When we talk about culture at work, there are a lot of buzzwords thrown around, but how do you actually achieve a truly culture-driven organization?
In this article, I’ll share my experiences at Mentimeter discussing culture and core values, how we work with them, how we build employee engagement, and how we create a collaborative culture.
My name is Anna Gullstrand, I'm VP of People at Mentimeter, a SaaS company from Sweden, and we are reaching 100 million users globally.
I'm the proud author of a management book on facilitation and also a board member of a company called Strawbees that's into learning and development for kids.
I'm going to talk about:
- Culture and core values and how we work with them at Mentimeter.
- How we build employee engagement, and
- How we create a collaborative culture.
How many employees are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace?
Think about what your best guess would be.
This research is from Gallup, in their State of the Global Workplace report which they do every year. It shows that only 15% are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace - highly engaged.
Only 15% globally and the numbers for Europe are more or less the same. So as leaders working in a company, we have some serious work to do here.
Why is this important?
If you have a highly engaged team, and you compare that to the companies with lower engagement, you actually have 21% greater profitability.
We work very consciously with culture and our core values at Mentimeter. We check in on ourselves at weekly team meetings and ask how the culture that we created together actually makes us feel?
We did this with 83 participants a few weeks ago, and 'happy', 'safe', 'included', 'good', and 'proud' were the biggest words.
This is also the reason why we're working so hard with our culture - we want our people to have high levels of well-being, have a happy life, feel safe, feel included so they can be the best version of themselves at work.
This is truly why we are working so intensively with our company culture.
We focus on intrinsic motivation
When I had to think about what we actually do and what our strategy is, I would say that we focus a lot on what's called intrinsic motivation.
Basically, we have extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. The intrinsic one is the motivation you feel while doing something. While extrinsic motivation is about wanting to actually reach some kind of end result.
What we focus on a lot is the theories on intrinsic motivation, and what we know about our social needs and our brain. What we need to feel engaged and safe.
Studies show we all want to feel that we have high competence and that we have high status.
Also that we learn new things, and become better and better at what we do. That is an important aspect.
Another is autonomy, which means all people want to be able to affect the future and be part of deciding what's going to happen next. So we work a lot with self-leadership and allow people to make decisions as close to the teams as possible.
Theory talks about relatedness - how important it is to connect with other people and feel togetherness. That is something we work with a lot, including everyone, and being humble.
Purpose is about the feeling of meaningfulness, and that you can have an impact and do something meaningful and important. That's what we try to highlight in all our projects, and also with our product.
So we did quite extensive work on the why of Mentimeter and the importance of making all voices heard. This is something that motivates us to build a product to help more people be heard in different teams and in society as a whole.
Google had a survey that showed all the high-performing teams have a high degree of psychological safety. So everyone wants to build that.
Bring your whole self to work
We want people to be able to bring their whole self to work, we want them to know that it's okay to ask questions and to not know certain things.
Checking in on each other
We are creating a culture where we check in on each other.
Thoughts AND emotions
It's important we can express both thoughts and emotions.
Assume good intent
When someone is doing something or sending a message, we should trust each other and assume good intent. This is a great starting point to feeling safer with each other.
Mentimeter core values
As I mentioned, we have five core values that we are working with.
- Include everyone
- Have fun
- Be humble
- Work smart, and
- Embrace responsibility
What we highlight all the time is that results are one thing, but your behavior to reach those results - how you collaborated or communicated - is equally important.
Our core values are present all the time in our one-to-ones, in our 360 feedback we do twice a year. We try to have this balance all the time when we talk about salaries and those kinds of things too.
Above you'll see, how we've actually used Mentimeter to check in on our core values. Everyone rated Mentimeter as a whole in relation to those values, and as you can see we rate ourselves over four, except on working smarter, which was only 3.4, so that's where we need to discuss how we can improve.
We use this as a starting point for discussion and self-reflection.
Around the year
This is how we work around the year.
Relocation for 30 days
We relocate once a year, although that's changed of course, with COVID. But otherwise, we actually move our whole company one month a year to another European city.
We call it optional inclusive; you can go or not go. The people who don't want to go stay and work at the office, or they work remotely. But basically, we want to explore new things together, build this relatedness together, be more creative when we meet new surroundings.
When you see your colleagues in new surroundings, you also get new ideas.
So we build and nurture relationships on those trips.
360 with a focus on core values and performance
Then, we have this culture check-in twice a year, where we give feedback to each other based on how we behave in relation to core values.
Access to leadership coach for all employees
We also have a leadership coach that every employee has access to.
Weekly: Friday reflections, team reflections, one to one feedback
And of course, a lot of things we do all the time, like Friday reflections, team reflections, and one-to-one feedback with your line manager every week.
One thing that's important for engagement is that people feel certain of what's happening or what's going to happen. To create some sense of certainty, we work with transparency.
Basically, if someone wants to keep something a secret or only tell a small team, we always question, why is that? Why can't we share this information?
Including everyone is the base, and there are never any hidden agendas. Actually, for a lot of our meetings, you can just click on the calendar invite and go to the meeting notes if you're curious about what we talked about. Or if the CEO had some kind of presentation for the board, we share it just a few days afterward, and so on.
We work a lot with transparency. Quite often at our big team meetings where we have 110 employees, we use ‘ask me anything’.
For example, above is a picture of Johnny, and it's ‘ask me anything’, so you can just send in any question. People will literally ask him anything. For example:
- How many black t-shirts do you have?
- What do you think our biggest challenge right now is? Or
- Will Mentimeter be listed on the stock exchange?
It's super important for us that you can ask whatever, whenever. Sometimes people have the answers and sometimes they don't.
We also work a lot with appreciation. This is to build psychological safety and relatedness.
Praise channel in Slack
A few years back, we introduced the praise channel in Slack. This is a channel that's only used for praising other people. Often people will also lift up what that person has done, and thank them.
Love bombing threads
We also have a lot of love bombing threads, where we encourage positive behavior. This is related to positive psychology; we want to reinforce positive behavior and focus on that because then in turn we get more positivity, instead of just focusing on negative behavior.
We have Friday reflections every week. We ask questions like, "who are you grateful for today?" Or "who do you want to thank this week?" and you send in your answer.
Then your task is to go to that person and tell them face to face.
Co-worker experience team
One part of our culture is our co-working experience team.
Build informal networks
The purpose of their job is to constantly build informal networks. Because, of course, when a company is growing, suddenly people start to work more in silos and it's impossible to know everyone and where to access information.
But, when we make sure that people actually meet each other in different ways, we build these informal networks, and then the information will flow.
This is super important for innovation and creativity and also for building trust, as well as the psychological safety I talked about before.
This spring, we got our first full-time chef. She's cooking vegan food for everyone. Of course, now, a lot of people are working remotely so we have that as a big obstacle. But the plan is when Corona is over, all our employees are going to get vegan food every day.
Surprises and novelty
We work a lot with surprises and novelty. We are always challenging ourselves, how can we do this differently? What could be a surprise? Then we build our culture around that. You never know what's going to happen on Zoom or at the office.
Cater for serendipity
You may have a conversation with someone when you were in a book club, or when you were having a coffee or an ice cream and turned into a new feature or maybe a marriage; you never know.
Summary: how we create engagement at Mentimeter
We focus on intrinsic motivators in our work, and we are very culturally driven.
We pay extra attention to psychological safety and radical transparency.
We do a lot of exponential appreciation and we work consciously with our co-worker experience.