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In the Right Culture, Everything is Possible!

101 HR Best Practices for Small Business - #3

Many years ago I was fortunate to work for a small high tech start up.  There were only few people when I joined, less than a dozen and we grew that organization to almost 800 staff.  We all learned a lot during this growth.  We did a lot of things wrong and a lot of things right.

But what I most remember is how cohesive that team felt.  It was a feeling of belonging, of being a part of something important.  There was this sense of responsibility and accountability and a united drive toward the goals we needed to achieve.  It mattered to all of us and collectively we were unstoppable.

We had these burn-in racks in production to test our electronic components for reliability.  This was 1000s of hours of testing that was critical to be able to sell our products to the large established organizations. 

One year, as Christmas was approaching, I walked into the lunchroom and I heard staff talking about how to keep the reliability testing on track over the holidays.  They created sign-up sheets for staff to volunteer to come in and make the necessary changes with the burn-in racks.  They posted those sign-up sheets and filled all of the necessary spots.  The reliability testing was seamless.

They didn’t have to take this on themselves.  A supervisor or manager would have gotten there and figured out a solution, but that’s not the point.  The point was that this team felt like it was their responsibility to ensure that the reliability testing was not disrupted.  They took ownership for quality without being asked to do so.  For them, it was personal and it mattered.

There were a lot of factors that contributed to this cohesiveness.  We were growing fast and succeeding.  There were career opportunities for people because of this growth.  Compensation was competitive and rewarded staff for profitability.  It was fast paced and exciting and we truly felt like we could achieve anything together.  I think what mattered most though was the fact that these employees felt valued and respected and empowered to do what was right for the organization.  And in reality, I think you give what you get.

I’ve never forgotten that feeling.  It’s always there as a beacon for me.  It takes time to create that kind of environment.  But we can be building our culture step by step, brick by brick and the sooner we begin to focus on culture, the easier it is to build.  Changing cultures at a later stage is a much more difficult undertaking.


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