How We Transformed a Shy, Compliant Team Environment To The One That Sticks Together, Debates Things And Gets Work Done 

When Australian cricket team got into a ball tampering scandal with  both their captain and vice captain-  Steven Smith and David Warner respectively being banned for a year while stripped of their leadership roles, a former Australian captain and one of the game’s great Ricky Ponting commented “ the road leading Australia to the Newlands scandal had started years before.” The same goes for any company as well. The actions that happen are a result of the culture that lies within. People do things that they feel is normal for the culture they are in and what is considered normal. 
Almost all companies try their best to be transparent, encouraging and respectful, only a few are able to break the chasm. We were at a similar crossroads a year back..
This blog outlines some of the things we inculcated in our team and built a culture that is truly employee centric, collaborative and most importantly fearless.

So how did we achieve this?

To start with, there was no magic wand and things did not happen in a day. What helped definitely was a constant push to make it happen. We recognized this as a top priority goal for the year- Transforming the organization into a truly employee centric company.
KPIs
Recently there was a post by our team members on their Linkedin
Reading the post and comments, made us realize that after 12 month of tweaks and initiatives we are doing things right. It has further given us the impetus to continue investing in our people’s happiness.
So where did it all start? It all started with an internal incident that left us perplexed about  why people do not share what they think. I called a meeting with the CTO, the head of HR and a few team leads.
The agenda was finding answers to just one question “How do we get people to open up” What opens up people?
And that’s when it striked. What opens up people? Beer.
Now after having organized a dozen such events, I can say it has been one of the milestones in our journey. While there has been constant improvement in the format and plan, BPC is an event every MBian looks forward to.
At this monthly event, there are fun activities, discussions, company feedback, company roadmap and a chance to say Thankyou!.
Beer-Pe-Charcha-at-mindbowser
BPC has become a great knowledge-sharing platform that gives everyone a chance to know each other well and set up a tone to work better with each other.
Infact, since COVID 19 lockdown, we have been organizing online BPC as well
Read on further on what other things we changed that changed us:

Better and clear Reward and Recognition initiative

This year we created recognition as part of BPC. Every month we reward superstar of the month and a rising star of the month. The recommendations come from the team and project managers.
While we never shied from giving a pat on the back to performers or say it out loud, again it was very sporadic in nature. Sometimes we were able to do it and sometimes we missed.
The winners apart from getting exciting prizes and recognition get to pose with our very own Stormbreaker- Which only a worthy man or woman can carry.
Rewards

Dinner with CXO for rewarded employees

Mindbowser is well known for having a very friendly, open, and following flat structure for work culture and communication, where anyone can meet anytime on any topic, the monthly winners get a chance to take it to another level. The CXOs host the winners for dinner and this helped us to know our top performers even better
Dinner-with-COX

 Cheers for Peers Board 

To make appreciation common at the workplace, we put up a board called Cheers for Peers, where anyone can put notes to thank and appreciate any fellow team members or shout out for good work of the team. Sometimes we have found  the board filled with appreciation messages that come out from surprising corners.
Cheers for Peers board

LMS portal for online learning & Training material

Once communication was sorted, the other area was team skills. As the saying goes “it is not done if it can’t be measured”, we knew we had to build a measurable learning method.  The usual way of telling people and waiting would not work, especially when there are exclusive rewards set up for learners. We always thought LMSs are for larger organizations but we were wrong
Setting up a LMS system worked wonders for the learning curve in the company. It gave a clear, defined goal to the team on managing their learning.

Leadership Council

We needed to get our act together and bring in consistency. This year we initiated the Leadership council- A team of high performing individuals who became part of all the important decisions as well as whose council is seeked  before any important decisions are taken. 
As a startup,  people are always our biggest asset. One of our core values is to create leaders in our organization. People who excel at their respective work and aspire others to achieve greater things. Again, while we used to always be working with our people, to help them grow, things were not organized. Hence , just like learning there was no measurement or end goal, resulting in the whole initiative becoming pretty much dependent on individual priorities and motivation. 
This initiative- one decentralized the decision making process and second set out an ambitious path for high performers.
Today, everyone at Mindbowser is not just thinking about getting salary hikes and growth but rather to be part of the coveted group because it not only gets individual goals covered but also covers individual aspirations. 
Currently, there are 6 team members who are part of the leadership council.
Leadership-Team

Implementation of the escalation process

Problems do happen. Sometimes there could be tax mismatch or other times the laptop  may not be working as expected. Few times there could also be bigger issues that threaten to impact the culture.
Overall our idea was that there is no point in having any issue left unresolved, hence, to have  better overall employee issue-resolving and query handling and to make sure that no issue is pending, we initiated the ticket system where anyone can raise a ticket for their issues.
In addition to this, for those who are not able to receive a solution or are unsatisfied with the resolution, we created an escalation email which directly copies top management for quick appropriate action.

Better referral policy and rewards

Mindbowser has a robust employee referral program and employees are encouraged to recommend their friends and family members. Today upto 20% of positions at Mindbowser are filled up through references and this is the result of a consistent and rewarding referral policy in place.
Our team earns workplace upgrades with every referral making every reference more meaningful and long lasting.
Rewards--and-policy

Employee Feedbacks  Survey

In December 2019, Mindbowser undertook one of its kind employee feedback surveys to know overall feedback, concerns, satisfaction level & happiness. The survey allowed people to fill in feedback anonymously. The survey talked about aspirations, things people liked, things they did not and even reasons they would continue at Mindbowser and reasons they would not. The data helped us to align our priorities and take steps to resolve issues at hand. We intend to make the survey a periodic exercise and use it to benchmark improvements and progress.

Infrastructure & Software Upgradation

In 2020, internet bandwidth advanced with 20 MBPS, to have a better and fast working process. Also a new HRMS portal with proper leave application, holiday structure, organization structure, policy and ticketing for raising any hardware or software related problems helped people to be more effective. Our new Application Tracking System streamlined hiring process & updates, referrals and data records.

Culturally aligned joining process

We always believe that a good beginning means half done.  We worked frantically on our on-boarding process to make sure that at the time of joining people are overall aligned with company values, culture and ethics. This required a holistic approach so that orientation is not just limited to a presentation but is really ingrained upon every touchpoint. We aligned the team members, project managers and managers to share the same value system and reiterate the same communication.  It helped in getting everyone the right start.
We took care to check every minute detail to make a perfect setup for a starter meeting and to leave a memorable imprint to cherish the moment.
We had a moment of truth during COVID-19. When other companies were worried regarding hiring and joining with few companies even freezing the process, we were able to up the ante to hire more people- all because our processes are set.
Within a day we emulated the offline process to online with a complete SOP for onboarding remotely. This process is now shared with the new hires  2-3 days prior to the induction day with a personal welcome video and CXO call.
Since April’20, we have successfully on-boarded 15+ new joinees. We have made sure to make them feel as if they are working with us in the same way as in-office and the feedback has been delightfully positive.
Testmonial
Here are some words of appreciation from one of our latest joinees:

So what has been the result of this?

In conclusion, a lot has changed from where we were last year. From the time when every conversation was a one way traffic, we have moved to a crossroad  where ideas flow from every direction. Improvement is ever evolving but with a great foundation that is set, the only way to go from here is upwards.
Of course, these changes have helped improve the company’s performance as well. With automated code reviews and Continuous integrations, we now ship every day. Our processes are well executed and our people take ownership.
Culture change is a transformation. It takes time and results cannot be quantified as such. That being said, we have definitely seen a lot of things happening around us today. Our leadership council is ready to be expanded, our team has started Learning Saturday’s all by themselves and the team has inculcated even learning and blogging. The best part is that these changes never had to be pushed but they trickled down.
Follow us on socials get updates on our latest initiative on Facebook and Linkedin
Would like to be part of Mindbowser team, check out our open positions here

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Ayush Jain
Ayush is the CEO of Mindbowser Global Inc, a top-notch agency providing software development services to renowned companies like Dell, Pepsi as well as to a lot of growing startups. Ayush is also the director of the StartupGrind community and editor of theiotmagazine.com and chatbotsournal.com. Ayush serves on the board of several startups and is a seed investor.
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