This morning, I spent some time at Snagajob’s headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. They hosted an event for Richmond SHRM (which is a pretty fantastic group, if I do say so myself), and I had the honor of speaking with their CEO, Shawn Boyer, and their Chief People Officer, Greg Moyer in their brand new office space. I could say many things about their culture, but they do a great job of that on their culture blog. I could also say many things about the features in their new environment…like a slide in the foyer. Yes, a slide. That people slide down. During their work day.
But, instead, I want to muse a bit on something that is very consistent across great workplaces, but also something that is rarely discussed. Without fail, when I walk into a best company, I get a sense of who they are and what makes them great. You truly do “feel it.” And, whether you are visiting as a student of great workplaces or simply a customer of one of them, you know at a gut level that you’ve arrived in an environment where special things happen.
While the reasons behind this phenomenon are way more complex than I’m able to explore in a short blog post, here are some things I notice that help to create the palpable sense of greatness.
Symbols matter. While the slide in Snagajob’s foyer certainly makes them unique, it also says a lot about who they are – a company that believes that injecting a little fun into the hard work that makes them successful is important. Many REI stores have photos of their employees participating in outdoor activities adorning the walls, and that’s what REI is all about – REI’s core purpose is to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.
Words matter. In great workplaces, words are chosen deliberately and used prominently. Snagajob’s mission is on the wall near the employee watering hole. Baptist Health South Florida’s receptionist has a unique title, Director of First Impressions, that appears on her nameplate. At eBay, within each building, the conference rooms are named (and decorated with) items sold on eBay. Employees within the Jewelry building might find themselves meeting in the Ruby, Diamond, Necklace, or Moonstone conference rooms.
Welcoming smiles matter. Not just smiles, and not just a routine “welcome,” but welcoming smiles. In great workplaces, people are truly glad you’ve stopped in, and they are happy to have a chance to show you where they work. The pride employees exude is impossible to miss, and it speaks volumes about what it is like to work there. At a couple points in our conversation today, it was helpful to remind the audience that Great Place to Work® Institute doesn’t produce lists of “perfect places to work.” They are the best places to work, and they still have struggles and challenges, but on the whole their people are proud of the good they do in the world. In fact, the trust that best companies are actively working toward being even better is probably what is written all over their employees’ faces.
Alas, if we could only change the symbols and words in our work environment and mandate welcoming smiles and call our work in creating a great workplace complete. We can’t, of course. But, we can build the trust, pride, and camaraderie that make the symbols and words meaningful and the relationships genuine. As if you need another reason to create your own great workplace, but here’s one more. Don’t you want people visiting your offices to “know it when they see it?”