June 25, 2024

You’re the Boss: Improving Company Culture

TerraCycle invites graffiti artists to decorate its offices.Courtesy of TerraCycle. TerraCycle invites graffiti artists to decorate its offices.
Sustainable Profits

As I’ve built TerraCycle, one of my priorities has been maintaining our unusual company culture. While I don’t believe in overdoing it — we have no pool tables, yoga studios or climbing walls — I have found a few affordable yet surprisingly effective ways to build morale and have some fun.

1. LUNCH: About a year ago we adopted a lunch program whereby we order lunch from a nearby restaurant for participating employees, changing up the menu every day. We ask for a $4 contribution per person, but the company picks up the rest. We bought plates and installed a dishwasher. The effect on productivity has been amazing. Instead of various teams taking long one- or two-hour lunch breaks (where people have to drive to a local restaurant, wait to order and then eat) everyone grabs lunch, eats and typically is back at their desks within 20 minutes or so. Funny how spending about $6 per person (on top of the $4 employee contribution) can make a difference.

2. THE GONG: Last year we installed a massive gong in our offices in Trenton. People who  accomplish something awesome are encouraged to hit the gong as loudly as they can. Then they send out an e-mail to the entire company with the subject line “GONG HIT: Closed a major deal!” or “GONG HIT: New company logo available!” The effect is that whenever the gong tolls in the office or everyone receives a gong-hit e-mail (even from a distant office), positive energy is released. We all smile and feel great to be part of the team and send a congratulatory e-mail. While I prefer to reserve this kind of tool for positive events, there has long been a standing joke in the office that we should create a “Toilet Flush” for less-than-awesome news.

3. TRANSPARENCY: When I started TerraCycle more than eight years ago, I wasn’t the most transparent leader. I would share good news but hold back on bad – especially with less senior employees. While this made me feel more in control, it had the opposite effect on everyone else. So a few years ago we started doing something different: the leaders of every team and every office must submit a report to the entire company every Friday that details everything positive and negative that has happened in their areas in the past week. I then take some time on the weekend and reply with comments, copying the entire company. So everyone, from a customer service rep in our Brazilian office to a team leader sees every department’s report along with my comments. While this reporting structure requires an investment of time, it has created an extremely transparent corporate culture.

4. NERF GUNS: When you join TerraCycle, you are issued a Nerf gun and ammo by our C.N.O. (chief Nerf-gun officer). They are totally safe and essentially self-cleaning because everyone picks up the bullets to shoot them again. Most important, the games are intense but short. Once or twice a day our office erupts in a massive 50- to 75-person war. Everyone blows off some steam but within a few minutes, everyone is back to work analyzing financial data or designing products made from waste.

5. GRAFFITI: Art and color have always been an integral part of our office vibe. Ever since our first office, which was in a basement, we have invited artists, especially graffiti artists, to paint our walls with cool, vibrant designs. The result is an office that is covered in art. The graffiti on the exterior changes weekly. You can check out some of our graffiti art here (be sure to scroll down).

It seems obvious that a dynamic company culture can boost morale and build a sense of community among staffers, but I find it also helps with visiting clients. When we give tours through our offices, you can just see people smile, and you can tell they want to work with us — and in most cases, it costs us nothing.

Tom Szaky is the chief executive of TerraCycle, which is based in Trenton, N.J.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=bb3283849905ad7f7460bb90a5d59b95

Speak Your Mind