It’s all connected. And if you’re at the top, it starts with you.

Sam Baber, Principal Consultant at Talent Experience Agency, says that talent experience is critical to the health and growth of a company’s mission. Moreover, he believes employees should expect something more than just an everyday job.

But how do companies move from a dispassionate, numbers-driven machine to a robust atmosphere of united brand and personal employee edification?

Remember, it starts with leadership.

We all know that leadership plays an integral role in building corporate culture, but growing access to data and metrics provides tangible displays that not only show this reality, but can serve as catalysts to inspire leaders to engage with employees for the betterment of their business.

Information won’t solve the problem, but it could inspire the type of engagement that starts down the road towards enablement and retention.

Making Data Work For You

Data is tricky.

It’s like any tool, really. In the hands of a seasoned veteran who knows exactly how to use it and fully understands its purpose — and also what it’s not meant for — it can revolutionize the task at hand.

Unfortunately, when one is holding a hammer everything tends to look like a nail.

This is particularly true of using data to show the importance of culture creation and, perhaps more importantly, what changes a company needs to undergo to make substantial cultural improvements.  

“You’ve gotta have someone from a data analytics perspective who understands how to interpret it,” Sam says, “And also how to tell a story that’s truthful and also give it some action.”

What do you have in hand when you walk into a meeting with your CEO?

If it’s a spreadsheet with a bunch of indecipherable numbers that resembles yet another accounting sheet, you’re doomed before you began.


However, when leadership finally slows down a minute to take a look, the key is having access to really good, smart, clean data.

Sam says that it may take some time, but having someone there to interpret data in a correct, clear way is an invaluable way to inform leadership’s view (and involvement) in cultural change.

Good and accurate data versus a good hunch can be a difference maker.

Walk the Talk

Sam often starts culture building by asking leaders to examine the traits of the people who led them throughout their career.

“What are the positive traits you remember today about the best leaders or managers you’ve had in your career?” he asks.  

“What are the traits of the worst people you’ve worked for?”


Someone’s watching you and someone’s judging you. Legacy matters.

As a leader, which of these people do you want to be?

You won’t be perfect. You’ll make mistakes and have bad days. But just as you remember the faces of the most impactful leaders you’ve encountered — positive and negative — employees will remember you.

The bar for leadership needs to get higher. We live in a world where the bar is constantly being pushed down.

On one hand, it’s just a job. On the other hand, it’s people’s lives.

The Novel Concept of Communication

Over and over again we talk about how important communication is in a work environment.

It will be something we revisit for eternity. That’s how important it is!

Sam looks at that connective tissue from first contact all the way to exit interview. It’s all connected.

From a performance perspective, there’s nothing that will replace the intimate one-to-one where you’re really engaged in the conversation.


An employee should be getting in the car or on the subway on a Friday afternoon and know, based on conversations with their leader through constant dialogue and openness, where they stand and what they need to do to get better, what wins they have, and what the challenges are coming up.

We start with data, but one-on-ones are essential. It’s difficult to have something concrete without the data, which informs strategy. But the vulnerability and clarity from personal communication is where the impact is made.

It’s all only on paper until you’ve had your first conversation.

Sam encourages us to pose difficult questions, but asks us to remember that creating a healthy culture in which to ask these questions is key.  

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Symbols connect to us emotionally.

They’re powerful tools in relating ideologies that convey, challenge, and create culture.

Gabe Krajicek, CEO at Kasasa, uses them to communicate a powerful cultural message that changes the work environment.

Learning the Value of Culture

Gabe attributes the beginning of his business culture understanding to his father.

His dad was a thought leader in an industry where you’d least expect it, but was a man who loved his employees and taught his son that leading employees meant more than just paying them to do a job.

It was about having compassion for human beings that you have a duty to take care of.

It’s difficult to place an ROI on culture, but it undoubtedly impacts your business in a positive way.

Gabe found himself outside his element in his first leadership role at Dealerskins, but he knew what he could do was create a great culture.

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This was more than values; it was a direction and a “why.

Connecting your employees with the company’s reason to exist is where the values find their purpose and the people find their motivation.

And even then, without a robust understanding of how culture is perpetuated, it turns out that no amount of love and respect can save a culture that isn’t sustained when the key catalyst departs.

When he moved to the company we now know as Kasasa, Gabe quickly realized that it wasn’t enough to simply build great culture, but that this culture needed to transcend and outlive him.

Pursuing Great Culture

Gabe outlined four principles that help guide his employees in the workspace both as they interact with one another and engage their roles. They call the symbol for this the “Patch.”


This is where respect lives. Caring for others is one of the first principles and permeates the value system. Kindness is a key factor in work relationships.


For Kasasa, interdependence was originally symbolized by the skull and crossbones the pirate band formed together to pillage and plunder but eventually became a Spartan helmet to symbolize the strength of a phalanx.

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Five Star Leadership

They expect results, just like a general at war. It seems often that values tend to dismiss the fact that this is a business. Incorporating this is key.


Great work is a necessity; capable adults do work they’re proud of. There’s nowhere to hide from bad work ethic.

There’s wisdom in the disharmony of these attributes, Gabe says. Although they’re deliberately designed to interact with one another, these attributes don’t always sync perfectly.

This requires wisdom from employees.

Sustaining Culture

Gabe learned from past experiences.

He tells us the key components that would sustain this culture even if he walked away:

There has to be across-the-board executive buy in.

“You see cultures that are locked in the 1980’s despite having great people,” Gabe says.

He’s seen situations where innovative people come to him or others frustrated because executives are unchanging.

You need a very clear sense of why you company needs to exist.

What greater good are you doing in the world?

While a paycheck may meet basic needs, in order to tap into what motivates people to give you their very best creativity they must feel that their work matters.

The way you create purpose in their minds is to give them the reason the company needs to exist.

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Implement the changes.

It’s very important to know that this isn’t done all at once. Moreover, trying things that don’t work too often or over experimentation creates doubt. Gabe tries to avoid implementing too many things at one time.

Create onboarding programs.

Gabe sits down with each new hire to talk to them over a cup of coffee about the company’s history and why it’s important. He also gets to know them.

They’ve also tried to create programs where employees can have an active voice in things like hiring and benevolence. It can’t all be about the CEO. It works so much better when employees raise their hand and say this is a problem they’re going to solve.

Throughout all of this, Gabe continually stresses the value of communicating directly with employees.

“I noticed the closer I was with somebody, the better they thought I was at my job,” Chris observes, “And the less I knew them, the worse they thought I did.”

People are more likely to fill in gaps with someone they don’t know because humans have a natural propensity to protect themselves.

Gabe tries to have a “lean into style” where he spends as much time as as possible explaining why he made certain decisions.

In the end, you’re in charge and you must make the difficult calls. However, the manner in which you do this not only instills faith or doubt in your employees, but certainly informs the culture you’re attempting to create.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Gabe Krajicek from Kasasa. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to What Culture Could Be: Cracking the Company Culture Code.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can find other listening options here.


If it’s good, your company thrives.

If it’s not, it can be more than detrimental. It can lead to disaster.

When building a company, how do you simultaneously build a culture that will stand the test of time?

We had the opportunity to sit down with serial entrepreneur and CEO/Co-founder of, Brett Hurt, to learn what processes he’s created to come out on the other side with a culture that you can be proud of.

Building it Right the First Time

How do you build the foundation of a right culture?

It starts simply by hiring good people.

As Brett said, “The raw materials are ultimately the people that you have in the company. It’s a combo of partnering with the right co-founders, if you have them, and finding the right people for your team.”

After forming several companies, Brett has come up with a few tools in his toolbox to help in building culture.

One unique tactic that he uses is to “pressure test” every candidate. Placing them through a tougher than average interview process does a variety of things, but mainly it allows them to test for passion.

Brett added, “We ask ourselves, is it really just about the money and the glamour of working for a tech company, or is the cause really just as important to them? He went on to say, “Money motivation is not going to take you through the tough times, but passion will.”

This is the single most important thing you can do to build a stand up culture.

Another thing that you can do to secure a good culture is to check references.

This is especially important when it comes to senior positions.

Many times, checking references is overlooked when a candidate has considerable career experience. As Brett explained, “It’s a natural mistake to make because you think, ‘how could they not be great?’ I’ve done myself a disservice many times by not checking up front.”

Founders really need to talk about this and be honest and diligent in vetting all candidates, not just the junior level ones.

How to Prioritize?

As a serial entrepreneur of several companies, Brett has a depth of experience in building culture and hiring people. We wanted to know if the same toolkit is used regardless of company size when it comes to prioritizing your people?

Short answer is yes.

No matter what the size of your company, it comes down to this:

  • It’s how you hire. Put them through the “pressure test” and make sure they have the passion.
  • It’s how you fire. If you don’t take action on the “brilliant jerk” and continue to keep him on the team, your values will eventually start to erode.
  • It’s how you promote. If you end up promoting someone who is not a good fit or or someone who is just not ready, you have to “pressure test” them to see if they are ready and willing to take on that responsibility.

Performance Reviews Matter

How you do performance reviews is key. Brett has developed a process called the “3-3-1.” It’s a simple but effective formula that his entire organization uses.

It’s the three things that you do really well.

The three things you think you could have done better.

And then the one thing that you’re going to take action on.

This formula provides a nice balance of positive praise, constructive criticism and taking action.

Look to HR for a Hint Into a Company’s Culture

Trying to figure out what a company’s culture is like? Brett said there is usually one giveaway: Look to where the head of HR reports.

“If HR is reporting to the CEO or COO chances are the company has good culture. On the other hand, if HR is buried in the reporting structure, then the resources given to them could be limited and the CEO probably does not directly engage and is not vocal in leading the charge for culture,” he explained.

Mistakes Made Along the Way

When asked what mistakes he’s made and what he could share with us, Brett was very transparent.

He mentioned introducing a process where all of the team members would rate management on whether they were living the core values of the company on a 1-5 scale. The whole process was anonymous which seemed to be a good idea in the beginning, but proved to be much more detrimental.

“The process was anonymous and what it led to was some of our directors breaking down wanting to know who gave the feedback so that they could talk with them. I wanted to be authentic in this process, but that’s not what it ended up being,” he told us.  

Ultimately, he changed the process to allow people the option of identifying themselves. As a result, 90% of people decided to name themselves. This made a world of difference, allowing full transparency and becoming a catalyst for change on so many levels.

This lesson and many others taught Brett to be diligent in the hiring processes.

For instance, he told us that he checked seven references on a single board member. And he’s known him for 17 years. Brett exclaimed, “Because I’ve taken the time to set these measures in place, I’ve been successful in creating the culture that is desired. No longer are assumptions made.”

Is it the case that when you have a hiring process that’s so intense, you test someone’s passion? When a candidate gets through the process, you have an immediate bond.

Brett agreed by saying, “I would have those that I hired tell me after they went through the process that they could feel the culture. Because of this, you get the best people, you grow and the opportunity cost is maximized.”

Want to hear more on Brett’s thoughts surrounding culture? Click here to find this episode anywhere you listen to podcasts.

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How much does culture matter?

Does an investment in people ever yield a meaningful ROI?

Culture may contribute more to your bottom line than you can imagine.

Building a work culture where employees actively feel valued and understand how their individual contribution benefits the company is vital to engagement, and, ultimately profitability.

Our guest this week on the What Culture Could Be podcast was Jon Cook, CEO of VML. Jon, like most of the senior leadership at VML, has been with the company for more than 22 years; a feat he attributes directly to the company’s inclusive and empathetic culture.

Here are the highlights from our chat with Jon as he gave us the rundown on what kind of culture a business has to have for long-standing retention and growth during market uncertainty.

The Strength of Diversity

For the last 23 years, VML has held a company meeting at 9am on a Tuesday morning in their head office in Kansas City.

It’s been a continued tradition that brings employees together and is a cultural mainstay of that location, so Jon and his team were puzzled when they found that their global VML offices weren’t getting the same work-culture response from those meetings as they had in Kansas City.

In fact, many of the practices and traditions that worked in the United State’s midwest weren’t translating the same way in offices located in places like NYC or Tokyo.

What they quickly had to learn was that, in order to foster culture, they had draw from the underlying DNA of VML’s culture, particularly from their core values such as togetherness and sharing. Each location had to find their own expression of those values, rather than try to mimic culture by replicating what worked for one specific location.

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Says Jon, “It’s one of our strengths, having so many offices in the US. We have to let the advantages that come with so many locations outweigh the work it takes to keep up a unified culture.”

There is a balance that has to be achieved of individual office culture and a central, company culture and it happens through time and, often, trial and error. The common thread, though, needs to be shared core values, expressed in the most appropriate way for each unique location.

A Culture Based on Empathy and Inclusiveness

VML was hit hard during the economic downturn, as were so many others in the industry.

Logically speaking, one of the easiest and most tangible ways to cut back on spending is to put the reins on travel expenses, but, in those years, VML actually doubled their travel budget.

Never has anyone said ‘It was a mistake to get together and talk in person.’

— Jon Cook, CEO, VML

In a difficult and unsettling time, VML placed a priority on bringing their people together even more, fulfilling one of their core values. At that time, it was a big decision that came with a lot of risks, but ended up paying off and VML grew during a period when their industry did not.

There’s always pressure to reduce spending, and to cancel things like celebrations and parties, but those events are important. It’s important to put a premium put on values like empathy and inclusiveness.

“I’m proud of fighting for those things — they contribute to not only a great culture, but a great business.”

A Forum For Impact

At VML, there is a company culture and an expectation that it’s not only your job to bring your whole self to work, it’s also your job to help those around bring their whole selves, too.

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VML wants to know what their people enjoy doing when they’re not at work, for no reason other than, if you’re doing something outside of work that makes you truly happy, usually, you love it and are good at it — and that is something that VML can capitalize on.

For example, they discovered one of their employees was a stand-up comic on the side and saw his potential to bring value to one of their major clients through that talent and moved him to their social media team, which scored a huge win for their client.

It’s a core value that asks, “What are you good at? What are you passionate about? How do we leverage you that so you’re more engaged and you benefit as well?”

VML wants to bring in those things that people love in their personal lives and put it to use at work.

As Jon says, if they can’t create an environment for their employees to bring their whole selves to work, then there’s nothing that sets them apart from anyone else in the industry.

They have created, and continue to create, a forum where their people know, believe, and see the proof that they, as individuals, have the ability to impact their company. It’s a forum that feeds into a culture of inclusiveness and empowerment.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Jon Cook from VML. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to What Culture Could Be: Cracking the Company Culture Code.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can find other listening options here.

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Employees seem to build two personalities:
the person they are at home and who they are at work.  

From an HR and supervisor leader perspective, we have to get a bit more intimate with our teams; engaging in more meaningful conversations with them around the work and what their needs are and taking the time to listen.

Every single day, people walk into their offices, their places of business, and have a vastly different experience within their work environment than they do outside their work environment.

— John Sigmon, Founder and CEO, Sigmon Leadership Solutions

There are so many things an organization can do to make the transition less abrupt.

In a recent episode we chatted with John Sigmon, the Founder and CEO of Sigmon Leadership Solutions. He encourages business leaders to be aware of their external and internal message and “bring the outside in” as part of a mentality to engage employees more effectively.

The formula is: Listen + Ask = Engagement

Are your employees actively engaged in a mutual mission, one that blends together the company’s directive with that of employee’s own personal goals?

Or are they looking at work as a means to an end?

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John tells us that breathing life back into the employee experience means recognizing the disparity that exists between your external life and what goes on inside the company.  

For example, employers will always say, “Employees are our greatest asset.” They’ll put it in their strategic plan or corporate documents. However, the “proof is in the pudding” when it comes to metrics.

Companies like Veritas Learning who see their employees as innovators — listening and taking ideas into account — are having great success with engagement.

Those organizations are going to make a difference and win in the future workforce. Those that refuse to acknowledge it or fail to change will fail.

Invest In Management

We’re not only talking about money. Although this is a great place to invest funds, expand the possibilities when considering the resources at your disposal.  

People are enamored with leadership development. However, while studies show that the 24-30 billion dollars we spend on leadership development has a nominal impact on our organization, employee engagement is an often free and proven way of profoundly impacting business success.

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Think of it in a more integrated way rather than something that’s carved out or special. You can build in a coaching-type conversation that is integrated into all the other things that you’re doing.

When John was asked about thought leaders that had led him and greatly impacted the manner in which he leads today, he immediately recalled two people who had a profound impact on him — Erma Hoffman and David Walker.  

While these two individuals stood out to John in unique ways, Erma for her graceful flexibility and David for his poise under pressure, both impacted his ability to be comfortable in his position, affected his development as an employee and future leader in positive ways, and served as a testament to what great managers can do in a business setting.

As a manager, John likes to focus on this key thing:

Imagine what this employee will be saying at dinner tonight to their family about this conversation you had with them.

No matter what the conversation, treating people with respect and dignity in a way that reveals empathy is very important.  

Reduce the Noise

In the absence of policy employees get to use judgement.

John recalled a position where they reduced the number of policies from 140 to 13. Expecting managers and employees to make judgement calls is sometimes difficult in a setting where we have so much to do, especially when people seem married to the certainty of following someone else’s policy.

It’s clearly a little extreme, but organizations should be looking at policies that exist within a box — a framework. Businesses should have policies that are:

  • Legally required or that protect us from some extraordinary legal risk.  
  • Ethically responsible.
  • Demanded by employees.

If they don’t fall into one of those three categories, John says you should get rid of them.

Expecting this level of decision making forces you into discussion, creating a more intimate environment where the manager and the employee talk about how the organization’s and individual’s needs align.

It also tends to lead to a setting where we listen to employees. Businesses can struggle to innovate because they’re locked in an “industrial production line” sort of mentality. The people who are your best innovators are often right down the hall. Allowing them some space shows that you’re treating them less like an expense item.

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John recommends an open line of communication where employees can give and receive feedback. Similar to many social media systems, it carries a lot of weight.

He says that this is very meaningful and sometimes frustrating, but it’s frustrating for the right reasons. Having the flexibility and platform to respond to employee feedback in real time is very difficult, but also very important for a dynamic work environment.

Finally, John talks about “Expanding the Possibilities.” The trust created in this new culture leads to an environment where binary decisions can be supplemented by creative additional options. It statistically improves their likelihood of success and draws from a culture that has a new and fresh breath of air.


This post is based on a podcast interview with John Sigmon, Founder and CEO of Sigmon Leadership Solutions. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to What Culture Could Be: Cracking the Company Culture Code.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can discover other listening options here.

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Is your employee engagement survey lying to you?

You could be missing out on vital feedback simply by asking the “easy” questions which can leave many of your employees feeling unheard and unnoticed and leaving you with skewed engagement results.

Creating opportunities for your employees to feel empowered to be honest and transparent about their needs and your shortfalls is a major step toward building a work culture where your employees thrive.

Thriving employees are eager to arrive at work.

Thriving employees will go the extra mile for your customers.

Thriving employees make your job as their leader so much easier.

We recently sat down with Lee Burbage, Chief People Officer at The Motley Fool, to talk about how his company utilized data-driven, honest engagement feedback as a culture-shifting, people-empowering catalyst.

Here are the highlights from what he had to say.

Creating A Culture That Benefits Both Company And Employee

Ever wondered what’s in the water at places like Google that make them such desirable long-term employers?

Hint: it’s not the compensation.

It’s their culture.

These are employers whose company culture meets the following criteria — a recipe for thriving employees, if you will:

  1. Employees are challenged every day
  2. Employees work with people they love
  3. Employees have autonomy
  4. Employees have a purpose they can believe in

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Companies who are able to meet these culture criteria have employees willing and able to deliver and do great things for both the company and their customers.

They are companies where people want to work, want to stay, and clearly understand how their roles fulfil the greater purpose everyone is working toward.

How Employee Feedback Redefined The Fool Culture

After a series of glowing employee engagement surveys, Burbage and other managers at The Motley Fool felt something was missing and decided to dig a bit deeper to expand on the feedback they had already received from their employees.

They rolled out new engagement surveys with more data points to try to cast light on the few areas they thought needed more attention and immediately began to see where the company was falling short in taking care of its employees.

One of the biggest gaps in culture was a lack of autonomy and employees who didn’t feel a sense of empowerment in their roles.

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From that honest and transparent feedback, The Motley Fool decided to do away with performance reviews, boosting worker autonomy, while helping employees better understand how their roles served the company purpose.

It took time, but this massive change was the catalyst the company needed to begin shifting their culture to one that valued and embraced the individual’s role to autonomously deliver on the company purpose.

Why Your Employees Should Be Asking You For A Raise

The Motley Fool recently rolled out “Ask For A Raise Day”, giving every employee in the business a chance to make their case for why they should be making more money. Every person who asks gets at least a small increase, regardless of how compelling their argument is.

The initiative created was after employee feedback indicated people felt like the company culture discouraged discussions on compensation between employees and their managers.

While it might seem counterproductive to just give out the extra cash, what they’ve found is the practice is empowering their employees to evaluate how their work is delivering on the greater purpose of the company (to help boost their argument and, hopefully, their salary).

It’s another intentional step The Motley Fool have taken towards shifting their company culture — one which they expect to see a high return on investment.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Lee Burbage from The Motley Fool. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to What Culture Could Be: Cracking the Company Culture Code.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.

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How do you create a culture where people stay longer and customers are happier?

Especially with today’s young workforce in many technology companies, where the grass may seem greener on the other side or the next big career move is around the next corner, how can you retain top talent?

It starts with two important aspects of employee life, and life in general, for that matter:

  1. Meaning
  1. Connection

Pete Hess, CEO of Lithium Technologies, recently chatted with us on the What Culture Could Be Podcast, and his first-hand insights into creating a culture of teamwork and long-term tenure were valuable for teams large and small.

From his first major promotion to a management position after proving himself to be a high-performing salesperson to serving as CEO at two successful software companies, Hess shared valuable lessons in managing people and creating a culture of putting employees first.

Amazing Employee Experiences Lead to Happy Customers

While working at Advent software, Hess was faced with leading a team and wisely sought the advice of the then CEO, Stephanie DiMarco.

His desire to find some direction on what it takes to manage people was met with sage advice:

Focus on the success of your team and the success of your customers, and the results will follow.

Hess learned that focusing on the people working for him and beside him created a tight-knit team that lead to long tenure among the management team (and the entire organization) at Advent. When relationships were developed deeper, people tended to stay longer.

How Do You Retain Good Talent Today?

In the fast-paced workplace today with current generations in the workforce often switching jobs and companies every 3-5 years, is it even possible to achieve the type of tenure Hess and his team at Advent were able to realize?

Despite what others might say, there certainly is reason for hope.

Hess compared their approach at Advent to that of a farm system used by Major League Baseball teams. They hired young, invested a lot of training into new hires, promoted internally as much as possible, and tried to minimize outside hires at the executive level.

He shared how he often pointed out to his younger employees that staying put a little longer can actually be a good thing for their careers. By learning and growing within a company and a team that they have become familiar with, their development will actually increase at an even faster rate.

During the Dot-Com Boom (and Bust), Hess saw many employees leave Advent and eventually come back when their new opportunity didn’t exactly pan out.

It was there he learned a valuable lesson in putting employees first and what it means to the brand of your organization:

How you treat employees (and even former employees) affects your business, your culture, and your brand.

Hess described a phenomenon that became known as “boomerang” employees that left and then came back to Advent (even multiple times).

By treating employees who left the company with respect, even holding regular alumni events that celebrated current and former employees, the company was able to bring back top talent that went searching for a better opportunity elsewhere.


Creating a Culture Where People Want to Stay

There are three key components to creating a culture where employees have a strong desire to remain a part of the team:

  1. Help them feel like they’re progressing in their career

Provide opportunities for promotion, added responsibility, and a vision for their personal future, as well as that of the company.

  1. Keep them challenged

When team members become bored, they lose their passion for the work and their team.

  1. Make recognition a regular habit

Even more than recognition for the task at hand, any time you can tie recognition to the daily work being done and the overall mission of the company, you’ll create an environment where people want to stay. Feeling connected to the mission of the organization and feeling like they are contributing to that mission gives your team members a deeper sense of meaning.

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How to Connect Meaning and Mission

All too often, companies (especially those in a high-growth mindset) begin by focusing on the what of their brand:

What are we going to offer?

What is going to be our value proposition?

What are our differentiators?

With this approach, company culture ends up happening by accident.

It may turn out to be a good culture, if there is strong leadership at the top for others to emulate, but it is never well defined or communicated.

You can end up with some pretty good cultures, depending on the circumstance, but it’s accidental. And very often you don’t end up with great cultures…

— Pete Hess, CEO, Lithium Technologies

A better approach, in which you’ll be more in control over the future culture your team will produce is to start with the why and the how of your company, then get to the what.

Hess shared how they tactically approached this concept at Advent.

He created a team of leaders, not just by title, but by responsibility and those with internal influence within the company culture. Through somewhat of an internal think tank, he saw the team discuss the purpose of the organization, including:

WHY they existed

HOW they were going to make a difference

This lead them to define the values that were going to be critical to carrying out the mission that they had come up with together. The flushing out of the mission was not something that happened by the C-Level executives and was simply sent out in an email to the entire organization.

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It had been discussed with passion and open dialogue by various team members at all levels of the organization.

All of this informed the ongoing what of the organization as they approached their day-to-day work.

Continuing to Stoke the Fire

Hess cautioned that even when leaders initiate this healthy sort of internal discussion about the company’s mission and vision, it cannot be a one-time event.

Repetition and continuing to create opportunities for open discussion among the team were critical for his team, Hess shared.

It also took a lot of hard work at being vulnerable.

To passionately discuss sometimes emotional topics like mission, purpose, and meaning, team members have to have a level of trust with one another. This doesn’t happen without everyone on the team having a baseline of understanding and genuine care for one another.

These aspects are what make the real conversations possible about deep topics that impact company culture.

By allowing your team to contribute to the vision of the company, finding ways to connect that to their daily work, and fostering a sense of closeness within your team, you will begin to build a culture where people put forth their best effort.

There is no way this sort of culture will produce unhappy customers.


Your culture, in some ways, enables your whole business to take on the persona that you want, which is your brand.

— Pete Hess, CEO, Lithium Technologies

Then, happy customers will build your brand and your business for years to come.

This post is based on an interview with Pete Hess from Lithium Technologies.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to What Culture Could Be: Cracking the Company Culture Code.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can find other listening options here.

**This news is prior to the combined company’s rebrand to Kazoo in April 2019.**

Leaders in engagement and performance management combine to prioritize the employee experience in today’s workforce


AUSTIN, TX – July 19, 2018 – After receiving a strategic investment from Vista Equity Partners, YouEarnedIt, the leading employee experience Human Resources SaaS technology, today announced they are joining forces with HighGround, a leading real-time performance management and engagement provider, to revolutionize the Human Capital Management industry.

YouEarnedIt started in 2013 with a vision to provide an employee-first solution that would positively impact the employee experience and bottom-line business results across growing organizations. By partnering with HighGround, both organizations can better serve their customers across the SMB and enterprise space with enhanced social recognition, an unparalleled rewards engine, the ability to easily capture the voice of employees, and an industry-leading real-time performance management solution. YouEarnedIt and HighGround will continue to individually operate their award-winning platforms as the companies work to create an unparalleled, integrated talent management solution.

“As we expand our platform to better serve the needs and desires of employees to more deeply engage and have a direct impact on the bottom-line of their organizations, partnering with HighGround to deliver real-time performance management and engagement was a natural next step,” said Autumn Manning, co-founder and CEO of YouEarnedIt. “HighGround’s commitment to people-focused talent solutions and building real-time performance cultures squarely aligns with our mission to positively impact the lives of employees everywhere. Together, we will continue to deliver on our promise to enable customers to build winning cultures, engaged teams, and stronger business results by putting their people first.”

“At HighGround, we never stop looking for ways to help our customers create the most productive teams,” said Andee Harris, CEO of HighGround. “By joining forces with YouEarnedIt, we’re combining two world-class solutions to offer our customers an exceptional opportunity to achieve even more success.”

Achieving an industry-leading customer retention rate, YouEarnedIt works with more than 400 global businesses — from 100 employee companies to global Fortune 100 enterprises — to boost culture and bottom line results through its robust engagement platform that delivers recognition, rewards, incentives, feedback, and team insights. HighGround modernizes traditional HR processes by putting the employee experience first. Its real-time performance management and social recognition platform transforms organizational health by optimizing employee performance, productivity and engagement.

HighGround’s strategic position in the performance management industry merged with innovations from both companies in real-time rewards and recognition will provide a distinct competitive advantage for YouEarnedIt and HighGround customers. Through this partnership, YouEarnedIt and HighGround will gain expanded resources to accelerate their combined product roadmap, deliver innovative solutions to the market, and enable the best possible customer experience.

“We are thrilled to combine the best-in-class rewards and recognition solution with best-in-class performance management to help customers create value for their organizations,” said René Yang Stewart, Principal at Vista Equity Partners and Co-Head of the Endeavor Fund. “Businesses across all sectors face intense competition to attract and retain top talent. By bringing together these two industry leaders, we are helping customers attract and engage the best and brightest employees.”

As leaders in the Human Capital Management industry, YouEarnedIt and HighGround empower businesses to drive meaningful changes in culture, employee engagement, the employee experience, and bottom-line business metrics.

About YouEarnedIt

YouEarnedIt amplifies company culture through its award-winning employee experience platform that delivers engagement, retention, performance management, and improved business metrics. As a dominant force in the HCM market with an industry-leading retention rate, YouEarnedIt partners with more than 400 global organizations to build high-performance cultures and engaged workforces. Founded in 2013, Kazoo continues to revolutionize the employee experience with its platform based on the science of motivation, rewards, and recognition.

About HighGround

HighGround transforms the employee experience to optimize productivity and create a thriving organizational culture. The company’s real-time performance management and engagement platform connects and aligns organizations through employee-driven goals, continuous check-in conversations, peer-to-peer feedback, social recognition and pulse surveys. By bringing all of these people interactions together, it gives leaders an enormous amount of useful insights to make wiser decisions about how to invest in talent. With HighGround, customers like Patagonia, Echo Global Logistics and Allianz have inspired employees to reach their full potential, increasing retention, productivity, customer satisfaction, and ultimately drive bottom line results.

About Vista Equity Partners

Vista Equity Partners, a U.S.-based investment firm with offices in Austin, San Francisco, Chicago, and Oakland with more than $31 billion in cumulative capital commitments, currently invests in software, data and technology-enabled organizations led by world-class management teams with long-term perspective. Vista is a value-added investor, contributing professional expertise and multi-level support towards companies realizing their full potential. Vista’s investment approach is anchored by a sizable long-term capital base, experience in structuring technology-oriented transactions, and proven management techniques that yield flexibility and opportunity in private equity investing. For more information, please visit

Successful entrepreneurs may start with a great idea — but they succeed because they enable innovation, stellar results, alignment to the mission, and a willingness to go into battle together. They win by creating amazing company culture. Great cultures drive exceptional business results, not the other way around. But where can you find company culture examples that deliver winning results?

company culture examples

Listen now

You will find them in the new podcast from our CEO Autumn Manning, What Culture Could Be. In this podcast, you’ll hear how successful organizations around the world have optimized people practices to get big results, what great teams do to win, and how executives create workplaces that are hard to leave.

Company Culture Examples — Why Now?

Great company culture has never been more important.

According the the latest LinkedIn Jobs Report, more than 70% of employees said they would not take a job where there was bad company culture. Bad company culture chased prospective employees away at a higher rate than lower salary (68%) or forgoing a fancy title (27%).

It takes more than ping pong tables and baristas to build a great culture. But what really matters?

In the introductory episode of What Culture Could Be, listeners can expect to take part in a dialog about what culture is and isn’t, and to share in honest conversations around what has worked in certain industries, and what old tools need to be thrown out.

Future episodes will be rich in company culture examples. Each episode features an interview with a founder or executive, a practitioner, or thought leader discussing a variety of topics, including:

So tune in. Get company culture examples. See how you can build a company culture that wins.

About Kazoo:

Kazoo amplifies company culture through its award-winning Continue reading “Cutting-Edge Company Culture Examples: Introducing “What Culture Could Be””

Employee of the Month. Best Safety Record. Salesperson of the Year. When it comes to company awards, nearly every organization makes efforts to nominate, recognize, and reward individuals on an ongoing basis.

In fact, a recent report from WorldatWork found more than 75% of companies have created programs to recognize these sorts of “above and beyond performance.”

Awards are an important part of the employee experience at companies of all sizes, and that’s why today we’re introducing Awards & Nominations on Kazoo.

Awards & Nominations on Kazoo
Introducing Awards & Nominations on Kazoo

Get Started with Kazoo

Create company awards in less time with more impact

In our interviews and research leading up to this feature, we discovered companies face three major problems with award programs:

  • For admins, creating awards and gathering nominations takes too much time.
  • Boosting awareness of awards is difficult, meaning participation is low.
  • Without participation and awareness, awards are less meaningful.

Given these issues, it’s no wonder the way companies handle awards is changing — and HR technology is playing a major role.

WorldatWork notes that the use of tools like intranets and digital notifications for presenting awards has skyrocketed in recent years, while relying on costly one-time events or staff meetings has declined.

The time has never been better to help our customers with their awards programs. The Kazoo platform has already been proven to reduce admin time while increasing employee participation in corporate programs by up to 50% — streamlining awards programs into our platform extends these benefits even further.

By bringing additional features into the Kazoo engagement suite, we are not only reducing the cost and time our customers spend on programs, but also amplifying our vision of driving deeper employee engagement for businesses today.

— Autumn Manning, Co-Founder & CEO, Kazoo

How it works

From “Best Hair in the Office” to “Employee of the Year,” Awards & Nominations enables your organization to easily create, schedule, and run custom awards that reflect your core values, business goals, or company culture in a matter of minutes.

Create awards:Create custom company awards in Kazoo with Awards & Nominations

  • Build a nomination form with a few clicks.
  • Schedule multiple awards at once if needed.
  • Choose who can nominate or be nominated.


Collect and review nominations:

  • Kazoo sets up email reminders and in-app notifications.
  • Employees fill out quick, effective nomination forms.
  • Keep nominations visible to admins only.
  • See real-time results, and download them to analyze or share.


Manage your awards:Manage Awards & Nominations in Kazoo

  • Record winners and keep track of past awards.
  • See the status and details of awards at a glance.
  • Easily edit live or scheduled awards anytime.

What it means for you

What the Kazoo Awards & Nominations feature suite means for you

Awards that take less time to administer.

Nominations that get more participation with your people.

The Kazoo Awards & Nominations feature suite is just one more way we’re making the employee experience more meaningful for our customers.

For more information on Awards & Nominations, view this downloadable PDF. To see Awards & Nominations on the Kazoo platform, request a demo anytime.

Get Started with Kazoo