Unconventional Ideas to Create a Great Place to Work

by Oct 25, 2015

The holidays are coming!

I’ve been researching the topic of creating great places to work for a decade, and along the way I’ve gleaned thousands of ideas on how to do that. If there’s one thing I know, creating a great place to work takes focus and action.

But what kinds of actions? What actions can you be implementing that would result in a great place to work.

Well, great places to work often do things that are very unconventional. The action items they implement to be great are out there, but they work. I thought I’d share some of the best ideas I’ve come across along the way.

Consider giving these items to your employees – they are free to you, and they are the gift that keeps on giving:

  • At Zappos everyone spends their first four weeks in the call center. At the end of four weeks they will give you your paycheck check, and a $2,000 bonus, to leave. They figure that some people may be thinking they don’t want to work at Zappos after those four weeks, so they want to encourage them to leave.
  • At Twilio everyone must develop and present an app as part of the hiring process. That is, you must know code whether your job includes code or not. This creates a sense of unity.
  • At Moz the CEO prefers radical honesty, and he writes a personal blog that details everything about the company (and often his personal life too). No secrets. Others often chime in with their own stories. Not to mention, employees feel comfortable being radically honest about their work.
  • At Evernote, where there is a flat corporate hierarchy and communication is key, employees can sign up for Officer Training, and attend meetings in departments they don’t work in.
  • At Twitter, where innovation is obviously required, Quarterly Hack Week lets employees collaborate on crazy ideas they have for the company. Twitter can get all kinds of good ideas from their employees about what they should be doing next,
  • At Continental Airlines, where the customer is not always right, unreasonable customers used to receive a letter from former CEO Herb Kalleher that said, “Dear Mrs. Crabapple, we will miss you. Love, Herb.”
  • Etsy determined it needed a more diverse workforce, so they introduced grants of $5,000 to help women engineers enroll in Hacker University (their course to build better engineers). The number of female applicants went up from 7 to 651.
  • Commerce Science celebrates unity and collaboration through their new hire kits. That is, the last person to join the company creates a “starter kit” for the next one. Kits range from coffee to books to Nerf Guns to jokes…
  • Crowdfire also believes in collaboration. When there’s a new hire, he or she pops a bottle of champagne, and the team then completes a choreographed dance performance in the new hire’s honor. Talk about collaboration!
  • AirBnB focuses on its history as the founders give new hires a tour of the original apartment where they came up with the idea as a means to make their rent.
  • The cleaning product, Method, needs innovation as they create new products and interesting packaging for those products. Employees move cubicles every month. The receptionist and marketing assistant might sit next to each other, while the CFO and a lab tech are also next to each other. At month’s end, SWITCH!
  • In working with Chevron I learned that if a person is not living one of the Chevron values, anyone is allowed to say, “Stop” while putting their hand up. This signals that all other operations must cease and the issue must be resolved before the conversation can proceed. This is a way to keep everyone in check and ensure all operations are conducted with the values in mind.
  • At a company who shall remain nameless, if employees make a mistake they are encouraged to email the CEO detailing what happened. Each Friday the CEO picks the worst, the funniest, the stupidest, whatever it was that week, and gives that person a reward. This encourages trust and communication, as well as allows the company to monitor trends and determine how to address them.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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