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On Responsiveness, Praise and Passion
Recently Percolate found itself among some highly esteemed companies, when Undercurrent, an organizational design, strategy and management consulting firm, recognized our company by selecting us for its list of the Twenty Most Responsive Companies of 2014. By their definition, responsive companies “have an intense bias to action and a tolerance for risk, expressed through frequent experimentation and relentless product iteration.”
Ernest Hemingway was hard on those who offered him compliments about his work. “Praise to the face is open disgrace,” he is known to have said after his colleague F. Scott Fitzgerald got a little too effusive one evening over dinner in Paris.
However, I’ll set aside false modesty and thank Undercurrent for noting some of the operational principles that we at Percolate take great pride in when approaching our business, both internally and externally.
In particular, Undercurrent praised Percolate for empowering our employees, by tapping into our network of employees and clients, as we grow an ever-expanding suite of client-facing and internal tools, while establishing ourselves as The System of Record for Marketing for some of the most successful companies in the world– GE, Unilever and Mastercard, among them.
Citing diverse private and public organizations, including Apple, Google and Tesla, Undercurrent benchmarked over 300 businesses across six spectrums, differentiating “a new breed of companies… uniquely suited to be leaders in the decades ahead”.
How Percolate arrived at this auspicious juncture in just four short years is no accident of fortune, but was achieved in part by a horizontal organizational structure that is emphatically employee-centered.
As Karen Hartman, founder and president of LearnTech Associates, a leadership and management development consultancy we have been working with, has noted, “At Percolate, I’ve seen everyone, including the founders and new organization entries, sit together and discuss ongoing or new issues in a frank, candid manner. This is unheard of in many organizations, where such conversations happen behind closed doors, creating an atmosphere of exclusion. At Percolate, the emphasis is on productive inclusion and interaction, from which new ideas and perspectives emerge.”
Or, as Percolate’s Greg Hay put it,
“Build systems which encourage, embrace and create value in cross team communications (particularly with the new guy).”
One such system Percolate created as an internal tool to foster inclusion and interaction– thereby empowering our employees for success and enhancing responsiveness– is the app Barista. Barista is a repository of easily searchable information in the form of questions and answers.
At the client service level, Barista automatically routes questions received from employees in the field straight back to the folks at Percolate who are best suited to respond to them. On a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis, it’s as if you’re sitting elbow to elbow with the person or persons who know everything about anything, whether your query concerns solving an urgent business challenge or which deli in proximity to the Manhattan office features a great vegan menu selection.
It’s more than just the technology, it’s about working towards a common mission. As Jack Welch observed,
“It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”
For that reason, Percolate works relentlessly to ensure all employees understand that to build technology that helps create the best brands in the world, we must collaborate with clients at each stage of brand management, whether one works in account management, sales or on a product development team. Only then, can we drive real improvement and change in their organization. We’ve even developed a five-tiered pyramidal framework to enable people both across the company and throughout our network to better understand that process and objective: to build software that transforms organizations.
Among the many tools that Percolate has created to increase employee engagement and inspire a proactive attitude towards addressing client needs is our Mentoring Program. The Mentoring Program provides the opportunity for participants to enter into a learning partnership with their peers and work to achieve specific, mutually defined goals that advance their professional development. Each mentoring group consists of four-to-six employees across offices, teams and job functions. The Mentoring Program allows employees to adopt the role of both mentor and mentee—empowering others, as they are empowered—by sharing and gaining learning.
Beyond the Mentoring Program, we take training in each department very seriously. Members of the Percolate sales team, for instance, undergo twenty-four weeks of comprehensive training. It includes our New Hire Curriculum that everyone takes which articulates Percolate’s vision, values, product, internal resources and industry challenges. Following which we provide continued training, support and evaluation as an individual progresses towards full-ramp, incorporating self-guided and role-specific skill development.
Another program critical to developing responsiveness internally is our Monthly Employee Pulse Survey. The Pulse Survey provides a forum through which employees can anonymously share feedback and express needs and concerns that they might not otherwise feel comfortable sharing with their immediate managers.
We also just believe that talking is still important. We kick off the week with Monday Morning Business and Product team meetings, that are as much about getting the team on the same page about what is going on as they are about inspiring everyone to take on the week. At 8:15 a.m. every monday we share highlights from the weekend, lay out our MITs (Most Important Tasks) by department (we used to do by person but naturally it didn’t scale well) for the week, and give presentations on important updates or findings. We close the week with the Friday Wins Meeting, where we gather company-wide to celebrate the major and minor victories that comprise a hard fought week.
But after all the mentoring and training and surveys and meetings. After receiving this accolade bestowed upon Percolate by an organization that has identified responsiveness as its raison d’être as it helps organizations navigate an uncertain world. Is there a common thread, an element, or attribute that defines the empowered, responsive Percolate employee?
Some would say curiosity, to which I would agree. But I would also point to passion. Passion gets you to your desk in the morning before anyone has arrived at the office. It works at night on your subconscious as you struggle to untangle the solution from the problem that seemed insoluble late Friday afternoon. It overcomes the Wednesday lull. It celebrates the success of colleagues, team, and company with the same enthusiasm as personal success.
So why do we put so much energy into maintaining an inclusive culture that empowers employees? It’s simple:
We believe we live in amazing times, we have the support of great customers and have an opportunity to build a company that has the best vision, the best product and, most importantly, the best team.