Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Culture Matters...especially to us at Rightpoint

Tim Stahl, VP, Employee Experience

What is Culture?

Company culture is an organically-grown custom hybrid organism. Simply put, it is personality - as reflected in the interactions among people (both co-workers and clients), communication, office layout, and various other "artifacts." Culture exists in your organization whether you pay attention to it or not. You can have many different types: Corporate, Collaborative, Entrepreneurial...the list can go on and on.

I started out trying to define culture and the reasons it makes sense to help develop it. Then, I realized, "Hey, I'm not an expert on culture!" - or on organizational development for that matter. Like you, I am just a member of the workforce. I found something I was passionate about and turned that into a profession. That profession just happens to be creative, and I have worked in many facets of graphic design over the years spanning several industries, but we can talk about that later. 

We all know the influences of culture. You see it in the way people treat each other. You hear it around the lunchroom when your coworkers discuss the client or their project manager. More importantly, you feel it when the alarm goes off in the morning when it's time to get up for work. Now a quick question: How do you feel right now? If you're tense and upset thinking about these things, then it's a good indicator that you might be experiencing a culture that doesn't line up with your own values and personality. If you're feeling positive and upbeat, then you probably know how great it is to work in a culture that "fits" you. But that's what it really is...a feeling. The personality of your company and how it interacts with you is the feeling you get when you have encounters with your job. Okay, so maybe that's the definition. It's the feeling your company's personality creates in the people who interact with it. Seems pretty subjective, right? I would agree. It's almost an intangible. Where it turns the corner into "objective" is how it benefits you and your company.

What does this mean to me?

We have all said it, "I can work anywhere, but if I like the place, I like my job." Many people outside of the graphic design world think that all creatives have an easy or fun job. The truth is, we like our jobs as much as anyone else that gets to do something they enjoy. But it's not always for the right company. As a matter of fact, a mis-match between what someone values and a culture can be devastating to truly creative thinking. I have worked in everything from branding and advertising to educational publishing and large corporation in-house marketing. I've been a part of a lot of different culture models, and the ones that made me work harder, invest more of my talents, and help to develop new strategies were the ones that I thought had the best cultures.

Culture is a high priority for us at Rightpoint. We adopt, nurture and set free as many things as possible that benefit its positive spirit and, just as important, we try to squash and manage all things that do not. Our culture is influenced by many factors, but a strong touchpoint is the way initiatives are communicated and acted upon. We are an organization that encourages Intrapreneurship by keeping communication open and in a near-flat level structure. We empower and entrust everyone with the tools to create and invent. We encourage colleagues to work together to problem solve by fostering strong, friendly working relationships through collaborative workspaces, sponsoring all-company lunches and even happy hours.

Strong but Delicate

We feel that maintaining our positive culture is vital to our continued success and are therefore sensitive to the fact that it needs some management. While there may be a group in leadership that helps steer, we ask that every person within Rightpoint be mindful of influencers that either reinforce or detract from the company's culture. We entrust this power in the individual, because it is our people that embody our culture. It can be work sometimes because it means we have to manage our culture as if it were a brand, because really it is. So here are several ways we keep a focus on culture here at Rightpoint to ensure continued positive growth: 

  • Cultural Fit Interviews
  • WOW Wall
  • Core Values
  • Trust and Empowerment
  • Collaborative Office Space

Culture Fit Interviews
From the very beginning we begin to assess a candidate's personality to determine if they will be a complement to the culture. We sometimes review our core values with them during an interview and discuss them. It's a conversation, not a test. Much like working here, we have conversations and help one another find solutions.

WOW Wall
We celebrate individuals and teams going "above and beyond" by sharing a pat on the back with the entire company by posting a Holy Sheet! on the WOW Wall when a colleague or team has exceeded expectations or has received accolades from an outside source. It's yet another way to encourage and support a positive culture. I will spend more time discussing that in a future post.

Core Values
Our core values are what drive us and reflect the passion and character of our people. We work hard to try to get it right, while having fun along the way. Culture does not stand in the way of what needs to be accomplished, it helps us grow, learn and deliver amazing work time and time again. You can see more about our 7 Core Values here, but the list is: Passion, Intrapreneurship, Learning, Excellence, Integrity, Accountability and Collaboration. Personally, I think that one of our strongest core values lives in collaboration. It influences so many aspects of what we do and how we do it.

Collaboration begins and ends with trust. We spend a lot of time collaborating as a company. We discuss initiatives, define strategy, build and iterate on ideas, and most importantly, we collaborate on almost every client project. Nearly every project and each client has a team of professionals working through solutions. There are always opportunities for improvement and enhancement to all of our work. Throughout the process we even use quality assurance checkpoints where a team from the different divisions involved will come together to re-evaluate and qualify the work, as well as seek out opportunities for improvement. We trust each other, which makes all these collaborative sessions impactful and highly beneficial. 

Trust & Empowerment
As a matter of fact, trust is the single biggest influencer on our collaborative culture. We are all part of the solution no matter what the challenge. We are all encouraged to be part of the conversation in nearly every aspect of the business at hand. We not only have clear visibility into the organization's growth and plans, but are able to offer ideas to enhance and enable. We are given the tools and latitude to help drive initiatives. We are an empowered group of people operating as equals, each with unique skills who are determined to be part of something greater than ourselves... and we don't have to be wearing a suit to be heard, valued and trusted.

Collaborative Office Space
We team up and band together so much that even our brand new space has been designed and built to further enable people to collaborate. It goes well beyond just having conversations; the design of the space was about finding the best ways to enhance the way we all work together. We combined a great balance of open floor plan space with team rooms, conference rooms and even phone booths. We abandoned the idea of assigned seating for the most part and kept the entire space as fluid as possible so that any team can sit together for the duration of a project and then when it's over, disband and join another team. It not only keeps everyone more engaged with each other, it improves cross-pollination of skills and ideas. Nothing ever sits with one person. It's a warm, timber loft in the west loop and it has felt like home since the day we moved in. 

It All Boils Down To This

We are a team. We do this together. This is defined as everything. One cohesive unit acting as one. We are a group full of team members who support one another. We are all here for a single goal, to build the most respected and admired professional services organization. That means getting it right... the first time. All of our skills individually add up to one strong force. We respect the people with whom we work and recognize that only by working together - by seeking input, sharing ideas, challenging each other, and pitching in when needed - can we achieve superior results.  We believe in communicating openly and respectfully and recognize that it is always done in the spirit of helping each other grow and achieve excellence. With every new engagement, we keep an open mind to avoid tunnel vision. We actively seek input from all kinds of sources to challenge our own thinking and to ensure that we keep our ideas fresh.  We challenge ourselves and each other, in the spirit of learning and coming up with better solutions.  We understand that challenging each other and sharing different points of view are positive ways to ensure that we bring our best thinking to our clients and our own organization.  And, in keeping with that, we are not afraid to speak up.  We recognize that being open is critical to having the whole be greater than the sum of the parts.

I enjoy my job more, feel more confident about the work I do, and look forward to interacting with my co-workers because I know that the culture we embrace at Rightpoint fits in with my own values and personality. I strive to be the best every day knowing that the entire organization has my back and will continually challenge my thinking and abilities so that both I and the company will perpetually grow and succeed.