In October, TEECOM was named to the 2017 San Francisco Business Times’ “Fast100,” the annual list of Fastest Growing Private Companies in the Bay Area. In an environment full of high-powered Silicon Valley venture-funded startups, we took particular pride in making the list.
As those Silicon Valley startups know, however, growing fast comes with challenges. One in particular that TEECOM has focused on successfully is how to maintain culture and engagement during periods of high growth. In the process, we’ve discovered a lot of tools and techniques that may help other high-growth firms. Here are some of the things we’ve learned about how to maintain culture and engagement:
1. Values: Establish Them Early, Live Them Internally
Corporate culture is a natural outgrowth of a firm’s founding values. Early on, TEECOM wrote a Standard of Excellence that articulates the values particular to our firm:
We are on a continuous quest to demonstrate that we CARE, to establish and maintain TRUST, and, most importantly, to add VALUE.
As part of our onboarding process, I talk with each new hire about how these values developed and how they might be expressed on a daily basis. A critical aspect of TEECOM’s values is that these characteristics aren’t just reflected externally, to clients: they’re also reflected internally. Even as we’ve doubled in size over the past couple of years and adopted some of the amenities of high tech firms, we’ve always made sure that the practices we add to the firm are in service of our values.
2. Educate and Advocate for Your Employees
As a firm adds new staff, it’s important to invest even more in the employees you already have, to demonstrate that you care about their career development. TEECOM is a training and education focused company; you can see the evidence in how many staff certifications we announce every month. In addition to financial support of certification and licensure, we offer a three-pronged internal education framework:
This weekly lunch hour training is organized and taught by our staff. Topics can be deeply technical (“AV Design: When to Use IP Media Routing vs. HDBaseT”) or relevant to operations (“An Introduction to Bonusly”). Lunch is Brown Bag. Everyone is welcome and no one is required to attend. Meetings are held in our all-hands space, where many people eat lunch anyway.
Our internal career development planning program, TEECOMgrow was established to help employees identify their career objectives and develop a plan to get there. Everyone is encouraged to participate but participation is not required, and sign-up happens year-round. The program is structured on the GROW factors for each employee: Goals, Reality, Options, Willingness. In addition to establishing a clear path for promotion for each employee, the program gives structure to mentorship, which builds trust.
Our competitive summer internship program, TEECOMuniversity is an 8-week classroom-style immersion in low-voltage engineering. Realizing that the typical engineering degree rarely provides training on low-voltage systems, TEECOM stepped into the gap. Sessions are taught by technical staff, and the program culminates in a simulated project delivery of integrated low-voltage design for a high-rise building.
How does TEECOMuniversity help us maintain culture and engagement? Employees are gratified to demonstrate that they care about the next generation of low-voltage engineers, interns bring value through new energy and ideas, and the program serves as a trusted talent funnel for the firm.
3. Recognize Success
Employee recognition is a key part of engagement. We’ve discovered at TEECOM that it’s important to have multiple channels for recognition:
- Every month we end our General Office Meeting (GOM) with an open call for “Shout Outs.”
- Birthdays, anniversaries, certifications are recognized on Slack, social media, at the GOM, and on our office video walls.
- There are levels of anniversary recognition. One of the unique traditions is a custom caricature for your 10-year anniversary.
- 360 Reviews: We use a platform called Small Improvements for quarterly 360 reviews. The tool allows employees to request feedback from anyone in the firm.
- Office Vibe: This tool introduces a short weekly survey that integrates with Slack, and allows employees to offer anonymous feedback about anything. Every month at the GOM we review our employee Net Promoter Score, which ranks the average answer to the question, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend TEECOM as a great place to work?” This simple question is a powerful way to measure employee engagement.
- Bonusly: We recently introduced Bonusly, a program that gives employees a monthly allowance of “points” that they can award to co-workers to recognize moments of adding value. Bonusly also integrates with Slack, so that everyone can see who is being recognized. As employees accumulate points, they can spend them on rewards such as gift cards, charity donations, swag, or cash. Bonusly has proven to be really popular — and it helps express our culture across offices.
There are many more perks that help define TEECOM’s culture, including our wellness program, our Giving Back philanthropy programs, our social hours, and our tech-integrated offices. All of these build on our values and provide ways for employees to connect with one another and with our clients.
When you’re happy at work, it shows in your work. When you’re excited to come in and work on a project, that’s represented in the project. Having a strong culture creates creative energy and inspires everyone. By focusing internally on the employee experience, it overflows into the work we deliver for our clients.
Learn more about TEECOM’s culture and explore our open positions: