A key phrase that stays top of mind for me, as an executive leader, is, “You are more than a number.” Unfortunately, there are many organizations that view employees as numbers, not the complex humans they actually are. The phrase I’ve heard more times than I care to count is that employees are “levers to be pulled.” Meaning that the bottom line counts more than seeing team members as individuals.
Of course, the bottom line matters, but when you support your team, your clients, and work hard for them, the rest takes care of itself. It’s a beautiful picture I’ve had an opportunity to be a part of at Bloom.
The last few years have shown us all what truly matters—time. That precious commodity we all deserve more of with our families, friends, and for ourselves. With the pandemic, we all experienced shutdowns, business shifts, and continue to face a barrage of unexpected world events. All of it is outside of our control, resulting in feelings of frustration, desperation, and sadness.
But we have a choice as business leaders: pretend it’s all rainbows and butterflies, turn a blind eye and pretend it isn’t affecting our team members, or be in it with them and their families, recognizing and stating, “Hey we know this is happening. We can’t change those things, but we are here for you and we’ll all continue to press forward in the midst of the challenging things around us.” It’s in being human and being real that leads to a true connection.
Our goal here at Bloom is to be that solid foundation. A workplace where team members know we are not tone-deaf to what is happening around us, but we can be a reprieve. Allowing everyone to use their skills and talents to work for great clients in the midst of the things we can’t control. Providing opportunities for team members to share their personal goals so we can help align with that from a company perspective and do what we can to help in meeting them.
So what does “people first” really look like, and why does it matter? I’ll let you in on a few things we do at Bloom that you may have heard about and a few that I’m sure you haven’t. We like to challenge the norms.
My hope is that these ideas can shape and expand your very own people-first culture.
Mental Wellness is Foundational
At Bloom, we make an intentional effort to place focus on sustaining and supporting mental wellbeing. It’s important to open the conversation to help team members prioritize their mental wellness as it shapes all areas of our lives. In a recent blog post, our Founder and CEO, Brianna McKinney, shared ways that we began to approach this at the start of 2019—approaches that would go on to shape practices that you’ll read more about in this post.
We can all truly thrive when business leaders serve as the example of how to destigmatize fear and shame around this topic and demonstrate the importance of taking care of our mental health; and this looks different for everyone. As the COO, I make an honest effort to share my key weekly and daily practices that help me stay grounded. Sharing these practices provides team members with a picture of my own journey and gives them fresh ideas to consider as part of their own. It also shows that I, too, am human and have to focus on certain practices to strengthen my own mental health. I glean strength by following a routine that includes:
- Spending some quiet time each morning reading something that encourages my mind and soul. I also spend a few minutes listing out what I am grateful for. It sets the tone for the day and shifts my mindset.
- Looking at my calendar to “control the controllables.” I look at meetings that I have for the week, block off time for heads-down focus, and schedule my personal time such as working out, dinner with friends, time with my son, mentorship and coaching sessions, and opportunities to create. This practice allows me to put my mind at ease by structuring the foundation of my week.
- Journaling at the end of each week. What did I enjoy, do well, or need to improve upon? This helps me to get any feelings associated with my week out and allows my mind to refocus on tackling a new week from a positive place.
- Working out! Fitness is key. It boosts endorphins and ultimately makes me feel good about myself.
- Spending time outside. Being out in nature is important for my personal mental health. Hiking, paddle boarding, or just simply sitting on the porch getting some vitamin D boosts my mood and also helps me let go of stressors of the day.
It’s important to note that all of this is possible due to the people-first approach we’ve cultivated at Bloom. Continue reading to better understand what exactly that means to us.
We like to be a bit unconventional over here at Bloom. We don’t subscribe to the overworking burnout story. Instead, we challenge ourselves to ensure we are taking the time we need to care for ourselves and our family members. It permeates our culture.
Our team is a remote team and we have never demanded a “clock-in and clock-out” culture. We instill trust from the get-go that team members take care of things they need to when they need to. There’s no, “use your PTO for a doctor visit” mentality here. Our chat channels light up with FYIs on where team members are heading during the day, from workouts to walking the dog, doctor visits to mental wellness breaks, and even children’s activities. Why would we do this? Because it’s proven that allowing for trust and flexibility leads to less stress, more productivity, and overall happier teams.
Inputs Impact Decisions
All of the people-first approaches we’ve integrated into our culture didn’t come out of thin air. Each year, we send out one to two pulse surveys and an end-of-year survey to collect feedback on what we are doing well and the areas that we need to improve upon. Asking our team for their input is powerful. It allows them to provide feedback based on their experience and gives leadership inputs to shape goals, new processes, ideas, areas of improvement, and to also highlight successes. We welcome all feedback—not just feedback confirming our beliefs on quality work-life balance or any personal assumptions on the best ways to support our team.
We also recently started what we are calling a “listening tour.” This “tour” is led by myself, our Founder and CEO, Brianna, and the direct manager of each team member. Each “stop” on the tour consists of a conversation between us and a Bloom team member in which we openly hear more about their own financial goals, personal goals, and areas they wish to take their career. During the conversation, we openly share salary ranges for their current role and what can be expected as they move up. Our goal is to listen to our team members’ desires and help to shape a path for them to not only reach professional goals, but advocate for their own personal dreams.
We recognize that while these conversations often lead to discovering where someone wants to move within the agency, at times we may discuss how their wants and needs may lead them to leave the organization at some point in the future. Even though we want to keep every team member, recognizing that Bloom can be a great stepping stone into a new career passion is very rewarding. We do what we can to support our team members throughout their career journey whether it is to remain at Bloom or to take a different path. It’s a refreshing approach compared to other organizations’ views on employee moves.
Team Members Drive New Ideas
Early on in 2022, we decided to establish a new practice that allows our team members to participate in committees that are tasked with shaping improvements, new ideas, and processes in five key areas of our agency:
- Account Management
- Client Management
- Client Stewardship & Appreciation
- Team Member Engagement & Appreciation
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
These committees are leading initiatives to shape best practices at Bloom. It helps support a culture where everyone contributes and can have a piece of ownership in agency practices and growth.
Team Expertise Drives Training
Many organizations rely on a select few members to develop and drive new training initiatives, but does that make sense if the select few aren’t the ones doing the work? We didn’t think so. Our training initiatives for 2022 include highlighting team members and their expertise through the development of best practice training in public relations, marketing, digital marketing, research, and creative. It’s a great way for team members to showcase their expertise in their discipline area and to promote cross-discipline training to our growing team.
As Brianna notes in her blog, there are quite a few people-first practices we initiated during the pandemic. What started as ‘Half-day Fridays’ has since transformed into ‘Focus Fridays’. On the last day of the week, team members are encouraged to sign off at 1 p.m. or after four hours of work. We recognize that to-do lists are always going to be there. If we can help team members prioritize their week to take a break on Friday afternoons, this allows them to recharge for tackling the next week. We work hard and this is a great way to acknowledge that. We also take this a step further by requiring a ‘no meeting policy’ on Fridays (unless it’s a 911 situation or special client need). No online chats, either. Just time to wrap things up for the week or provide a day where we can focus on a key project or large deliverable. This provides a clear path for team members to have heads-down focus time that helps to prevent burnout.
We’ve taken many steps to build a people-first culture, but we never want to get to a place of saying, “we’ve arrived!” This is a continuous focus for our organization. As the world around us changes, so will we. We’ll continue to look for ways to support our team, gather their inputs, and shape a culture that helps everyone experience a true ease between work and life.
Looking to improve how people come first at your organization? Connect with Jamie on LinkedIn!