are looking for an employer that creates an environment that facilitates and fosters creativity and free thinking.


Before you start measuring the boardroom for that canoe, step back a moment and think about your existing work culture. Whether or not it is intentional, every company has a culture. Corporate Culture can be interpreted in many ways:

  • It is a web of departments that coexist under a company name. There is a disconnect between employees and management. There is an ongoing struggle to ignite motivation and enthusiasm in the day to day business as well as long term company goals.
  • Leadership has a large percentage of the decision making authority. The remaining positions function in very concrete parameters that over time, extinguish any sense of purpose or connection to the requirements of their job. This is so essential in times of crisis because it is that connection that unites employees. They feel like they matter in the final outcome.
  • It is the support (or lack of) new employees receive as they train for a new position. Does your culture still believe that people have to pay their dues and learn the hard way?  The same way you did?
  • It is the belief that personal and professional life can not and should not blend. There is enough evidence that this formula doesn't work - just look into the eyes of the people on any street: burnt-out and vacant.

Your company culture is the foundation of your productivity, efficiency and bottom line. The fact that more and more companies are generating hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue with teams as small as 6 people, is proof enough that when the right environment is created, success is still an option. To further add to the critical importance of a balanced, sustainable culture, consumers are using this element as a gauge when spending money.  


Regardless of your industry, consumers are wiser than ever and are looking to receive a multi-faceted level of value for their dollar. They want to work with people that are working toward being part of the total solution to their's and our future. So in other words, your culture is your brand. If you haven't adopted a social media presence and long term online marketing strategy yet, there is no need to worry.  


There is no relevance to having this unless you have a clear message: how are you part of the solution and how will you continue to contribute being part of the solution. So if it was unclear where to begin with some of these ambiguous concepts, the simplest way to get started is answer the question "How is what your company does part of the solution?"  


Solution to what? Energy, Cancer, Poverty, Education, Quality of Food, Recycling, Community. There are endless options to choose from. New business models require companies to create momentum. It is imperative that we acknowledge our accountability. Consumers respond to action on that accountability. The best place to start is your workforce.  


They are tired and scared, hoping for a life preserver soon. Showing compassion for the incredible excessive strain the economy has put everyone under allows everyone to feel connected and hopeful. You are showing them you care because in the end you genuinely do. Any attempt at change will drop like a lead balloon unless your crew has a sense of optimism. This follows the trend of re-connecting with our humanity in what we do for a living.  


Yes it is totally unorthodox but it is also totally working. The fact is more of the same is like putting a square peg in a round hole. You can keep trying but it probably won't happen in your lifetime and could be considered a behavior associated with madness. Once you have answered this vital question, then you can begin to create the sketch of your next evolution of work culture.  


Instead of immediately looking to quantify this transformation, begin to view this new environment in terms of sensations. What does it feel like when you go to work? How does it feel for your employees/ coworkers? What are the discussions about? What is the energy level? Are people supportive? Would they recommend working here to someone else?  How does our day to day matter - as individuals and as an organization?  


Are people healthy? Are they happy when they walk in the door? What kind of conversations do your employees have about their work experience? Now that you have begun to paint the landscape of your company, things will begin to evolve organically. Think of it as a new formula or new language for evaluating ROI.  


It is a different path to the same result - increased productivity, reduced employee related expenses. Investing in your company's culture is your way of increasing the value of your assets. It should not be viewed as an expense. There is a certain level of trust that needs to be present in order to successfully explore some new approaches to enhancing work culture. This will feel like you are going against everything you have been taught- going against the grain.  


As with any adaptation to change, small steps initially create the foundation for larger achievements. Most people eventually figure out the score with any employer. Your culture must be authentic and transparent. You can't fake this one because we all know what happens when we skimp on the foundation of a building. There is no long term stability - you can't build anything of value on it.  


Even though the tools in our tool box are different, the core principles in the approach are the same. All great success stories start when someone had the courage to step out on the fringe and say "What if we tried" out loud and the right person was listening.


About the Author

Jackie Savi-Cannon, B. Ed, CYT, is the Director of Programming for JSC Lifestyle Management Inc., a wellness production house; creator of the RNR Program. This Program is an online portal website which gives users instant 24/7 on-demand access to High Definition Video and Audio modules which deal with stress reduction, healthy work & lifestyle practices such as time management, communication and conflict resolution.


As recently noted by The Benefits Company, "We have seen a reduction of over 40% in absenteeism and secured new recruits in the 1st 6 months of using the RNR Wellness Program. We are amazed with our ROI." The RNR Program was developed as a non-invasive and economical solution for challenges facing employers and HR Wellness Committee members running on-site employee programs.


This contemporary program has been designed to provide the user with resources that address physical activity, mental well-being and life skills development, promoting positive and lasting behavioral changes. JSC Lifestyle Management Inc. provides contemporary solutions that make sense for entrepreneurs and businesses.  


The company's foundation is built upon optimization through adversity and change. JSC has compiled a team of talented visionaries to provide clients with practical resources that are presented in a style that is engaging and current. The RNR Team provides you with a customized, step by step application based on your company's specific needs. Let us do what we do best. The Program is very affordable for employers: costing less than a cup of coffee per week per employee!