Posts

How to HEART the User Experience

love_concept_3_hires

I talk a lot about customers and how to implement a Purple Goldfish into your customer service strategy. After all, when you take the time to make your customers feel truly valued, they remember it forever. What’s more, they’ll tell their friends about it and on and on, driving more and more customers to your business. The best part? These customers are the kind of customers that you WANT to have.

Read more

Learning From Google: 15 Ways To Drive Employee Engagement

Portions of this post were taken from two Forbes articles on Cracking Google and Beyond Perks:

With more than two million applicants a year, it seems like everyone wants to work at Google. Perhaps it’s because the search giant has been crowned the “Happiest Company in America.”  In past years, CareerBliss.com has ranked Google No. 1 after more than 100,000 worker-generated reviews from more than 10,000 companies. Scores were based on such factors as work-life balance, relationships with bosses and co-workers, compensation, growth opportunities, a company’s culture and the opportunity for employees to exert control over the daily work flow.

Getting a job at Google is equivalent to running the gauntlet. It is nearly ten times harder to get a job at Google than it is to get into Harvard. Interested in navigating the application process and landing a job at Google? Here’s an inside look courtesy of Staff.com:

Credit: Staff.com

15 Ways Google Drives Employee Engagement

You don’t become the happiest company by chance. It’s a product of thoughtful design and ultimately culture. Let’s explore 15 reasons why:

1. Dollars and Sense – With billions of dollars in revenue every year, Google pays some some the highest average salaries in the tech industry. Takeaway: If you don’t want monkeys, don’t pay peanuts.

2. For-Purpose – Google has always pursued a noble cause. The company conducts business with a simple motto,”Don’t be evil.” Its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.  Here is Founder Larry Page talking about both purpose and the theory of abundance, “We have somewhat of a social mission, and most other companies do not. I think that’s why people like working for us, and using our services…Companies’ goals should be to make their employees so wealthy that they do not need to work, but choose to because they believe in the company … Hopefully, I believe in a world of abundance, and in that world, many of our employees don’t have to work, they’re pretty wealthy, they could probably go years without working. Why are they working? They’re working because they like doing something, they believe in what they’re doing.” Takeaway: Purpose is becoming a main differentiator in business. By 2020, there will be little or no distinction between for-profit and non-profit businesses. Companies will only be seen as for-purpose or not-for-purpose.

3. Caring – No stone is left unturned in their quest to provide a welcoming work environment for employees. Actions speak louder than mere words. Why is caring so important to the company? According to Google’s Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock, “It turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t.  And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.” Takeaway: People in life don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. To paraphrase the founder of SAS’ Dr. Jim Goodnight, “If you care and treat people like they matter, they will.”
 

4. Creative Outlet – Google allows its employees the option to use up to 20% of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. Google claims that many of their products in Google Labs (i.e. Gmail) started out as pet projects in the 20% time program. Last year Quartz reported that 20% time had been abolished, but Google responded saying it’s very much alive and kicking. Takeaway: Autonomy and ownership are powerful drivers of engagement.

5. A Voice – The Google-O-Meter gives all employees a voice on employee suggestions and potential cultural changes . According to a post by Diana Ransom: “Google’s Chief Culture Officer Stacy Sullivan implemented the company’s charting tool, the Google-O-Meter, to gauge the popularity of employee suggestions, such as housing more doctors on site or bringing overseas employees to headquarters for a visit. ‘It wasn’t something that we would just go and implement for them,’ she says. ‘Their suggestions had to be reflective of things about the culture that [many] people wanted to change.” Takeaway: Be transparent and give your employees a voice.

6. Benefits Beyond the Grave. There is a Google Perk that extends into the afterlife. Should a U.S. Googler pass away while working for Google, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their nearly 40,000 employees qualify. Takeaway: Smart companies are invested into their employees and their lives beyond the workplace.

7. Modern Family – Google gives employees in same-sex relationships extra cash to cover their partners’ health benefits. Currently, when receiving partner health care coverage, same-sex domestic partners are subject to an extra tax that straight, married couples don’t have to pay. Google is shouldering the burden of paying this tax by compensating partnered LGBT employees for the amount of the tax, which comes to a bit more than $1,000 each year. This benefit will also cover any dependents of the partner in the same-sex couple. Takeaway: Be ready to adapt to today’s modern family. You need to be proactive with your policies for issues such as eldercare, paternal leave, infertility, and adoption.

8. Bathrooms – Googlers have access to some of the most high-tech toilets around. These Japanese imports offer washing and drying of your nether regions as well as the mysterious “wand cleaning.” Both the wash water and the seat itself can be warmed or cooled depending on your preference. Takeaway: Find ways to make your workplace stand out from a sea of sameness.

Here’s Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter at Google talking about the toilets:

 
9. Kingpin – Google has a bowling alley for employees. Takeaway: The company knows how to roll.
 
10. Training & Development – Google’s “CareerGuru” program matches Google executives with Google employees to provide confidential, one-on-one career coaching  and guidance around the subjects of work-life balance, personal and professional development, communication styles and conflict resolution, among others. Takeaway: Invest in your people and develop a culture of mentoring.

11. Wellness – The Googleplex has some interesting lap pools. The outdoor mini-pools are like water treadmills: a strong current allows the Googler to swim and swim and go nowhere. Luckily, lifeguards are always on duty in case someone gets in over their head. Takeaway: Without health, we have nothing. A healthy employee is a basic starting point for a happy one.

12. Team Building – Google’s Conference Bike is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around. Takeaway: Find interesting ways to bring teams together. A team that plays together, stays together.

13. Collaborative Space – According to Jonathan Strickland, “Google’s corridors are designed and set up for impromptu information sharing. Offices don’t resemble a typical corporate environment. Google arranges the workstations so that groups of three to four employees who work together sit in the same area. During the design phase, architect Clive Wilkinson faced a challenging problem: how do you group people together and still give them an environment in which they can concentrate on work without distractions? And how do you do it without turning Google into a labyrinth of cubicles? Wilkinson decided to use glass walls to divide the space into clusters. This design cuts down on much of the ambient noise inside the office. It also allows sunlight to filter in through the entire office. Each glass enclosure has a tent-like roof made of acrylic-coated polyester which contains the room’s lighting and sprinkler systems. Google executives want employees to be able to bounce ideas off each other. It’s the c­ompany’s hope that by encouraging interaction, workers will have greater job satisfaction and may even create the next big Google product.” Takeaway: Space Matters. You physical space should reinforce the culture in your company, not dictate it by default.

Google Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14. Food & Beverage – One of the most oft-cited perks of working at Google is the food. Google feeds its employees well. If you work at the Googleplex, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner free of charge. There are several cafés located throughout the campus, and employees can eat at any of them. The main café is Charlie’s Place, which takes its name from Google’s first lead chef, Charlie Ayers. Before creating meals for Googlers, Ayers was the chef for the Grateful Dead. Although Ayers left Google in 2005, the café still bears his name. The café has several stations, each offering different kinds of cuisine. Options range from vegetarian dishes to sushi to ethnic foods from around the world. Google’s culture promotes the use of fresh, organic foods and healthy meals. But when everything is free and you can eat whenever you want, it’s easy to go overboard. That’s where the Google 15 comes in. It refers to the 15 pounds many new Google employees put on once they start taking advantage of all the meals and snacks. Takeaway: Food is a communal activity. Perhaps the way to an employee’s heart through their stomach.

15. Openness and Transparency – One of things shaping culture at the search leader are “TGIF” meetings. They tend to happen most Fridays, said Craig Silverstein, who joined the founders as Google’s first employee in 1998. TGIF, where any Googler is free to ask the founders any company-related question, became a fixture of the culture. Takeaway: Be open by default. In the words of Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

More Than Just Perks

Anthology has been tracking the most admired companies by passive job-seekers in 2015-16, and every month Google has maintained its no. 1 spot. They recently asked 200 of their users the top three reasons for admiring Google. Out of five choices, perks were the least important. Here are the top four responses from passive job seekers at companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Snapchat, Amazon, Apple, and many others:

1. 71% said Positive Culture

2. 62.5 said Smart People

3. 58.5% said Cool Product

4. 57% said Success In The Market

5. 36.5% cited the generous benefits and perks employees

Words like meritocracy, inclusiveness, transparency, diversity, and empowerment are more than buzzwords at Google. They are part of the fabric that creates a positive culture. An environment of caring where your employer gives more than expected and allows you to do your best work toward a noble purpose. That’s a positive culture.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Many of these 15 ways to drive employee engagement were featured in the book, Green Goldfish. Here’s a slideshare on the concept:

Want a Job at Google? Why it’s Almost Ten Times Harder Than Getting into Harvard

This post by Stan Phelps was originally featured on Forbes:

It’s almost ten times harder to get a job at Google than it is to get into Harvard.  With more than two million applicants a year, it seems like everyone wants to work at the search giant. Is it because it was crowned the “Happiest Company in America”?  In 2011, CareerBliss.com ranked Google No. 1 after more than 100,000 worker-generated reviews from more than 10,000 companies. Scores were based on such factors as work-life balance, relationships with bosses and co-workers, compensation, growth opportunities, a company’s culture and the opportunity for employees to exert control over the daily work flow.

Getting a job at Google is equivalent to running the gauntlet. They have the reputation of  having a tough application process. Just how hard it is to land a job at Google? Here’s an inside look courtesy of Staff.com:

Credit: Staff.com

Credit: Staff.com

You don’t become the happiest company by mistake. It’s a product of thoughtful design and ultimately culture. Let’s explore 15 reasons why:

1. Dollars and Sense. With billions of dollars in revenue every year, Google pays some some the highest average salaries in the tech industry.

2. On Purpose.  Google has always pursued a noble cause. The company conducts business with a simple motto,”Don’t be evil.” Its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.  Here is Founder Larry Page talking about both purpose and the theory of abundance:

We have somewhat of a social mission, and most other companies do not. I think that’s why people like working for us, and using our services…Companies’ goals should be to make their employees so wealthy that they do not need to work, but choose to because they believe in the company … Hopefully, I believe in a world of abundance, and in that world, many of our employees don’t have to work, they’re pretty wealthy, they could probably go years without working. Why are they working? They’re working because they like doing something, they believe in what they’re doing.

3. Caring. No stone is left unturned in their quest to provide a welcoming work environment for employees. Actions speak louder than mere words. Why is caring so important to the company? According to Google’s Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock:

“It turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t.  And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.”

4. Creative Outlet. Google allows its employees the option to use up to 20% of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. Google claims that many of their products in Google Labs (i.e. Gmail) started out as pet projects in the 20% time program. Last year Quartz reported that 20% time had been abolished, but Google responded saying it’s very much alive and kicking.

5. A Voice. The Google-O-Meter gives all employees a voice on employee suggestions and potential cultural changes . According to a post by Diana Ransom:

Google’s Chief Culture Officer Stacy Sullivan implemented the company’s charting tool, the Google-O-Meter, to gauge the popularity of employee suggestions, such as housing more doctors on site or bringing overseas employees to headquarters for a visit. “It wasn’t something that we would just go and implement for them,” she says. “Their suggestions had to be reflective of things about the culture that [many] people wanted to change.

6. Benefits Beyond the Grave. There is a Google Perk that extends into the afterlife. Should a U.S. Googler pass away while working for Google, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their nearly 40,000 employees qualify.

7. Modern Family. Google gives employees in same-sex relationships extra cash to cover their partners’ health benefits. Currently, when receiving partner health care coverage, same-sex domestic partners are subject to an extra tax that straight, married couples don’t have to pay. Google is shouldering the burden of paying this tax by compensating partnered LGBT employees for the amount of the tax, which comes to a bit more than $1,000 each year. This benefit will also cover any dependents of the partner in the same-sex couple.

8. Bathrooms. Googlers have access to some of the most high-tech toilets around. These Japanese imports offer washing and drying of your nether regions as well as the mysterious “wand cleaning.” Both the wash water and the seat itself can be warmed or cooled depending on your preference.

9. Kingpin. The company knows how to roll. Google has a bowling alley for employees.

10. Training & Development. Google’s “CareerGuru” program matches Google executives with Google employees to provide confidential, one-on-one career coaching and guidance around the subjects of work-life balance, personal and professional development, communication styles and conflict resolution, among others.

11. Wellness. The Googleplex has some interesting lap pools. The outdoor mini-poolsare like water treadmills: a strong current allows the Googler to swim and swim and go nowhere. Luckily, lifeguards are always on duty in case someone gets in over their head.

12. Team Building. Google’s Conference Bike is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around.

Description unavailable

(Photo credit: Marcin Wichary)

13. Collaborative Space. According to Jonathan Strickland:

Google’s corridors are designed and set up for impromptu information sharing. Offices don’t resemble a typical corporate environment. Google arranges the workstations so that groups of three to four employees who work together sit in the same area. During the design phase, architect Clive Wilkinson faced a challenging problem: how do you group people together and still give them an environment in which they can concentrate on work without distractions? And how do you do it without turning Google into a labyrinth of cubicles? Wilkinson decided to use glass walls to divide the space into clusters. This design cuts down on much of the ambient noise inside the office. It also allows sunlight to filter in through the entire office. Each glass enclosure has a tent-like roof made of acrylic-coated polyester which contains the room’s lighting and sprinkler systems. Google executives want employees to be able to bounce ideas off each other. It’s the c­ompany’s hope that by encouraging interaction, workers will have greater job satisfaction and may even create the next big Google product.

Google Campus

Google Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14. Food & Beverage. Is the way to an employee’s heart through their stomach? One of the most oft-cited perks of working at Google is the food. Google feeds its employees well. If you work at the Googleplex, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner free of charge. There are several cafés located throughout the campus, and employees can eat at any of them. The main café is Charlie’s Place, which takes its name from Google’s first lead chef, Charlie Ayers. Before creating meals for Googlers, Ayers was the chef for the Grateful Dead. Although Ayers left Google in 2005, the café still bears his name. The café has several stations, each offering different kinds of cuisine. Options range from vegetarian dishes to sushi to ethnic foods from around the world. Google’s culture promotes the use of fresh, organic foods and healthy meals. But when everything is free and you can eat whenever you want, it’s easy to go overboard. That’s where the Google 15 comes in. It refers to the 15 pounds many new Google employees put on once they start taking advantage of all the meals and snacks.

15. Openness and Transparency. One of things shaping culture at the search leader are “TGIF” meetings. They tend to happen most Fridays, said Craig Silverstein, who joined the founders as Google’s first employee in 1998. TGIF, where any Googler is free to ask the founders any company-related question, became a fixture of the culture.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Google is the poster child for my second book, What’s Your Green Goldfish. The book explores the 15 ways to drive employee engagement and reinforce culture. Here an overview via Slideshare:

The Tale of Two Marissa’s: Should Katy Stay or Go Now?

It’s not looking sunny in Sunnyvale

telecommuting at Yahoo

CEO Marissa Mayer made headlines this week when she laid down the law at Yahoo! No more telecommuting. By June all employees at Yahoo will need to work out of the office.

This stance is in sharp contrast to the precedent she upheld at Google. Specifically the reasoning behind Green Goldfish #343 – the “Katy Rule.” According to an article in Business Insider:

Marissa Mayer believes women are especially susceptible to burning out because they are faced with more demands in the home. “What causes burnout, Mayer believes, is not working too hard,” Rosin writes. “People, she believes, ‘can work arbitrarily hard for an arbitrary amount of time,’ but they will become resentful if work makes them miss things that are really important to them.” She gave an anecdote for how she kept one Google executive, whom she calls “Katy,” from quitting. Katy loved her job and she loved her team and she didn’t mind staying late to help out. What was bothering Katy was something entirely different. Often, Katy confessed, she showed up late at her children’s events because a meeting went overly long, for no important reason other than meetings tend to go long. And she hated having her children watch her walk in late. For Mayer, this was a no-brainer. She instituted a Katy-tailored rule. If Katy had told her earlier that she had to leave at four to get to a soccer game, then Mayer would make sure Katy could leave at four. Even if there was only five minutes left to a meeting, even if Google cofounder Sergey Brin himself was mid sentence and expecting an answer from Katy, Mayer would say “Katy’s gotta go” and Katy would walk out the door and answer the questions later by e-mail after the kids were in bed.” The key to sustaining loyalty in employees is making sure they get to do the things that are most important to them outside of work, Mayer told Rosin. (Source: Business Insider)

Folks like Cisco and accenture have 80 to 90% of their staff telecommuting at least on a part time basis. And as a general rule, workplaces are leaning towards granting greater flexibility to employees.  This is based on the following three assumptions or reasons:

  1. The technology is available and the type of work being done is conducive for telecommuting.
  2. It ultimately saves both parties in the long run. Companies save money on office space and employees save money/hassle of commuting.
  3. Productivity improves and satisfaction increases. 

When the reason stops, therefore should stop the RULE

I can only imagine that #3 is out of whack at Yahoo. According to the leaked memo, the new policy calls for workers “physically being together.” Sometimes you need to take one step backward to take two steps forward. Here is a telling quote from the internal memo:

We need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices… Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

I applaud Marissa for shaking things up with this gutsy move. She was brought in to breathe new life into a stagnant culture. iPhone and free lunches are nice, but its time to get everyone off their remote island and back onto the boat. They is no gray in this decision, meaning no wiggle room or exceptions to the “no telecommuting” rule. It will be an interesting all-hands-on-deck summer at Yahoo! Will it be smooth sailing or feel more like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic? Your take?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something thrown in for good measure) – Here is Marissa talking at Stanford (her alma mater) back in 2006. She talks about Google and the nine lessons for driving innovation at the Googleplex:

All of the examples in this post were taken from the  Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

Larry Page and an Alley Oop Hammer. Why Google is the happiest place to work in America

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

career blissIn 2011, Google was crowned the “Happiest Company in America” by CareerBliss.comThe rankings are based on more than 100,000 worker-generated reviews spanning over 10,000 companies. Scores were based on such factors as work-life balance, relationships with bosses and co-workers, compensation, growth opportunities, a company’s culture and the opportunity for employees to exert control over the daily work flow.

You don’t become the happiest company by mistake. It’s a product of thoughtful design and ultimately culture. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set the groundwork for building Google. The company has always pursued a noble cause. Here are some telling quotes by Page in a  NY Times blog post:

We have somewhat of a social mission, and most other companies do not. I think that’s why people like working for us, and using our services…Companies’ goals should be to make their employees so wealthy that they do not need to work, but choose to because they believe in the company… Hopefully, I believe in a world of abundance, and in that world, many of our employees don’t have to work, they’re pretty wealthy, they could probably go years without working. Why are they working? They’re working because they like doing something, they believe in what they’re doing.”

But maybe there is a deeper reason for creating a more welcoming and fulfilling workplace. Here is a quote from CEO Larry Page’s Commencement Address at the University of Michigan in May, 2009 (YouTube video):

My father’s father worked in the Chevy plant in Flint, Michigan. He was an assembly line worker…My Grandpa used to carry an “Alley Oop” hammer – a heavy iron pipe with a hunk of lead melted on the end. The workers made them during the sit-down strikes to protect themselves. When I was growing up, we used that hammer whenever we needed to pound a stake or something into the ground. It is wonderful that most people don’t need to carry a heavy blunt object for protection anymore. But just in case, I have it here.”

Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

It bears repeating. Larry Page’s grandfather used to take a hammer to work for protection. A lead pipe with a hunk of metal melted on the end of it. I can only imagine this was a constant reminder of the importance of a happy workplace.

You can make money without being evil

Google is a business with a simple motto,”Don’t be evil.” Its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. It derives revenue from offering search technology to companies and from the sale of advertising displayed on their site and on others across the web. Hundreds of thousands of advertisers worldwide use Google’s AdWords to promote their products and hundreds of thousands of publishers take advantage of the AdSense program to deliver ads relevant to their content. (Source: Google)

Caring and Doing the Right Thing

Google sets the gold standard for taking care of its employees. No stone is left unturned in their quest to provide a welcoming work environment. But WHY? Here’s an answer according to Google’s Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock,

It turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t. And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.”

Top Goldfish

Google holds the top spot in the Green Goldfish Project with 16 entries. Let’s have a look at a baker’s dozen of their examples:

#2 – Empowerment

Google-20-percent-time According to Jonathan Strickland in “HowStuffWorks: How the Googleplex Works“, the company allows its employees to use up to 20 percent of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. Google claims that many of their products in Google Labs (i.e. Gmail) started out as pet projects in the 20 percent time program.

#36- Empowerment

The Google-O-Meter gives all employees a voice on employee suggestions and potential cultural changes. The example is taken from a post by Diana Ransom,

url-2Google’s Chief Culture Officer Stacy Sullivan implemented the company’s charting tool, the Google-O-Meter, to gauge the popularity of employee suggestions, such as housing more doctors on site or bringing overseas employees to headquarters for a visit. “It wasn’t something that we would just go and implement for them,” she says. “Their suggestions had to be reflective of things about the culture that [many] people wanted to change.” (Source: Entrepreneur)

#40 – Retirement+

Google and afterlife benefits Taken from a post by Meghan Casserly in Forbes:

In a rare interview with Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock I discovered that the latest perk for Googlers extends into the afterlife. “This might sound ridiculous,” Bock told me recently in a conversation on the ever-evolving benefits at Google, “But we’ve announced death benefits at Google.” We were scheduled for a talk on Google’s widening age-gap (the oldest Googler is currently 83); I wanted to know how child- and healthcare benefits have evolved as the company has scaled. Instead, Bock, who joined the company in 2006 after a stint with General Electric, blew me away by disclosing a never-before-made-public-perk: Should a U.S. Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their 34,000 Google employees qualify. (Source: Forbes)

#179 – Modern Family

Google is giving its employees in same-sex relationships extra cash to cover their partners’ health benefits. Currently, when receiving partner health care coverage, same-sex domestic partners are subject to an extra tax that straight, married couples don’t have to pay. Google is taking the burden of paying this tax on itself by compensating partnered LGBT employees for the amount of the tax, which comes to a bit more than $1,000 each year. This benefit will also cover any dependents of the partner in the same-sex couple. (Source: Mashable)

#191 – Space / Design

The Lamborghini of toilets Is it really any wonder that Googlers have access to some of the most high-tech toilets around? These Japanese johns offer washing and drying of your nether regions as well as the mysterious “wand cleaning.” Both the wash water and the seat itself can be warmed or cooled depending on your preference. (Source: Huffington Post)

Here’s a YouTube video of Conan and Andy Richter at Google talking about the toilets:

#205 – Team Building

The company knows how to roll. Google has a bowling alley for employees. Here’s a YouTube video providing quick peek at the lanes:

#343 – Flexibility

Taken from an article on Business Insider:

Former Google Executive Marissa Mayer believes women are especially susceptible to burning out because they are faced with more demands in the home. “What causes burnout, Mayer believes, is not working too hard,” Rosin writes. “People, she believes, ‘can work arbitrarily hard for an arbitrary amount of time,’ but they will become resentful if work makes them miss things that are really important to them.” She gave an anecdote for how she kept one Google executive, whom she calls “Katy,” from quitting. Katy loved her job and she loved her team and she didn’t mind staying late to help out. What was bothering Katy was something entirely different. Often, Katy confessed, she showed up late at her children’s events because a meeting went overly long, for no important reason other than meetings tend to go long. And she hated having her children watch her walk in late. For Mayer, this was a no-brainer. She instituted a Katy-tailored rule. If Katy had told her earlier that she had to leave at four to get to a soccer game, then Mayer would make sure Katy could leave at four. Even if there was only five minutes left to a meeting, even if Google cofounder Sergey Brin himself was mid sentence and expecting an answer from Katy, Mayer would say “Katy’s gotta go” and Katy would walk out the door and answer the questions later by e-mail after the kids were in bed.” The key to sustaining loyalty in employees is making sure they get to do the things that are most important to them outside of work, Mayer told Rosin. (Source: Business Insider)

#543 – Training & Development

Google’s “CareerGuru” program matches Google executives with Google employees to provide confidential, one-on-one career coaching and guidance around the subjects of work-life balance, personal and professional development, communication styles, and conflict resolution, among others. (Source: Business Insider)

#691 – Wellness

One perk about not working at Google is that Gawker never posts a photo of you swimming in one of the Googleplex’s lap pools. The outdoor mini-pools are like water treadmills: a strong current allows the Googler to swim and swim and go nowhere. Luckily, according to How Stuff Works, lifeguards are always on duty in case someone gets in over their head. (Source: Huffington Post)

#692 – Team Building

Conference Bike

Conference Bike

Google’s Conference Bike is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around. (Source: PC Magazine)

#818 – Space and Design

According to Jonathan Strickland,

Google’s corridors are designed and set up for impromptu information sharing. Offices don’t resemble a typical corporate environment. Google arranges the workstations so that groups of three to four employees who work together sit in the same area. During the design phase, architect Clive Wilkinson faced a challenging problem: how do you group people together and still give them an environment in which they can concentrate on work without distractions? And how do you do it without turning Google into a labyrinth of cubicles? Wilkinson decided to use glass walls to divide the space into clusters. This design cuts down on much of the ambient noise inside the office. It also allows sunlight to filter in through the entire office. Each glass enclosure has a tent-like roof made of acrylic-coated polyester which contains the room’s lighting and sprinkler systems. Google executives want employees to be able to bounce ideas off each other. It’s the c­ompany’s hope that by encouraging interaction, workers will have greater job satisfaction and may even create the next big Google product. (Source: How Stuff Works)

#892 – Openness / Transparency

One of things shaping culture at the search leader are “TGIF” meetings. They tend to happen most Fridays, said Craig Silverstein, who joined the founders as Google’s first employee in 1998. TGIF, where any Googler is free to ask the founders any company-related question, became a fixture of the culture. (Source: Mercury News)

#911 – Food & Beverage

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and the Google 15

One of the most often cited perks of working at Google is the food. Google feeds its employees well. If you work at the Googleplex, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner free of charge. There are several cafés located throughout the campus, and employees can eat at any of them. The main café is Charlie’s Place. The café takes its name from Google’s first lead chef, Charlie Ayers. Before creating meals for Googlers, Ayers was the chef for the Grateful Dead.
Although Ayers left Google in 2005, the café still bears his name. The café has several stations, each offering different kinds of cuisine. Options range from vegetarian dishes to sushi to ethnic foods from around the world. Google’s culture promotes the use of fresh, organic foods and healthy meals. But when everything is free and you can eat whenever you want, it’s easy to go overboard. That’s where the Google 15 comes in. It refers to the 15 pounds many new Google employees put on once they start taking advantage of all the meals and snacks.
Other cafés at the Googleplex include the Pacific Café, Charleston Café, Café 150 and the appropriately named No Name Café. Each offers employees several choices for every meal. Google serves up more than 200 recipes in these cafés every day. [Sources: SFGate.com and HowStuffWorks]

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Paying it Forward #912 with Google Earth Outreach. Here an intriguing video on how Google is working with charitable and NGO’s to leverage Google Earth to promote their causes:

All of the examples in this post were taken from the  Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

The final step towards increased employee engagement is EMPOWERMENT

This is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty and Reinforce Culture:

Basics

whats your green goldfish book cover1st inch – Onboarding

2nd inch – Food & Beverage Shelter / SpaceTransparency / Openness

3rd inch – WellnessTime AwayModern Family

Belonging

4th inch – Recognition

5th inch – Team Building

6th inch – Flexibility

Building

7th inch – Training & Development, Retirement

8th inchPay it Forward

The ninth and final INCH

The last inch on the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees is via Empowerment.

Image credit: ceotrackblog

Image credit: ceotrackblog

Leadership is about inspiring others. Enabling team members to do their absolute best to work towards a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. In one word… EMPOWERMENT. Give people the direction, support them with resources and then getting the hell out of the way.

Maybe one of the strongest examples of empowerment is Nordstrom (#34). Their entire mission and employee handbook fits on the back of a business card.

Nordstrom has only one goal . . . ‘To provide outstanding customer service.” They only have one rule . . . “Use good judgment in all situations.”

It’s time for a change

Command and Control or Carrot and Stick thinking is outdated. People do not enjoy or appreciate being controlled or coerced.

The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.” (Source: Netflix, Reference Guide on our Freedom & Responsibility Culture)

According to Ken and Scott Blanchard,

We are finding that giving people a chance to succeed in their job and setting them free to a certain degree is the key to motivation, as opposed to trying to direct and control people’s energy. It’s really about letting go and connecting people to their work–and each other–rather than channeling, organizing, orchestrating, and focusing behavior.” (Source: Fast Company)

Let’s look at a Baker’s Dozen of companies that go the extra mile to empower team members:

Empowerment is the Opposite of Organization

wl gore green goldfish

W.L Gore (#46) was founded by Wilbert Lee Gore in 1958. A 16 year veteran at DuPont, Bill envisioned a different type of organization. His would be non-hierarchal, setting an environment where leader would emerge based on the merit of their ideas.

[He] wanted a company where employees’ spirit grew based on what they accomplished, not which corporate scrimmage they had won—where more time was spent generating ideas than generating ways to cover one’s backside. So he decided to create a “non-organization” approach for his new company that would inspire creativity in its employees.” (Source: Jeanne Bliss)

Life Coaches and Dream Managers

zappos life coach green goldfish #72

Zappos (#72) provides a life coach for employees. (Source: YouTube)

Infusionsoft (#455) provides employees with the services of a “Dream Manager.” The move was inspired by Matthew Kelly’s book, The Dream Manager and a core value at Infusionsoft. The sales and marketing automation provider believes in people and their dreams. The manager works to help team members set, pursue and become accountable for achieving their goals and dreams. (Source: Infusionsoft)

The commercial developer Brasfield & Gorrie (#239) created a new position, Director of Career Development. The move is paying dividends. The company maps out each employee’s career path, and indicates what he or she will have to do to get there. “Every employee’s career path is consistent with what we’re looking for from our strategic plan five to 10 years out. We’re not just making something up.” Spelling out every employee’s career path takes time and part of that time is spent making sure upper management communicates the results with individual employees. (Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle)

Supporting Personal Goals

Associates at Pepsico (#537) include a personal goal in their performance development review process and are asked to deliver against this goal, just like any other goal, to ensure a work-life balance. (Source: BusinessInsider.com)

Following the opportunity to take time to evaluate where the associate is now, and where he or she wants to be, each team member at Falgren Mortine (#725) then meets with his or her supervisor for a conversation; at least one hour devoted to focusing on the individual’s needs and goals, and a chance to formally discuss ways he or she can grow and learn in the development of his or her career. (Source: PR News Online)

A Democracy of Good Ideas where Titles Need not Apply

This leading developer empowers everyone to make their mark on the company and culture. According to Mike Derheim, CEO at The Nerdery (#304), “We want them to aspire to be a co-president. The late great Luke Bucklin was the only president we’ll ever have, and co-president was what he called us — all of us — before we lost him.” In one of Luke’s last all-staff e-mails he wrote: “Put your business card on the desk in front of you. Look at it. … This card does not define you. You are a Co-President. You are bigger than your defined role. … Play your part — transcend your job title, be a hero.” (Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal) [Note: see video at bottom of post]

Submitted by Matthew DeGeronimo of Smith Floyd (#771). In Matt’s words,

I run a Mergers & Acquisitions company in Honolulu, and had some thoughts for your book. There is one thing we do that might not be commonplace. We allow employees to pick their own title. Creative titles encouraged – of course, I retain veto power.” (Source: SmithFloyd)

The independent marketing agency WONGDOODY (#215) is united by the “Democracy of Good Ideas” principle. Any staffer could come up with the next big idea.  It encourages participation and rewards keen judgment. (Source: Los Angeles Business Journal)

Purposefully Losing Control

molnlycke healthcare green goldfish #61

One of Europe’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of single-use medical products, Molnlycke Health Care (#61) allowed production teams to decide how to meet their goals. With the responsibility for quality products moved to individuals on those teams, nearly 70 percent of the company’s new products launch on time, compared with just 15 percent previously. As a result, the company will have quadrupled its shareholder value in only five years. (Source: InnoSupport)

Passions and the Creative Muse

Fast Horse (#297) is an innovative, integrated agency offering a full range of traditional and non-traditional marketing services. Fast Horse employees enjoy little extras like a $500 “Muse It or Lose It”, a stipend to help underwrite creative endeavors away from the office.

Much of the credit for our amazing workplace at Weber Shandwick Minneapolis (#310) goes to our Employee Action Group (EAG). Each month, employees enjoy an EAG-sponsored event to celebrate our successes, encourage teamwork or to just have fun. The highlight events include our annual “Shankwick” golf outing and our own version of “The Amazing Race,” appropriately renamed “The Shanmazing Race.” Our newest EAG initiative is our “No Boundaries” program. This program was designed to give our employees a chance to explore a personal passion, which may include attending “The Burning Man” event in San Francisco to spark creativity, or traveling to Honduras to work for Soles4Souls, a nonprofit organization devoted to distributing shoes and clothing to victims of abject suffering. The company provides the employees with five extra vacation days and $1,000 to pursue the passion. (Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)

Making Time for Empowerment

15% time

3M (#53) launched the 15 percent program in 1948. Employees were given 15% of their time to work on personal project of their choosing. If it seems radical now, imagine how it played as post-war America was suiting up and going to the office, with rigid hierarchies and increasingly defined work and home roles. But it was also a logical next step. Forty plus years in the red taught 3M a key lesson: Innovate or Die, an ethos the company has carried dutifully into the 21st century.

15 percent time is extended to everyone. Who knows who’ll create the next Post-It Note (a 15% time innovation)?

It’s one of the things that sets 3M apart as an innovative company, by sticking to that culture of giving every one of our employees the ability to follow their instincts to take advantage of opportunities for the company,” says Technical Director Kurt Beinlich, who tries to get most of his 70-person lab team to participate. (Source: FastDesignCo.)

Azavea (#187), a maker of mapping software, lets employees spend up to 10 percent of their time on research projects of their own devising. (Source: Inc.com)

Google-20-percent-time

Google (#2) allows its employees to use up to 20 percent of their work week to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. Google claims that many of their products in Google Labs (such as Gmail) started out as pet projects in the 20 percent time program. (Source: Jonathan Strickland in ‘HowStuffWorks: How the Googleplex Works’)

Hack Days and the Quest for Improvement

Conductor, Inc. (#513) holds an annual, companywide Hack Day, where all Conductors are invited to self-organize into teams and spend a day developing an idea that makes the product, office, or company better. (Source: GreatPlacetoWork.com)

Siemens (#606) operates an employee suggestion program that encourages employees to share their feedback — the ideas that lead to savings or new revenues are evaluated for their impact and can lead to financial bonus payments ranging up to $100,000.

Employees at McMurry (#706) can submit their innovative “WOW Project” ideas through the company’s internal computer network. Toward the end of the year, president and CEO Chris McMurry and several senior managers consider each of the hundreds of pitches that come in and award up to $10,000 for the best ideas. “Our business, and every business, needs to innovate constantly if it seeks an enduring future,” McMurry says, explaining why the program got started. One winning pitch came from a group of three employees who pored over U.S. Post Office regulations and came up with a way for McMurry to re-sequence how it distributes mail on behalf of its clients, saving those clients millions of dollars.

Encouraging its staff of more than 170 people to dream up creative business ideas and solutions has cemented innovation into our culture,” McMurry says. “It’s now part of what everyone does. It has put all my colleagues in a continuous improvement mode. There literally isn’t a week that goes by where someone doesn’t implement a better way of doing something.”

McMurry says “WOW Projects” improve a swath of company functions, from billing accuracy to workflow to shipping procedures. All have improved the company’s bottom line. (Source: Entrepreneur.com)

R&D Thursday’s

Nearly every employee at Spider Strategies (#268) works from home every day.  Staffers set their hours–which suits those who prefer to work at night. There are rarely meetings–three or four a year. Every Thursday is set aside for R&D, so staffers can explore the latest in technology. And vacation is unlimited. (Source: Washingtonian Magazine)

The Ability to Correct Mistakes

Starbucks (#520) will fix your drink if it’s wrong, every time – no charge. Starbucks employees are empowered to provide drinks on the house for repeat customers when they are having a bad day, out of money or “just because”. Crewmembers spend a day during their first week of training simply going out into the lobby and greeting customers. The goal is not just to ask them what they need or if they can provide a refill, but to actually engage in conversation and help the person become more comfortable while waiting or relaxing. Crewmembers are empowered to provide “service recovery certificates” for a free “anything” (even a quad-venti 5 pump caramel macchiato, light whip, hold the foam) when service fails to meet the customer’s expectations. (Source: Jordan Belcher)

Tellers at Fairwinds Credit Union (#522) are empowered to provide immediate service recovery of up to $100 per incident w/o seeking management approval. This can be used to buy a customer lunch, purchase flowers, send a special treat or for anything else the rep decides to help recover from a bad service experience. (Source: Fairwinds)

Exhibitions and Science Fairs

Practice Plan (#377), which provides business support services to the dental sector, gets the creative juices flowing among its workforce of 74 people by giving in-house exhibition space for original artwork every two months. Darren Marks used his turn to show a series of nine images called Words To Live Your Life By, based on song lyrics. Colleagues shared drinks and nibbles at the opening of his Wall 9 exhibition.

Bazaarvoice (#409) makes sure it solicits the views of its own people, too, and holds a science fair to showcase bright ideas. (Source: The Sunday Times)

Once a year, about 200 employees from dozens of divisions at 3M (#857) make cardboard posters describing their 15 percent time project as if they were presenting volcano models at a middle school science fair. They stand up their poster, then hang out next to it, awaiting feedback, suggestions, and potential co-collaborators. Wayne Maurer is an R&D manager in 3M’s abrasives division and calls it a chance for people to unhinge their “inner geek.” He elaborates: “For technical people, it’s the most passionate and engaged event we have at 3M.” (Source: FastDesignCo.)

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s a music great video by the staff at The Nerdery. It’s their version of the Jimmy Fallon, Roots, Carly Rae Jepsen collaboration on “Call Me Maybe.” Their version is called, “Co-Pres Maybe”:

 

All of the examples in this post were taken from the  Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

Life after work. Going the extra mile to help employees prepare and plan for retirement

This is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty and Reinforce Culture:

Basics

whats your green goldfish book cover1st inch – Onboarding

2nd inch – Food & Beverage Shelter / SpaceTransparency / Openness

3rd inch – WellnessTime AwayModern Family

Belonging

4th inch – Recognition

5th inch – Team Building

6th inch – Flexibility

Building

7th inchTraining & Development

The seventh INCH continued

The seventh inch on the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees also involves Retirement. Let’s look at a handful of companies that go the extra mile to prepare and take care of employees for life after work:

Google and the Afterlife

Taken from a post by Meghan Casserly in Forbes. In Meghan’s words:

Google and afterlife benefits

In a rare interview with Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock I discovered that the latest perk for Googlers extends into the afterlife. “This might sound ridiculous,” Bock told me recently in a conversation on the ever-evolving benefits at Google (#41), “But we’ve announced death benefits at Google.”  We were scheduled for a talk on Google’s widening age-gap (the oldest Googler is currently 83); I wanted to know how child- and healthcare benefits have evolved as the company has scaled.

Instead, Bock, who joined the company in 2006 after a stint with General Electric, blew me away by disclosing a never-before-made-public-perk:  Should a U.S. Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their 34,000 Google employees qualify.

“But it turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t. And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.” (Source: Forbes.com)

Big Contributions

Devon Energy (#206) is an oil and gas explorer and producer. They have developed a new 401(k) retirement plan which calls for annual company contributions of a whopping 11% to 22%.

GSM (#255), an IT consultancy in Leesburg, VA has big perks, including five weeks of vacation, a 401(k) contribution of 15 percent of salary, fully paid health-care premiums, $1,200 toward the creation of a will, $5,000 a year to attend training or conferences, $720 toward Internet access, and $1,750 toward the purchase of a gadget–although employees are given all the technology they need for their jobs. (Source: Washingtonian Magazine)

Planning, Phasing and Preparing

TD Bank (#449)  helps employees plan for life after work with retirement planning assistance. The program includes a defined benefit pension plan, matching contributions to a share purchase plan, and a health benefits plan that extends into retirement with no age limit. (Source: eluta.ca)

DIALOG (#468) is a multidisciplinary firm comprised of architects, engineers, interior designers, urban designers and planners. The firm helps older workers prepare for retirement with contributions to a matching RSP plan and phased-in work options that allow employees to gradually leave the workforce

The University of Toronto (#493) offers a phased-in retirement work options for those nearing the end of their careers. They also help employees prepare for life after work with retirement planning assistance services along with generous contributions to a defined benefit pension plan. (Source: eluta.ca)

British Columbia Safety Authority (#630) provides phased-in work options that allow employees to gradually leave the workforce and health benefit coverage that extends to retirees.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Speaking of retirement, here’s an inspirational speech from Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens:


All of the examples in this post were taken from the  Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

Fostering community and driving employee engagement through Team Building

This is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty and Reinforce Culture:

Basics

1st inch – Onboarding

2nd inch – Food & Beverage Shelter / SpaceTransparency / Openness

3rd inch – WellnessTime AwayModern Family

4th inchRecognition

The fifth INCH

The fifth inch on the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees involves Team Building.

Success is frequently seen as a purely individual achievement, often at the expense of others. But in the corporate world, an organization can only thrive with the collective help of everyone. For employees being part of a team helps create a sense of belonging. Feeling more connected leads to being more happy.

Fostering Community

Assurance Agency Ltd., (#842) a Schaumburg-based insurance brokerage has a whole host of incentives. There’s Starbucks coffee, yoga classes and a Wii station, plus big-ticket items such as referral bonuses for new clients, education reimbursements and companywide bonuses for reaching goals. Yet the benefits with the biggest impact on culture seem to be those that bring employees together.

I think we’re really thoughtful about the things we emphasize,” says Jackie Gould, the company’s chief operOating officer. “A lot of them aren’t really about the money. It’s more about fostering the relationships.” (Source: ChicagoBusiness.com)

Let’s look a Baker’s Dozen of companies who actively foster a sense of community and improve employee engagement through Team Building:

Employees that play (music) together, stay together. Harmonix Music Systems (#133), maker of the game series Rock Band, goes the extra mile to support the company’s bands by providing practice space. Down in the basement of Harmonix’s Cambridge headquarters, there’s a hidden sanctuary where employee bands can rock out. The dedicated practice space is equipped with stage lights and music equipment, and bedecked with Christmas lights for mood. (Source: boston.com)

Make it Memorable

Decision Lens (#711) sponsors the excursions twice annually during usual work hours. They are paid for in full by the company. The founder worked at several large corporations and was turned off by what he called “lame” annual company barbeques or bowling excursions. He wanted to engage his employees with group activities and trips they otherwise may not be able to on their own. For example, Decision Lens paid for its 35-person staff to visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center about 20 miles northeast in Greenbelt, Md., where they listened to astronomers discuss how they’ve been using the Hubble Telescope. Last month, employees geared up for a day of competitive go-kart racing.

“If you want to play paintball or go bowling, you can do that with your friends on your own time,” says Saaty. “The idea is to inspire people to do what they didn’t think they could do. If an employee has a bad day or run of days, I want them to remember that these are the people that had his or her back and who shared an awesome, one-of-a-kind experience. That goes way beyond work.” (Source: Entreprenuer.com)

According to Rob White, CEO and Co-founder, Zeus Jones (#300), “Most Fridays, we have what we call “Beer and Tell,” where one or more people share what they have been doing to everyone on staff. The beauty of being a small company is that we can still all fit in a room, and celebrate the work, and the little or big successes of colleagues. In addition to our work for clients, these successes include new staff welcomes, engagements, pregnancies, babies, new pets in HH and even winning debates with AT&T over cellphone bills. Big successes are celebrated with champagne — we write the occasion on the cork and keep all these marked corks in a jar.” (Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)

Healthy competition

If you’re interested in not only building up employee productivity, but encouraging a greater sense of community among your staff, hosting a friendly office competition is a great way to go about it. Your employees will be racing each other to the finish, but they will also be pulled closer together in the process.” (Source: Experience.com)

snagajob green goldfish #62 office olympics

At Virginia company Snagajob (#62), the  Culture Squad organizes the annual Office Olympics, during which Snaggers are divided into competing nations—and dress the part.

Every four years, Allianz (#841) holds an international Olympics for its sports teams. The company covers the athletes’ expenses and has an opening ceremony; in 2010, the games were held in Budapest with over 70 countries participating. (Source: money.cnn.com)

For its hockey addicts, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Canada (#458) hosts a unique national “PwC Hockey Tournament” with office teams gathering every spring for friendly competition and the chance secure bragging rights for the year. (Source: eluta.ca)

Importance of Play and Pranks

It’s not all work and high purpose at OBS (#349). Each office has a Chief Fun Officer whose responsibility it is to ensure that fun is also an important part of the business.

The company is big on fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.” (Source: BRW)

Hit them with your best shot. When things get hectic and she gets that “I just want to scream feeling” about something or someone, Jennifer Callies of Shazaaam! Public Relations (#28) simply opens fire. Granted it’s with a Nerf gun, but the release is very gratifying.

We have a pretty small office and everyone gets along well and has a fun-loving spirit, so it was no surprise when our creative director went out one day and brought back Nerf guns for everyone,” Callies says. “We take our frustrations out via Nerf wars.”

They shoot at walls, computers, phones, the damn copy machine and “from time to time, when the urge becomes contagious, we have it all out,” she says. “It’s an ‘everyone for themselves’ kind of war, using cubicles as hideouts and chairs as shields until all of our foam darts run out. After five to 10 minutes of heated battle with Nerf guns and childish fun, we are refreshed and ready to get back to work.” (Source: Keith Hein)

Coyne PR (#754) employees work hard, but they also know how to play hard together. The agency has a practice of harmless but hilarious pranks. (Source: CoynePR.com)

mcneill-designs-green-goldfish

At McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds (#29), they take the time to just crack open a board game and play. “Maybe it’s because we’re a game development firm, but we find on a Friday afternoon, nothing beats playing a game,” says CEO Donald W. McNeill. “We check out the competition and have a little healthy competition. We typically get a pizza and throw in a prize for the grand winner of the afternoon.” Prizes vary from a “late morning start pass” to “party money.” (Source: Keith Hein)

godaddy green goldfish #110

Offsite Activities

Each month GoDaddy (#110) places money toward off-site employee activities — held during work hours — to boost team morale. Recent activities for employees include whitewater rafting, gold panning, competitive cooking courses, and trapeze classes. (Source: WorldatWork.com)

Burton (#178) holds a “Fall Bash,” an annual party for Jake Burton’s team, friends and family at his home, complete with a band, food, drinks and more. An annual day when the entire company gets on snow and rides together, BBQs and has a few beers. (Source: Mashable)

According to PC Magazine, Google’s Conference Bike (#692) is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around. (Source: HuffPo)

Mentor Program

At Allen & Gerritsen (#736), even CEO Andrew Graff has a mentor: the youngest person at the agency, 22-year-old emerging-technology strategist Eric Leist. Of course, Mr. Graff is a mentor to the strategist, too. Every new employee is assigned one at the Boston-area agency, but senior folks aren’t supposed to do all the talking. The arrangement makes even the most junior employees “reverse mentors,” so everyone knows they can learn a thing or two.

Don’t just assume because you’re more senior you’re the mentor — you could be the mentee,” Mr. Graff said. “We strive for balance. It’s a young-person business; tech is taking the business in new directions, so we need to listen to the young and fearless.”

So Mr. Graff gets schooled on why to check in to restaurants on Foursquare (for the tips) and how millennials use their phones (all the time). In turn, Mr. Leist gets sage marketing lessons from an exec with decades of experience. (Source: AdAge.com)

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s another hilarious, but harmless prank from Coyne PR.

 

All of the examples in this post were taken from the  Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

The only thing better than life @Google is the Afterlife

The Best of Both Worlds…Literally

#41 in the Green Goldfish Project– Google

Taken from a post by Meghan Casserly in Forbes:

Google and afterlife benefitsIn a rare interview with Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock I discovered that the latest perk for Googlers extends into the afterlife.

“This might sound ridiculous,” Bock told me recently in a conversation on the ever-evolving benefits at Google, “But we’ve announced death benefits at Google.” We were scheduled for a talk on Google’s widening age-gap (the oldest Googler is currently 83); I wanted to know how child- and healthcare benefits have evolved as the company has scaled.

Instead, Bock, who joined the company in 2006 after a stint with General Electric, blew me away by disclosing a never-before-made-public-perk: Should a U.S. Googler pass away while under the employ of the 14-year old search giant, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their 34 thousand Google employees qualify.

“But it turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t. And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s YouTube report from CBS on ‘The Google Life’:

 

The Green Goldfish Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees.  Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, increase employee retention and drive positive WoM.

A bakers dozen of the most unusual Green Goldfish

Tails from the first 500

We’ve hit the halfway point on the quest for 1,001 Green Goldfish. By way of reference, the Green Goldfish Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. It based simply on the premise that Happy employees = Happy Customers. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, increase employee retention, reinforce culture and help drive positive word of mouth.

There have been some very clever examples . . . and there have been some headscratchers. Here are 13 examples that straddle the fence:

Fake Bake and Botox Injections

#84 – Chesapeake Energy

Taken from a post by The Daily Finance, America’s second largest gas provider offers employees access to tanning beds and botox treatments.  Intrigued? Here’s a YouTube video on Chesapeake Energy and its culture. I dare you not to look closely to see if the forehead of the narrator moves:

 

Hold the Phones, Cue the Robot

#99 – Evernote

From a NY Times article and interview with CEO Phil Libin. In Phil’s words:

We got rid of phones in the office. Just on a whim, I thought that at every company we start, and this is the third one, we’re going to eliminate one piece of unnecessary technology. So this time it was phones. We thought, why do you really need a phone? If you have a phone at your desk, it’s just sitting there and you’re kind of encouraging people to talk on it. Everyone’s got a cellphone, and the company pays for the plans. There are phones in the conference room. We’re not a sales organization, so we’re not making a lot of calls, either. If you’re at your desk, you should be working. And that’s actually worked really well. I don’t think anyone misses phones. Even though it’s one big room, it’s actually fairly quiet because no one is sitting there talking at their desk. The culture very much is that if you want to talk, you go 10 or 20 feet in some direction to a quiet area.

We have an Anybots robot with telepresence. When I’m not at the office, I can log in through a browser and I drive it around. It balances on two wheels, and it’s six feet tall. I see through its eyes and ears, and it’s got a screen, so people can see me. And so you can have casual conversations at someone’s desk through the robot. It’s got a laser pointer, so you can shoot lasers, which is just good design. You shouldn’t build a robot without a laser.

Curious? Here’s a YouTube video on Anybots . . . Your Personal Remote Avatar:

 

Nice benefit, I think I’ll Sleep on it

#126 – AOL

Taken from a post by EG Managed Services: At AOL headquarters in NYC, perks include access to NapQuest, a specialized room where employees can grab some winks in “nap pods”, and relax in one of many electronic massage chairs.

Here’s a CBS News video on napping at AOL / Huff Po.  For lagniappe, here’s Arianna Huffington talking at TED Women about the importance of sleep. Who says women can’t sleep their way to the top:

 

Shhh… Clark Kent would love this benefit

#131 – PARTNERS + simons

Taken from a post at boston.com: No one in this agency has to leave the office to make a private phone call. Instead, they slip inside one of two large, soundproof tubes in the company’s coffee and kitchen area where they can chat away. The South Boston ad agency has two cellphone booths that look like something out of the transporter room from “Star Trek.’

Trudy Almquist, chief financial officer at the agency, said that employees were regularly using conference and meetings room for private calls to their spouses or their children’s schools.

“Conference room time was at a premium, and this was a better option,’’ she said. “It’s just a place to talk to your doctor, adoption agent, your spouse, or whatever you have going on in your life. It’s to have a little privacy in a public place.’’

Here’s a YouTube video providing a little background on P+s:

 

Power to the Penn

#185 – NewAge Industries

william penn inn

According to an article at Inc.com, after five years at plastic tubing manufacturer NewAge Industries, each employee receives a yearly $720 charge card to use in the restaurant of the William Penn Inn, a 296-year-old landmark near the company’s headquarters in Southampton, Pennsylvania.

 

The Lamborghini of Toilets

#191 – Google

Taken from an article on the Huffington Post:

 

Is it really any wonder that Googlers have access to some of the most high-tech toilets around? These Japanese johns offer washing and drying of your nether regions as well as the mysterious “wand cleaning.” Both the wash water and the seat itself can be warmed or cooled depending on your preference.

Here’s a YouTube video of Conan and Andy Richter at Google talking about the toilets:

 

A workplace with Room for your Passions

#235 – Intercontinental Hotels Group

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, IHG illustrates the company’s culture by showcasing its “Room to Be Yourself” initiative. At IHG, you can be who you are, whether you build model planes, box or do something else in your spare time.

Here’s a YouTube video on “Room to be Yourself”:

 

A well endowed Reward

#252 – The Educe Group

There are lots of employee honors–including the Dolly Parton Prize for the consultant with the highest billables and the Beanstalk Award for the staffer who has grown the most. Employees enjoy personal birthday gifts (say, a spa day or a membership to a beer-of-the-month club), and team-building trips to places such as New Orleans and Philadelphia.

Source: Washingtonian Magazine

 

Passport Needed for this Benefit

#273 – Mark G. Anderson Consultants 

Seven Wonders of the World

Employees at this consulting firm enjoy an all expense paid trip to one of the Seven Wonders of the World for their ten-year anniversary.

Source: Washingtonian Magazine

 

A benefit that makes work less taxing

#292 – Goff Public

tax prep benefit

According to the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, this PR agency works hard to be a benefit-rich company. In addition to providing free parking and a stocked kitchen for breakfast, lunch and snacks, they provide annual tax preparation services.

squirrel headHelp when things get squirrely

#295 – Community Development Inc.

According to co-owner Chuck Schneider, “As the owner, I try to create an environment where we’re encouraging, supporting, fostering positive attitudes and creativity. My view is my employees are my clients, and we have to make sure they’re taken care of as much as real clients.”

The customer-service businesses can be tough, and those in the industry often liken the stress to having squirrels running around in their heads. To lighten the load, Schneider bought a stuffed squirrel, which employees pass around to co-workers who seem to be having a rough week.

Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

 

Compliments by customers rise to the occasion

#362 – Capital One

Capital One TampaMore than a hundred shiny, balloons tethered to a sea of desk chairs are the first hint this Capital One credit card operation isn’t your typical call center.

Each balloon represents an unsolicited customer compliment — a case where a caller is so overwhelmed by the level of service they feel compelled to tell a supervisor about it. Balloons are taken down at the beginning of every month, but it doesn’t take long before they pop up everywhere again. According to Shawn Sweeney, an executive from Capital One’s Richmond, Va., headquarters who often visits the Tampa site,

Personally, I can’t tell you the last time I had service on the phone I thought was so good, I said, ‘Can I talk to your manager?’ With that being the bar, and to walk around this floor and see that number of balloons? It’s just awe-inspiring.

 

Honest Kitchen fridgeThis benefit has gone to the Dogs

#394 – The Honest Kitchen

According to an article in Outside Magazine, The Honest Kitchen offers monthly in-office chair massages for everyone and dog peticures for the office pups. According to their website:

Our kitchen was the location for our bi-monthly Peticures (for the office pups of course!) by our favorite pink-haired dog pedicures lady, Tess!

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Who says training needs to be boring? Get a taste of this extra:

#504 – Molson Coors

molson beer academy homepage

Molson Coors offer their own MBA, aka the Molson Beer Academy, an in-house training program that includes courses on everything from brand awareness to brewing techniques and beer tasting.