When I shared with the team that we’d been nominated for an HR Award for our workplace culture, I’ll admit that I sort of mumbled the ‘HR’ part. That’s because we have an unusual sense of clarity about who owns our culture at Actionable, and it isn’t HR.
When I was in discussion about joining Actionable with our Founder Chris Taylor last year, a huge draw for me was the incredible team he’d put together, and the culture they had built. Attending their team off site in November clinched it: I saw a committed, smart, and kind group of people talking about how much they appreciated being able to bring their whole selves to work. Incredible! When it came time for Chris and I to figure out what my title should be, I made clear that it shouldn’t include the word ‘Culture’—the accountability and credit for building and maintaining Actionable’s unique culture should belong to everyone, not to me.
Since then, we continue to talk regularly about the influence and responsibility each of us has to maintain and scale our organizational culture. It’s not some big, one-time program that makes this happen—it’s how we treat each other every day. That may make it sound easier, but I think the opposite is true. What’s easy is putting values on a lobby wall, or for a CEO to give a big speech at an annual event, or to have a fun photo op to put on your website.
It’s far, far harder to make the decision every day to act in accordance with those values, not just when things are sailing along smoothly, but also when we experience challenges, individually or as a team.
Cultures aren’t broken overnight. They degrade slowly because one, and then two, and then ten team members decide that we’ll let ourselves off the hook today. We let the moment pass in a meeting instead of raising a contentious but necessary question, snap at a colleague, or avoid challenging a questionable project decision. It’s just one momentary choice, right? And we’ve had a tough week, everyone has! Taken alone, it’s completely understandable. But behavior like this spreads, and culture can slide into dysfunction surprisingly fast.
As we recorded our awards ceremony video on Zoom this week, with some flag waving, jazz hands, and an excess of cry-laughing (okay, that was me) I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am. I’m so proud and grateful to be part of a team that understands their role in cultivating the culture that we want and need. I am surrounded by role models every day, and inspired to do my best to live up to the high standard that is set by their behavior and our shared culture. Thank you fellow Actionable team members!
The best way I can showcase that is to share some of their words with you from our team blog:
Sara Saddington, Managing Editor: “I’ve worked in a handful of organizations that claimed to have values. They were written down in the employee handbook and everything. But without action, they were just hollow claims, and had little to no impact on the culture of the workplace. We don’t have this problem at Actionable.”
Andrew Speer, Regional Director: “we make a deliberate effort to get to know each other, even as we work together, virtual shoulder to virtual shoulder, to improve the world of work for everyone. In a way, our physical distance makes this kind of deeply personal sharing even more possible. In a “normal” office (i.e. your standard office building), most conversations don’t go beyond what you did that weekend. As a very eloquent colleague recently put it: ‘I don’t really care what you did on the weekend, I want to know how you’re making the world a better place, what makes you tick, and what excites you.’”
Alysha DeMarsh, Production Designer: “I don’t work for Actionable in an effort to fulfill a job description and get paid. I work for Actionable in order to be a part of something so much bigger: making the workplace better for everyone, but on a personal level, making it better for people like me. For people who are facing issues that I once faced, for millennials who feel judged or misunderstood by their employers, and for young people who see a change worth making and have a hard time moving forward.”
Gina Meret-Dybenko, Discovery Session Coordinator: “I love waking up, starting my computer and letting the creative juices flow. I am encouraged to get involved in projects that span across departments. Everyone trusts that I will get the job done correctly, on my own schedule. If I have an idea or an interest, and can reasonably show how it will positively impact the company, I can take the initiative and own the project. I don’t feel like I am working under someone, I feel like I am working with a collaborative group of equals. I am challenged and engaged, and I want to learn and contribute.“
Anna Schmohe, Sr Graphic Designer: “While the fast pace and results-oriented culture was certainly striking (and felt noticeably different than many organizations), what stood out the most was the culture. The team was truly invested—in their work and in each other. Frequent discussions, questions, new strategies and planning. Full speed ahead on the right-now projects without losing sight of the long-term vision. Genuine. Honest. Responsive. Inclusive. They were (and are!) passionate about their partnership with consultants and making a dent in the learning and development universe”
Cristina Melnik, Digital Marketing Manager: “Knowing that I had independence from day one at Actionable motivated me to work hard right away—I didn’t want to lose the faith that my team leader had in my abilities. This sense of autonomy, trust, and camaraderie ties in perfectly with the core values that underline the Actionable Culture. At Actionable, these simple values permeate everything we do. We are a collaborative team, with a no door policy (even more access that a mere open-door policy), doing work that matters! We work independently with trust in our fellow teammates to pull together and execute on projects as a team. “
Nikki Barrett, Regional Director: “…it’s crystal clear what Actionable’s culture is and what behaviors would run counter to that. Everybody here embraces the values and walks them daily.”
Anna Brooks, Integration Coach: “At Actionable, we embrace the idea that our collective brains are better together and any idea, big or small, is listened to and considered (even if only briefly), which allows for efficient and also creative brainstorming leading to action. A few weeks into my job, I was told by our Founder, after sharing a bit of a brain-dump, that some of the best ideas we’ve had as an organization grew out of an idea that was a kernel of inspiration (just like that brain-dump). Overall, we work in an environment where we’re given the opportunity to connect with meaning—our own personal understanding and manifestation of this, from a professional perspective, and as part of the community we interact with.”
The 2017 HR Awards take place on September 14th, 2017. We at Actionable are deeply honored to be a finalist for the Ultimate Software Award for Best Workplace Culture. Thank you to the HR Awards, the awards judges, and our fellow finalists. May we inspire great workplace cultures everywhere!