Four Steps To A More Dynamic Workplace At Your Startup

Working on a new venture can be an inspiring and intensely rewarding experience. However, whilst you’re starting up and trying things out, efficiency may suffer. Every little helps, so Peter Ames from Office Genie is here to help with a few tips that could boost productivity.

Start-up workers at a Herzliya accelerator (Photo credit: Times of Israel)


Go paperless

Invest in a cloud-based document storage system such as Google Drive or Microsoft’s Skydrive (both are free in their basic packages – so it shouldn’t be too much of an investment). In addition to allowing you to store all your data and documents digitally in a free online drive, with both of these you can also share documents between staff.

This is a real bonus, it means you may not have to print off reams of paper before a meeting; everyone can access notes online, something that also makes collaboration that bit easier. In addition, going paperless, with the help of one of these apps, give you the chance to make your business a little greener in its early stages, when such things are easier to implement.

Go remote

One of the further benefits of going paperless, and particularly of using a cloud-based document storage system, is that it can make working remotely much easier: You can access all your documents from anywhere with a good internet connection. It makes working on the move or out of the office much more convenient.

There are whole host of ways remote-working can benefit a startup and make staff that bit more productive:

  • You can have a smaller office space if you don’t have to house a full team. Save some money and pump it back into the business.
  • Some tasks just aren’t suited to an office. If you’ve got editorial staff let them work from home every so often where they might find relief from ‘the office buzz’.
  • Even a simple change of scenery can stop things from stagnating and keep staff inspiration flowing.

Do more with your to-do lists

Of course, one step to a more efficient business is to get staff to keep to-do lists. If increasing numbers of your employees are working from home, it makes sense to have them keep to-do lists they can access from anywhere. This is where apps such as Evernote or Wunderlist comes into their own.

They’re a note-taking apps that let you access your notes (i.e. your to-do lists) wherever, whenever and on whatever device. Both have an app for pretty much all major devices and operating systems. You can also share notes over email; making these a handy app to have open in a meeting!

And whilst we’re on the subject of to-do lists…

Look into an online tool such as Basecamp. On the face of it this is just another to-do list app, albeit a particularly useful one that allows you to create any number of lists and sub-lists and tick tasks off when they’re done. The real beauty of Basecamp is the collaborative nature of the tool. When you’ve added a task, you can assign it to a fellow member of staff and add comments as the project progresses.

It’s also worth considering alternative such as Workzone, this offers you most of the key collaborative features of Basecamp with the addition of things such as ‘Time tracking’ and ‘Workload reports’ so staff can make sure they’re not focusing all their energy into one task.

Peter Ames writes on behalf of, a site where you can find desk and office space in the United Kingdom


What Is The Definition of Corporate Culture?

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton in the video below says that “a culture is about everyone belonging to something they believe in, something of a greater and higher purpose than them.  A company culture is how a company gets things done.  People are the hardware, values are the operating system.”

The corporate culture of a company refers to the organizational components, such as attitudes, values, standards, and its belief system, which are shared amongst a diverse set of stakeholders.  This can include employees, management, investors, vendors, clients, and customer. The ultimate goal or mission statement is the basis of a corporate culture. It is strengthened by additional attributes such as structure, strategies, labor approach, investors, and the larger community of their bigger picture.

The Sergay group says: “A basic definition of organizational culture is the collective way we do things around here. It involves a learned set of behaviors that is common knowledge to all the participants. These behaviors are based on a shared system of meanings which guide our perceptions, understanding of events, and what we pay attention to.”

Understanding corporate culture is important and at MeritShare we help companies reinforce the desired behavior and culture through value-based rewards. We provide the unbreakable link that connects a company’s values, beliefs, and attitude to its employees through peer to peer recognition.

5 Questions To Ask:

Self-reflection is never easy and selective perception can distort the truth.  However, the right set of questions can help articulate a company’s culture.

The Hagberg Consulting Group  asks five straight forward questions:

·       What’s really important?

·       Who gets promoted?

·       What behaviors get rewarded?

·       Who fits in and who doesn’t?

·       What 10 words would you use to describe your company?

The basis of these penetrating questions suggests that every organization has a culture, whether constructive or destructive, they have one. The key is to have a culture that will drive the company in a goal orientated direction and not the opposite.

Here’s the video of Citrux CEO Mark Templeton referenced above.  He has received numerous leadership awards, such as the AeA Abacus Award for Outstanding High-Tech Executive, “Businessperson of the Year” (EVIE Award) and the Excalibur Award. He is also included on Glassdoor’s 2013 list of “50 Highest Rated CEOs.”

Innovation and Employee Retention

source: Futurestep

source: Futurestep

Innovation has long been cited as a driver of  long-term revenue and profit growth in organizations.  However, studies are now showing that there is also an increasing relationship between innovation and employee retention.

In a recent study published by talent solutions provider, Futurestep, the more than 4,000 skilled employee respondents seemed to be sending companies a very clear message: that innovation seen in strategies for recruitment, employee development and employee retention greatly impacts the employee relationship.

According to Futurestep CEO, Byrne Mulrooney, the study defined innovation as change, improvements and forward-thinking.  Employees were seen to be looking for innovation from the very first encounter with the organization during recruitment. Then they expected to continue seeing it in the organization’s employee development plan. And finally, it was equally important that they saw innovation in the company’s retention programs as well.

Of the respondents, only 36% thought that their current companies were innovative. And in another survey done on over 800 HR professionals, over 74% said that they believed their organizations could do more to foster innovation for them to attract and retain talent.

The demands on innovation may seem particularly high. But not taking this message to heart could have huge detrimental impacts to the total organization. In recruitment, innovation is more likely to create a successful impact on a potential recruit.  Even happy employees are not immune, with 55% saying they would consider leaving their satisfying jobs if they were approached with innovative recruitment methods.

In development, 44% of employees say that they will leave their jobs if they see no innovations in store of them.

And don’t forget that all human to organization contact points that perceive innovation has a bearing on the overall company brand.  Employees and recruits are possible consumers too. And they can advertise so much by the virtue of word of mouth. So an organization’s innovation or lack thereof, can give either a benefit or detriment, respectively, to your company’s total image as well.

For a slight counterpoint, see this post on the danger of employment branding.

You can download the full report from Futurestep here.

Peer To Peer at Work

Your peers. Regular employees. People like yourself.

We use different names to describe these work colleagues.   At MeritShare, we provide peer to peer recognition, allowing anyone in a company to give recognition and show appreciation.

The Connect Consulting Group is putting together a survey to gain more insights into peer to peer at work today. When you complete this survey, you will be able to enter their sweepstakes for a chance to win a $25 Gift Card and receive a summary of the results.    Please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey about peer-to-peer practices by Friday, August 30.

Connect is an award-winning, independent and specialized management consulting firm focused on helping leaders and their team turn their blue-sky ideas into green-pasture actions.  Connect was Founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 by Liz Guthridge.

Late Nights at MeritShare


Today we will be interviewed by one of the top HR bloggers Nisha Raghavan on Drive Thru HR and their lunch time show.  The topic: “What keeps us up at night”.  So to prepare for the show here are some of the items that are top of mind that I might discuss today.  In the spirit of the agile methods, continuous improvement, and real-time communication benefits I cover below, I am writing this 30 minutes before I speak and will update and adjust this after the show.   Please excuse any typos or grammar, this has not been proofed.

1.  Change is the only constant.  Here are some of the trends I see:

  • Millennials will be 50% of the workforce in 10 years
  • Baby boomers will not go quietly into the night and continue to be a key part of the workforce in both a full time and part time capacity
  • Remote employement will grow: outsourcing and project teams located in multiple locations will continue to match supply to demand
  • Organizations will continue to become flatter and more cross-matrixed.  Efficiencies will be achieved by cutting out senior and middle management overhead and empowering employees and teams with more decision-making

2.  How can we help HR implement change?

Given the above, the question I ask is what companies, leaders and organizations are doing to adapt to this change?  I think for the most part, the response is reactive and much slower than needed.  Why does it take so long?  A seasoned HR executive who runs her own company now and has served as a Board of Director for a large public company once told me, “every change and program in HR is an bomb that could go off”.  I recall several times at the various companies I have worked at where well-intentioned programs for the benefit of employees have back-fired.

3.  We need to give HR permission to fail

One of the most transformative principles used by hyper-growth companies like Facebook and Google is agile development —  where you ship new products and features quickly, measure the results, optimize, and fail fast if needed.  Every department from sales to operations is encouraged to test, learn, and optimize.  Executives, employees, and shareholders, need to give HR the same permission to innovate and fail.  Several of our clients have tested out MeritShare first by rolling it with teams and groups of people first to test and build support.

4.  How can we create great user experiences

Apple was not the first company to make a MP3 player or mobile phone, they won by creating great user experiences.  Up until recently, most HR software had terrible user experiences.  Now I’m starting to see some great user experiences.   Just this week I saw a demo from Trakstar which provides performance management software and one of the best sign-up experiences I have experienced at Bamboo HR.  At MeritShare we have followed a similar approach and constantly ask, what can we do to make this easier, how can we reduce the barriers to appreciation.  Our site is self-service and you can set up a recognition program in minutes and give a merit or thanks in seconds.

5.  What gets measured gets done

Companies track and measure the areas that matter most: revenue, expenses, and sales. On the HR side, their are diversity, compensation, and turnover metrics but how many companies are tracking employee engagement and recognition?  There have been several studies that show that companies with high employee engagement are more profitable, productive, and have less turnover.  Given this, how many companies are tracking these key metrics?  Metrics also drive behavior and make things fun.  We live in a “measured me” world with fitbit’s, runkeeper where tracking encourages people more to focus on the goals.  Ask your sales leader what would happen if he/she didn’t send out the weekly or monthly leader board showing ranking by sales rep.  At MeritShare we send out a weekly email to every user that shows their recognition score and ranking within the company and against our national index.  There is always a huge spike in activity after this gets sent out.  What get’s measured get’s done and makes it fun.

6.  Right-size social media

When the topic of social media comes up, most people talk about either the dangers of the the career-killing mis-guided tweet or the overwhelming flow of information streams created.  I look at the benefits of social media:  real-time communication, transparency, instant feedback loops, and giving every individual a voice.    Prospective employees are searching and looking at what is being shared on blogs and tweets, marketers get instant feedback on their new products, and everyone can voice an opinion.  For me the question is how can you make social media work for you, your goals and how much effort do you put into tweeting and blogging.  For business and the enterprise, I’m a big fan of blogging because it gives employees a voice, control for the company, and provides the potential for thought leadership.

7. What will I eat for lunch tomorrow?

I try to think one or two meals ahead.  The point here is that we are all human and achieving work/life balance is critical for both happiness and success.  Today it’s a spinach salad I made with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, ham, and corn.


Is HR Employment Branding A Mistake?

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 9.25.35 AMMark Riston at Marketing Week thinks employment branding could be causing more harm than good.

Ritson taught brand management at London Business School, MIT Sloan, the University of Minnesota and Melbourne Business School – where he is currently an Associate Professor of Marketing.   His former clients include McKinsey, adidas, PepsiCo, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, De Beers, Ericsson, Sephora, and WD40. For eight years he has also served as advisor and in-house professor for LVMH – the world’s largest luxury group – working with senior executives from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dom Perignon, Fendi, Tag Heuer, Dior and Hennessy. In a recent national survey in the UK Mark Ritson was voted one of the country’s most admired marketers.

It’s important to note that Riston appreciates the intent of HR promoting employer brands and says:

I appreciate that you are only doing what you are doing out of a misplaced sense of purpose and a naive miscomprehension of the branding concept but, please, you have to stop doing this employer branding stuff right now. It is terrible.

Riston’s key points from his Marketing Week Article Employer branding can do real harm so stop it:

  • Branding is fundamentally about the consumer
  • Branding is about differentiation and employer branding strategy all sounds the same.  Empowering Excellence with Integrity and Innovation’) is exactly the same as everyone else’s
  • You have to measure brand equity, yet most HR people are measuring job satisfaction via employee surveys.  If you want to position your employer brand on something, you will have to measure those values and how much employees think they experience them on an annual basis.

To me this sounds like this could me more of an issue of execution than an inherent problem or structural issue.  Do you think employer branding can be done right to support both the customer and the employee?  Please share your thoughts and insights below.


Employee Engagement Is Everyone’s Job

employee_engagement_kruseThe following is a guest piece by Kevin KruseNew York Times bestselling author.  His newest book is Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment at Work.   Meritshare founders Kevin Nakao and Travis Pearl are listed as thought-leaders on in Kevin Kruse’s book, so we are offering a free Kindle download of “Employee Engagement for Everyone” through June 28th, 2013.  We thank both Kevin Kruse and Vania Mathas for their support of MeritShare.

The work of MeritShare and others has proven that peer-based public appreciation is a powerful way to foster a culture of Recognition. But what about Growth and Trust, which my research indicates are the other two primary drivers of engagement?

How can we teach all employees to take ownership for their own engagement and even drive the engagement of their peers?

First, employees should identify and focus on the areas that matter to them most. We don’t all have the same motivational triggers, so we must teach employees to focus on the areas that are most important to them. The Personal Engagement Profile, available online at, is one way an employee can identify their highest engagement values.

Second, we need to teach employees mindfulness—specifically, being mindful of all the things companies and managers already doing to drive engagement. Ask team members to list all the things the company is doing for them, in the areas of Growth, Recognition and Trust. When they’re done, share the complete inventory of all relevant items the company is providing. Often, your list is much longer than theirs, and an “aha” moment occurs when they realize, “Well, I guess they are doing a lot more on communication than I realized.”

Third, we need to teach employees how to partner with their bosses. Don’t think the company is supporting your growth? OK, have you invited your boss to a meeting to discuss your career path? We can help our individual employees partner with their supervisors in a positive manner by providing “conversation starters” and topic ideas.

It’s time for an honest conversation around the individual’s obligations to be engaged and to drive the engagement of others. The cynical view is that this is just pushing it all on the employee or this enables out of touch C-level executives to say, “It’s their fault not ours!”

As we are learning from the peer-recognition movement, you don’t need a title or direct reports to be a leader, and everyone can contribute to a culture of full engagement.

Engaging employees like it’s 1974

Are your managers still sitting down with your employees once a year to review performance and set goals? Many of your employees have grown up in a “Facebook-Twitter-Instagram world” where immediate feedback is available.

Post a picture, get a like. Change your status, get a comment. If you thought social was all about someone, something or somewhere else, you are wrong. We live in a social world and companies who embrace rather than resist social are more successful and have lower levels of employee voluntary turnover.

The social era isn’t about more management responsibility. It’s about making feedback and recognition everyone’s responsibility, making it timely, and based on performance and behavior that align with company goals and mission.  Just showing up to get your five year service pin is a fail for both the business and employee.


The Top 5 Reasons Companies Should Care About Culture

Mark Rothko

In the Harvard Business Review Article, What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?  Michael Watkin’s offers many great views from executives on company culture. A lively Linkedin group thread followed in response to the article. Previously we have discussed some of the best company cultures. Every day we see companies build their cultures by reinforcing their core values through peer recognition programs.

Now let’s understand the “why” behind culture and the top 5 reasons a company should care about corporate culture:

1. Culture is the organization’s immune system

Culture is a form of protection that has evolved from situational pressures. It prevents “wrong thinking” and “wrong people” from entering the organization in the first place. It says that organizational culture functions much like the human immune system in preventing viruses and bacteria from taking hold and damaging the body. The problem, of course, is that organizational immune systems also can attack agents of needed change, and this has important implications for on-boarding and integrating people into organizations

-Michael Watkins, cofounder of Genesis Advisers, and author of the new, updated and expanded edition of The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

2. Culture touches everything
Culture is important, always has been and it will continue to be. Its interesting, the first time you walk into the lobby of an organization you feel something.   Culture defines everything: job design, org design, practices and policies, mission and values, and last but not least leadership behavior. All of these things working together define the culture of the organization and impact the way that people behave and the way that they feel about their organization. It will impact productivity, product and service quality, the customer experience, the turnover rate, the rate of absenteeism, and the reasons for absenteeism. It touches everything. That’s why you should care.

-Michael Kosec, General Manager at Employee Survey Toolkit

3. True culture is what goes on when no one is watching
Culture is what your people have bought into because they believe in it… not because they’ve been told to, but because it resonates with what they respect and value and what they see in others whom them are inspired by. Find out the real culture in your business by listening on the quietest day of the week or day part…. True culture is what goes on while no one’s watching.

-Caryn Gwilliam, U.K. Head of Human Resources at T.G.I. Friday’s, Carlson Hospitality

4. Culture defines your brand
I care about culture because it defines your brand and can be the difference between success and failure. Values and behaviours should fit with the Company vision. They should become something that supports the company’s ultimate purpose. As a leader I want to create a culture where results focused people thrive.

-Sonia Limm, Area Benefits Supervisor, Compass Point Business Services

5. Well defined cultures provide guidance to the workforce
I care about culture because it is the single most powerful attribute contained within an organization. It articulates, through behavior and actions, what the company is really all about. Well defined cultures provide guidance to the workforce surrounding all aspects of interactions between employees, customers, investors, and the community. Values driven cultures offer this guidance through statements of what’s important to the organization that transcends specific products or services delivered in the marketplace.

-John Bushfield, Senior Consultant at The Mulling Corporation

Thanks to everyone above for sharing your fantastic insights.  If you have an additional reason a company should or should not care about their culture please respond in the comments section below.

Senior Executives Worst At Giving Recognition

In a recent study conducted by Globoforce and SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) shows  senior executives and human resources scoring the lowest marks for giving recognition.  This confirms our own data that shows that top-down recognition programs need to be reinforced with peer-driven recognition, giving every employee the power of appreciation.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 5.51.30 AM
The survey was based on 803 HR professional respondents from a randomly selected sample of SHRM’s membership with the title of manager or above and from organizations with 500 or more employees.  The study was conducted March of 2013 and has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Other key findings include:

  • Nearly half of HR professionals indicated “employee engagement” as the No. 1 HR challenge their organization faces. Other common HR challenges included “succession planning” (39%), “culture management” (35%), and “employee retention/turnover” (33%).
  • An overwhelming number of organizations (94%) believe positive feedback (reinforcing behaviors or performances that should be repeated) has a greater impact on improving employee performance.

Nice work on this Globoforce and SHRM!  Here is the full presentation: