We like to think of ourselves as a big family. In the early years at BambooHR, everyone knew a little bit about what was going on with each others’ jobs because everyone sat in the same room together. But over the past few years, things have changed a little (actually, a lot). As the company matured and grew, departments split up into different areas of the building. (Remember how hard it was to keep up with your siblings after you all moved out and started your own adventures?) It became more difficult to know exactly what was going on with whom because instead of 10 employees, there were 170 (and growing).
We had to figure out how to keep Bamboo feeling like a family. So here’s what we did:
Water Cooler Chat
When everyone in your company is together all the time, it’s easy to connect. When they’re spread across multiple offices (even if those offices are in the same building), it’s not so simple. Most coworkers like to show support for each other in and outside of work, but how are you supposed to know that your coworker bought a new house, lost a parent or got a new puppy if you never talk to them? So encourage people to catch up and chit-chat around the water cooler. Chances are, your employees know when it’s time to get back to work. But it’s important employees have this chance to keep and develop friendships with coworkers throughout the company. Sometimes different employees in our company will swing by another department specifically for the purpose of saying, “Hi,” and checking in. A few people even encourage this by keeping treats (like candy or a popcorn machine) close by for others to come snack while catching up.
We do a couple different kinds of meetings to bring our people together:
· Monthly company updates: These last about an hour and happen once a month. Our work-from-home teams are welcome to come in or watch it from their homes since we broadcast it. We get a quick overview about what different departments are doing, play a couple games, talk about what’s going on at the company, and eat a catered lunch together. It’s a great time and keeps us all connected and informed.
· Bi-annual company meetings: Everyone (and we mean everyone, even our out-of-the-country employee) meets up at a cool location in Utah for these meetings. Departments get jumbled up sitting at different tables. (We divide employees up on purpose so they get to know people they don’t typically work with). We eat breakfast and lunch together. We teambuild. We get inspired. And it really helps us build new relationships and remember that we really are one big team.
Everyone in the company might not need to know the specific details of what each team is up to every month, but the leaders in the company should probably know. That’s why we do update emails. At the end of every month, people from different departments assemble the highlights of cool wins accomplished by their department. Then they send them out to the leadership team. It’s cool when the marketing manager can high-five that salesperson who closed the huge account. And they wouldn’t be able to do that if they didn’t know about the accomplishments of each department.
The CEO can’t meet with 170 people each month to check-in anymore. But using one-on-ones makes it possible for everyone to meet with someone to check-in about different aspects of work each month. Our employees meet with their managers regularly, who then meet with their managers and so on. We don’t have a super complicated org. chart, but it works really well when the supervisor who works most closely with each employee is able to discuss work concerns and encourage development often, then report to those higher up. This way, the CEO doesn’t need to meet with everyone in order to keep his finger on the pulse of the organization. Once a month our CEO and COO also have lunch with a few employees without their manager present to talk about what’s really going on in their department.
This is the best way to keep your employees close as your company grows. Thanking each other builds rapport. So encourage employees to recognize each other. Help your executive team know who deserves a pat on the back. Look for every opportunity you can to show some sincere gratitude, even if you don’t know the specifics anymore. Just because you aren’t sitting by the development team anymore doesn’t mean you can’t notice that they’re working harder on better products than they ever have in the past. Simply take a few minutes to look around your office and notice those small things—they’ll make a big difference in the relationship you have with others.