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Convention Isn’t Always Best

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 by Slaughter Development

A surprising philosophy has landed three separate organizations onto the “best company to work for” list. Their secret? A positive, happy work environment that is fun, quirky and perhaps a tad unconventional.

Zappos, DreamWorks Animation, and Teach for America (TFA) are all on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list. All three organizations vary greatly in mission, expertise and product, but they all share something in common. They provide freedoms that specifically aim to empower their employees. Below is an overview of some unusual processes and best practices that each company utilizes day to day:

  • Fun (with a side of customer service)

Though their environment may not be for everybody, Zappos is a company that encourages employees to “create fun and a little weirdness” in the office—spontaneous parades have been known to occur. According to the article, interviews alone are unique in process:

Job interviews still take place in rooms with zany themes, including Cher’s Dressing Room and an Oprah-style talk show set where candidates sit on a couch next to their HR host. Standard interview questions include “On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird would you say you are?”

Furthermore, regardless of the job description or title, all new hires are required to work in the customer service call center for one month in order to familiarize themselves not only with their customers, but those who deal with them on a daily basis.

  • Exploration (perhaps even past company walls)

Employees of DreamWorks Animation are offered drawing, sculpture and improv classes. And no matter the working role, everyone gets a shot at pitching ideas and learning presentation skills through frequent workshops. Interestingly enough, the company supports employees whether or not they choose to seek other pursuits.

Most Hollywood studios act as clearinghouses for freelance creative talent, bringing teams together to make movies and then cutting them loose when the production wraps. By contrast, DreamWorks keeps all talent on staff. Animators who leave the studio to pursue other projects are often welcomed back: 15% of new hires are rehires.

  • Defining Workspace (no matter the location)

Understanding just how massive a mission the not-for-profit group is striving to achieve, Teach for America offers something that is somewhat rare in corporate America. They provide their employees with the opportunity to work from anywhere and at anytime. In fact, this benefit is so valued that it’s listed as one of the organization’s best practices.

Companies are only as strong as the stakeholders they employ. So why not create an environment that fosters a strong passion for commitment and creativity? For no matter what the circumstance—be it a struggling economy or roadblock of another kind—it is the freedom for leadership and innovation that will motivate employees to push forward in support of a company that values them as much as they value it.

Slaughter Development believes that fundamental organizational change should occur from the bottom up. To learn more about how we assist companies in overcoming the challenges that accompany broken processes and negative work environments, contact us today.

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3 Responses to “Convention Isn’t Always Best”

  1. Lorraine Ball Says:

    I like to think we have an environment that can be described as Fun (with a side of customer service) - While we don’t have spontaneous parades, we have been known to take breaks for snow angels. Yes, sometimes it does seem as the owner that we play a bit too much… but when deadlines approach, I know the breaks are what keep people focused when it counts.

  2. Tristan Says:

    These organizations show that there’s more to a job than “work.” Nice to see these things happening while other companies probably cut down on these kinds of benefits during the recession.

  3. Robby Slaughter Says:

    Thanks for the comments, Lorraine and Tristan!

    I think what’s most interesting here is that these companies don’t seem to characterize these phenomena as “benefits” but rather as fundamental to their culture. Work is not a place where people are given special permission, but rather somewhere that results and satisfaction are more important than almost anything else.

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