HBR: Build a Great Company Culture with Help from Technology

Are you making sure employees are challenged, motivated, engaged, and know that they are contributing to the overall success of the company? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Ashley Goldsmith and Leighanne Levensaler

Build a Great Company Culture with Help from Technology

Culture, and how to build and sustain one, is one of the toughest challenges for managers, especially in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive organizations. Every organization wants to create a culture that works from a set of core values, where everybody is on the same page about what’s important, where the company is going, and how it’s going to get there. But what happens when the external competitive environment — and the direction of the company — changes? And what happens as advances in technology constantly change how customers and employees expect to interact with your company? How do you manage the evolution of your company’s culture, and hold on to what makes you great, even as you change and grow?

Here at Workday, these questions have been central to our existence from day one. We were founded in 2005, and our cofounders, Aneel Bhusri and Dave Duffield who were both already highly successful entrepreneurs, understood that any successful culture would be built on a core set of values. For us, those values are employees, customer service, integrity, innovation, fun, and profitability. We are certain that our high customer satisfaction ratings and top spot on many best-place-to-work lists come from our early recognition that culture permeates every sales call, every employee interaction, and every product innovation.

As a provider of cloud-based finance and HR applications designed to help companies change and grow, our customers rightly expect us to lead by example. At the same time, we listen closely to our customers’ business challenges and successes — which in turn helps us change and grow.

While we hold on tightly to our core values, we strive to keep evolving our culture to meet the changing needs of our employees and customers. Perhaps not too surprisingly, technology plays a central role (after all, we’re a technology company). But if you asked most people to list the things that create and maintain a strong company culture, chances are they wouldn’t list technology. We’ve found that you can’t create a culture just through values, new processes, or an organizational restructure. Those things are necessary, but we like to think of values as the beating heart of culture, processes and organizational structure as the brain, and technology as the nervous system that makes sure heart and head are working together to move us forward.

For us, giving our people tools that empower them to work how they want to work — in everything from finding their next career opportunity, to hiring their next employee, to making data-driven day-to-day business decisions — is critical to holding on to the integrity of our culture in a fast-changing environment. This culture of empowerment has helped keep the company true to the core values on which we were originally founded. Here are the main components of that culture, and how they work:

Democratization of information. In their personal lives, people have become accustomed to having access to any piece of information they want at a moment’s notice. This hasn’t always been the case in the workplace. Data was usually kept in the hands of a select few, and extracting and using that data in a meaningful way was a long, painful process. But modern enterprise technologies and applications are pushing access to data and information to the front lines.

One area we see this playing out is within our own HR organization. At Workday, managers don’t have to spend valuable time with HR discussing headcount or status updates on new job openings — they already have this information at their fingertips. Instead, managers can spend their time with HR talking about how to get top performers to the next level, keep people who are at risk of leaving the organization, and align workers to meet business objectives. They can focus on creating value for the business by mobilizing talent.

Another area where this plays out is in hiring. When it comes to recruiting for fast-growing companies, talent acquisition needs to be efficient without sacrificing quality. Our managers can see all interview, resume, and references information in one place from any device, anywhere. Whether sitting on a plane or walking between meetings, a manager can immediately see the hiring team’s feedback and decide whether to move a candidate forward with a tap of their phone.

It’s good for any company to be able to make faster decisions based on immediate access to data, but it’s also good for the candidate — no repeated requests for a resume or work samples, no making them wait longer than necessary for news about next steps. And, with the race for top talent, speed-to-hire is crucial. And this says something to a candidate about our culture right from the start: We move quickly and we respect your time.

This democratization of information also enables greater transparency, which is critical to sustaining a positive culture. For example, we conduct online chat sessions that provide employees with the opportunity to ask our top executives whatever questions are on their minds. This is done in the spirit of keeping employees informed and is at the center of everything we do.

Culture of opportunity. Another area we’re passionate about is creating what we call a culture of opportunity. We’re not about stringent policies or old-fashioned career paths. We’re about being transparent about new positions and opportunities that exist within the organization and then providing the tools and information our people need to pursue them.

For example, we are rolling out a tool that will give employees a personalized view of positions within Workday that are a good fit for them based on the actual movement and success of other employees who held similar positions. Besides a real-time glimpse into the vitality of the company and how it’s evolving, it’s an employee-centric view of possible career paths.

An employee can not only see what moves others have made, they can also reach out and connect to those specific individuals to talk with them about their experience. With a tap you can introduce yourself to set up time to connect or simply ask a question.

And as mentioned earlier, we listen to and learn from customers. Adobe, for example, often “pulses” its employees to get quick feedback on their experience. We were inspired by this approach when we built a tool that we use to ask one or two simple questions that can be answered via any device in a few seconds such as, “Has your manager talked to you about your career goals in the last month?” Our aim is to quickly and easily capture employee sentiment so that we can calibrate our efforts to reinforce our culture.

Performance enablement. For us, performance enablement is an evolution of the traditional performance management process that stresses regular, ongoing feedback, and takes an employee-centric approach to helping our people thrive. Several of our customers, like Ellie Mae, are passionate about this approach as well and have set a great example to follow.

Measuring an employee’s impact is more efficient and ultimately more effective thanks to tools and technology that allow us to regularly capture and aggregate real-time information.

The annual review process at some companies is not very transparent — and, there can be demoralizing surprises. It can also be demoralizing to only receive feedback once or twice a year. We now expect managers to have regular check-ins with their direct hires, ideally on a bi-weekly basis.

It doesn’t make sense to only flag areas for improvement once a year, and more often than not, an early course correction heads off bigger issues. By the same token, there are many positive behaviors, such as suggestions for process improvement or innovation, which might not get immediate feedback in a more traditional environment that are important to encourage.

From a manager’s point of view, regular check-ins give more visibility into not just their team, but how their workers are interacting with other parts of the organization.

In the end, our goal is to hire and retain the best people in order to provide the best service to our customers. To do this, we need to keep our employees happy, make sure they are challenged, motivated, and engaged, and know that they are contributing to the overall success of the company. We want to keep learning, adapting, and listening to our people as we grow. We know that technology is most effective when it’s designed to support and encourage the behaviors and processes that lead to innovation — and we believe that this is what will continue to foster our great company culture.

 

Work like Teddy Roosevelt

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport is a must read and one for your bookshelf. It helped me understand the difference between deep and shallow work. Below is an excerpt from the book:

Work like Teddy Roosevelt Deep work.jpg

 

If you attended Harvard College during the 1876-1877 school year, you would’ve likely noticed a wiry, mutton- chopped, brash, and impossibly energetic freshman named Theodore Roosevelt. If you then proceeded to befriend this young man, you would’ve soon noticed a paradox.

On the one hand, his attention might appear to be hopelessly scattered, spread over what one classmate called an “amazing array of interests”– a list that biographer Edmund Morris catalogs to contain boxing, wrestling, body building, dance lessons, poetry readings, and the continuation of a lifelong obsession with naturalism (Roosevelt’s landlord on Winthrop Street was not pleased with her young tenant’s tendency to dissect and stuff specimens in his rented room). This latter interest developed to the point that Roosevelt published his first book, The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks, in the summer after his freshman year. It was well received in the Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club- a publication, needless to say, which takes bird books quite seriously-and was good enough to lead Morris to assess Roosevelt, at this young age, to be “one of the most knowledgeable young naturalists in the United States.”

To support this extracurricular exuberance Roosevelt had to severely restrict the time left available for what should have been his primary focus: his studies at Harvard. Morris used Roosevelt’s diary and letters from this period to estimate that the future president was spending no more than a quarter of the typical day studying. One might expect therefore that Roosevelt’s grades would crater. But they didn’t. He wasn’t the top student in his class, but he certainly didn’t struggle either: In his freshman year he earned honor grades in five out of his seven courses. The explanation for this Roosevelt paradox turns out to be his unique approach to tackling this schoolwork. Roosevelt would begin his scheduling by considering the eight hours from eight thirty a.m. to four thirty p.m. He would then remove the time spent in recitation and classes, his athletic training (which was once a day), and lunch. The fragments that remained were then considered time dedicated exclusively to studying. As noted, these fragments didn’t usually add up to a large number of total hours, but he would get the most out of them by working only on schoolwork during these periods, and doing so with a blistering intensity. “The amount of time he spent at his desk was comparatively small,” explained Morris, “but his concentration was so intense, and his reading so rapid, that he could afford more time off [from schoolwork] than most.”

This strategy asks you to inject the occasional dash of Rooseveltian intensity into your own workday. In particular, identify a deep task (that is, something that requires deep work to complete) that’s high on your priority list. Estimate how long you’d normally put aside for an obligation of this type, then give yourself a hard deadline that drastically reduces this time. If possible, commit publicly to the deadline-for example, by telling the person expecting the finished project when they should expect it. If this isn’t possible (or if it puts your job in jeopardy), then motivate yourself by setting a countdown timer on your phone and propping it up where you can’t avoid seeing it as you work.

At this point, there should be only one possible way to get the deep task done in time: working with great intensity- no e-mail breaks, no daydreaming, no Facebook browsing, no repeated trips to the coffee machine. Like Roosevelt at Harvard, attack the task with every free neuron until it gives way under your unwavering barrage of concentration.

Try this experiment no more than once a week at first- giving your brain practice with intensity, but also giving it (and your stress levels) time to rest in between. Once you feel confident in your ability to trade concentration for completion time, increase the frequency of these Roosevelt dashes. Remember, however, to always keep your self-imposed deadlines right at the edge of feasibility. You should be able to consistently beat the buzzer (or at least be close), but to do so should require teeth-gritting concentration.

The main motivation for this strategy is straightforward. Deep work requires levels of concentration well beyond where most knowledge workers are comfortable. Roosevelt dashes leverage artificial deadlines to help you systematically increase the level you can regularly achieve-providing, in some sense, interval training for the attention centers of your brain. An additional benefit is that these dashes are incompatible with distraction {there’s no way you can give in to distraction and still make your deadlines). Therefore, every completed dash provides a session in which you’re potentially bored, and really want to seek more novel stimuli — but you resist. As argued in the previous strategy, the more you practice resisting such urges, the easier such resistance becomes.

After a few months of deploying this strategy, your understanding of what it means to focus will likely be transformed as you reach levels of intensity stronger than anything you’ve experienced before. And if you’re anything like a young Roosevelt, you can then repurpose the extra free time it generates toward the finer pleasures in life, like trying to impress the always-discerning members of the Nuttall Ornithological Club.

 

How to Sell a Products

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel is is a good book. He offers new ways of thinking about innovation. Peter’s philosophy is that innovation starts by learning to ask questions that lead you to find value in Sales. Below is an excerpt from the book:

How to Sell a ProductsZero to One.jpg

Superior sales and distribution by itself can create a monopoly, even with no product differentiation. The converse is not true. No matter how strong your product—even if it easily fits into already established habits and anybody who tries it likes it immediately—you must still support it with a strong distribution plan.

Two metrics set the limits for effective distribution. The total net profit that you earn on average over the course of your relationship with a customer (Customer Lifetime Value, or CLV) must exceed the amount you spend on average to acquire a new customer (Customer Acquisition Cost, or CAC). In general, the higher the price of your product, the more you have to spend to make a sale—and the more it makes sense to spend it. Distribution methods can be plotted on a continuum:

Personal Sales

Most sales are not particularly complex: average deal sizes might range between $10,000 and $100,000, and usually the CEO won’t have to do all the selling himself. The challenge here isn’t about how to make any particular sale, but how to establish a process by which a sales team of modest size can move the product to a wide audience.

In 2008, Box had a good way for companies to store their data safely and accessibly in the cloud. But people didn’t know they needed such a thing—cloud computing hadn’t caught on yet. That summer, Blake was hired as Box’s third salesperson to help change that. Starting with small groups of users who had the most acute file sharing problems, Box’s sales reps built relationships with more and more users in each client company. In 2009, Blake sold a small Box account to the Stanford Sleep Clinic, where researchers needed an easy, secure way to store experimental data logs. Today the university offers a Stanford-branded Box account to every one of its students and faculty members, and Stanford Hospital runs on Box. If it had started off by trying to sell the president of the university on an enterprise-wide solution, Box would have sold nothing. A complex sales approach would have made Box a forgotten startup failure; instead, personal sales made it a multibillion-dollar business.

Sometimes the product itself is a kind of distribution. ZocDoc is a Founders Fund portfolio company that helps people find and book medical appointments online. The company charges doctors a few hundred dollars per month to be included in its network. With an average deal size of just a few thousand dollars, ZocDoc needs lots of salespeople—so many that they have an internal recruiting team to do nothing but hire more. But making personal sales to doctors doesn’t just bring in revenue; by adding doctors to the network, salespeople make the product more valuable to consumers (and more consumer users increases its appeal to doctors). More than 5 million people already use the service each month, and if it can continue to scale its network to include a majority of practitioners, it will become a fundamental utility for the U.S. health care industry.

 

Selling to Non-Customers

Your company needs to sell more than its product. You must also sell your company to employees and investors. There is a “human resources” version of the lie that great products sell themselves: “This company is so good that people will be clamoring to join it.” And there’s a fundraising version too: “This company is so great that investors will be banging down our door to invest.” Clamor and frenzy are very real, but they rarely happen without calculated recruiting and pitching beneath the surface.

Selling your company to the media is a necessary part of selling it to everyone else. Nerds who instinctively mistrust the media often make the mistake of trying to ignore it. But just as you can never expect people to buy a superior product merely on its obvious merits without any distribution strategy, you should never assume that people will admire your company without a public relations strategy. Even if your particular product doesn’t need media exposure to acquire customers because you have a viral distribution strategy, the press can help attract investors and employees. Any prospective employee worth hiring will do his own diligence; what he finds or doesn’t find when he googles you will be critical to the success of your company.

 

Everybody Sells

Nerds might wish that distribution could be ignored and salesmen banished to another planet. All of us want to believe that we make up our own minds, that sales doesn’t work on us. But it’s not true. Everybody has a product to sell—no matter whether you’re an employee, a founder, or an investor. It’s true even if your company consists of just you and your computer. Look around. If you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson.

Originals: Movers and Shapers

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant is an impressive book. He explores how to recognize a good idea, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt. Below is an excerpt from the book:

Movers and ShapersOriginals.jpg

To his credit, Dalio has been running an investigation of his own. Fascinated with understanding people who shape the world and eager to discern what they have in common, he’s been interviewing many of
the most influential originals of our time, and studying historical figures from Benjamin Franklin to Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs. Of course, all of them were driven and imaginative, but I was intrigued by three other qualities on Dalio’s list. “Shapers” are independent thinkers: curious, non-conforming, and rebellious. They practice brutal, nonhierarchical honesty. And they act in the face of risk, because their fear of not succeeding exceeds their fear of failing.

Dalio himself tits this description, and the hurdle facing him now is to find another shaper to fill his shoes. If he doesn’t, Bridgewater may vanish like Polaroid’s instant pictures. But Dalio knows that preventing groupthink is about more than the vision of a single leader. The greatest shapers don’t stop at introducing originality into the world. They create cultures that unleash originality in others.

 

HBR: Despite Dire Predictions, Salespeople Aren’t Going Away

What is your opinion will salespeople go away? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, and Sally E. Lorimer.

Despite Dire Predictions, Salespeople Aren’t Going Away

One hundred years ago, an article in the New York Times asked a provocative question: “Are salesmen needless?” In the article, a marketing expert explains why societal shifts would render the door-to-door salesman obsolete. “Advertising is producing better results than the old method of personal solicitation,” the article reported. “Things were different once upon a time before the railroads turned farms into cities… The traveling [sales]man is a middleman and the evolution of business is gradually eliminating the middle man.”

That 1916 prediction didn’t prove true. Over the next fifty years, sales force numbers kept expanding—but even as they did, pundits kept predicting the field of sales would soon enter a decline. In the 1962 book “The Vanishing Salesman,” author E.B. Weiss wrote about the “new age of self-selection and self-service” and how pre-selling, branding, and advertising would eliminate the need for traditional salesmen. (To his credit, Weiss also predicted that sales roles would not die, but would change in some industries.) Yet the number of salespeople continued to grow.

Fast forward to 2015. Forrester Research predicted that one million B2B salespeople will become obsolete by 2020, lost to e-commerce. Is this another doomed prediction? Or are things fundamentally different this time? Will there really be fewer B2B salespeople in 2020?

No doubt, some companies will have fewer salespeople four years from now. But other companies will have more salespeople–and history helps explain why.

Buyers have relied on salespeople to help them through their buying journey for centuries. In the early days of the United States, buyers (often farmers) in need of household goods relied on traveling salesmen for every step of buying. Buyers usually first became aware of new products when a traveling salesman showed up at the door. Buyers used the salesman’s help to evaluate what products to purchase, especially for new technologies like clocks and sewing machines. Buyers would purchase directly from the salesman, and relied on the salesman to fulfill the order by delivering the goods on wagon or horseback.

Over the years, innovations in distribution, media, and technology have enabled buyers to use non-sales force channels for various steps of their buying journey. In the early 20th century, advances in transportation, storage, and distribution largely took the task of physical fulfilment of goods away from salespeople. In the late 20th century, a proliferation of media options made buyers aware of products before talking to a salesperson, more so in B2C, but also in B2B markets. Innovation eliminated certain responsibilities for salespeople; yet at the same time, new responsibilities emerged, and entirely new kinds of companies and industries formed.

Today, buyers increasingly use the web to evaluate purchase options in both B2C and B2B markets. Specifically in B2B, buyers will reference web pages, online articles, videos, whitepapers, blogs, and social media resources (both inside and outside of their own company). Enabled by the Internet, corporate buyers can understand and compare products and decide what to buy, often without the help of a salesperson.

But this doesn’t mean there will be fewer B2B salespeople. As certain buying steps move from salespeople to online and other channels, new complexities and uncertainties for buyers will emerge. As in the past, innovation within companies and across entire industries will continue to produce new offerings and new ways to buy that are not yet apparent to buyers. This knowledge gap will create a need for salespeople to help buyers navigate unknown waters, even in today’s environment.

For example, between 1995 and 2013, the top five pharmaceutical companies shed more than 55% of their salespeople in the US. But in that same time period, new companies added salespeople. Google created thousands of sales jobs, including a huge inside sales team to sell locally-targeted online advertising to small businesses. Dell added thousands of salespeople as well, as it sought to help customers understand the changing world of technology and make complex purchases involving hardware, software and services. The total number of B2B sales jobs did not shrink.

We expect this dynamic to continue between now and 2020. Yes, hundreds of B2B sales jobs will get eliminated as e-commerce plays a larger role in straightforward buying steps and for well-understood products. But as complexity and uncertainty decline in some situations, new complexity and uncertainty get introduced elsewhere. Especially for business-critical buying decisions, this elevates the importance of salespeople. Companies such as Facebook, industries such as cloud services, and the many hundreds of B2B SAAS (software as a service) startups are furiously adding salespeople.

With the accelerated pace of innovation and new venture formation today, we believe that barring a significant economic downturn, the total number of B2B sales jobs is more likely to grow than shrink over the next several years. In the modern economy, complexity and uncertainty aren’t going away.

 

JMM: The Little Known Habit Of Productive Leaders

Are you scheduling time for yourself? Below is a blog from John Michael Morgan.

The Little Known Habit Of Productive Leaders

For the strongest leaders, this works like crazy. Yet very few people realize that the most productive leaders have this habit. The reason is because it’s counter to what you would typically think of a busy leader.

The truth is the most productive leaders are extremely disciplined with their personal time.

On the surface, it doesn’t always look this way. A leader is busy and typically doesn’t work a 9 to 5 schedule. But what they know that you don’t, is that they have to be fed too. If you’re not focused on self-care, you won’t be able to serve people for long. 

It’s the classic airplane scenario. I travel so much I feel like I could recite it verbatim. In case, of an emergency, put YOUR oxygen mask on first. Why? Because if you’re not okay, you can’t help anyone else.

This is true of leadership as much as it is anything in life.

If you want anything in your life to improve, you must improve. Think about it, income improvement follows self-improvement. Marriage improvement follows self-improvement. If you want your business to be better, you must be better.

That’s why the strongest and most productive leaders never stop working on themselves.

The challenge is that the more successful you are, the greater the demand on your personal time. Your time must be guarded and protected. Everyone expects you to be available when THEY need you. Your to-do list will never end. Beware falling into a cycle of never taking time for yourself.

You have at least a general idea of what recharges your batteries. For some, it’s reading an interesting book or watching a good movie. For you, it might be exercise or hanging out with friends. Regardless, you must protect this time just as you would an appointment with your best client.

How To Take Your Personal Time Back

Now that you understand the importance of taking care of yourself and protecting time for self-care, let’s talk about how to make this a habit.

– Don’t Leave Yourself For Last

I get it. You don’t want to let anyone down and you’re spending your days meeting everyone else’s demands. Stop it. If you leave caring for yourself until you’re finished with everything else on your schedule, you won’t have anything left. Start making yourself a priority.

– Schedule It & Honor It

I’m not the most rigid when it comes to my schedule. But one thing I’ve learned is that if I don’t schedule personal time, I won’t have any. Set appointments with yourself. Schedule time to read, workout, nap, or whatever. Then honor that time just as you would an important appointment. Don’t show up late. Don’t cancel. Respect yourself and this time.

– Make Personal Time A Priority

When setting your schedule for the week, don’t rely on extra time for yourself. If self-care isn’t a priority you purposefully set, it will never become one.

My friend and Achiever, Robbie Green has found reading to be a great use of his personal time. But he wanted accountability with this time. So he challenged himself to read 100 books this year and is sharing each book he reads publicly. This forces him to keep going in those moments when it would be easier to put everyone and everything first.

– Try Starting The Day Focused On You

Your morning routine is a great time to take care of yourself. Before the hustle of the day begins, you can read, meditate, or go for a run. I like starting the day this way because then if the day gets busy or I have a few challenges pop-up, I’ve already been disciplined with my personal time.

– Set Boundaries

This is the hardest to do yet the most productive. Don’t take phone calls and texts at night. Protect your personal time. My clients know that I’ll respond to them quickly when they need something, but they also respect my personal and family time. Because we have boundaries set, they don’t send me texts or phone calls that could wait until the next day.

Ultimately, you have to understand that you’re not being selfish when you take time for you. The stronger you are and the more you improve, the better you serve your family, team, clients, and those in your life that you care about.

 

The Beginners’ Guide to Evernote

The Beginners’ Guide to Evernote

Evernote is a great application which you can “dump your brain” into so you don’t have to keep important information in your mind.

Think of Evernote as your personal database. You can access it in any web browser as well as an application.

Here are some terms you will need to know about Evernote:

  • Notebooks: These are collections of individual notes. You could just have one notebook and dump everything into it. However, most people establish different notebooks for different areas of focus or they can share notebooks with others. Examples of notebooks I currently use are LBMDF, LDAC, Lobby Day, and Personal.
  • Stacks: These are collections of notebooks. For example, you could have a stack called “Work” that has separate notebooks for each customer, project, or area of responsibility.
  • Tags: These are attributes that you can apply to any individual note. You can then view all notes with a specific tag, regardless of which notebook it resides in. This provides the ultimate in filing flexibility though it can be confusing at times. I set up tags in the following ways: the source of information, author, or a quick description of the note. Some of my tags are education, personal development, managing people, and Excel.

 

The top six reasons I love Evernote:

  • Customer Relations Management/ Project Management

It can be used is to clip maps to job sites. Archive text messages from customers.  And you can enter field notes and pictures.

  • Checklists

Store checklists that you can use over and over as needed, such as a travel packing list, window & door checklist, and task/to-do list.

  • Notes/Journals

I’m an avid note taker.  All my notes are in Evernote, so it’s easy to search and quickly locate my notes. I also like to collect solutions to problems.

  • Bookmarks/ Collections

Evernote has a web clipper, you can bookmark or clip a page or save content to read later.

  • Agenda

This can be used to track meeting notes with action items or improvements. Also, I add notes and reminders for the next meeting.

  • Blog Post & Column Ideas

I’m a big RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed reader. I use an RSS to keep up with the latest news and alerts. Any blogs or news, I want to keep I clip to Evernote.

There are other applications which are similar to Evernote: Google Keep, Microsoft OneNote, SimplyNote. I highly recommend Evernote if you want to simplify your life.