Even though XPLANE likes to wear our Great Place to Work badge with pride and love to brag about our consistent 4.25+ out of 5 employee satisfaction rating, we still face a lot of the same challenges that our clients in organizations of all stripes face as the landscape evolves. When departments are stuck working in silos, employees are feeling anxious, and the overall company culture is in a slump, how do we turn our organization around?
Rethinking the way we approach our offsites, company retreats, and department-specific summits completely changed the way we work together as a company.
By restructuring the ways we do trainings and summits, we rejuvenated our company culture, unlocked the way we work together as teams, and established new, positive ways of working.
Historically, XPLANE has invested heavily in creating experts within clear roles. As a result, our employees often identify more with their specific role than with being an XPLANEr. Though in teams this creates a strong department-focused power, we begin to lose the cross-functional collaboration that comes with a “One Company” mindset. Teams are working on their own in silos, rather than together as a whole company.
As a small company, we don't have ladders within each role. The main opportunity for growth and development is not vertical, it’s horizontal: we want our staff to stretch themselves to learn new things from their peers, stretch their skills, and create the bridge into new roles. We need to give our people access to different skills and expertise. We need to let them know that, as a company, we value their growth and development.
That’s why we decided to do as we teach.
For the last week of July 2017, XPLANE invested in skill-building as a company by dedicating three solid days to facilitated trainings for all of our employees (including our extended contractor family). The Super Summit was focused on three primary goals:
- To share knowledge across teams, build ideas as a team, and practice new skills.
- To invest time, energy, and money into the “deep work” of examining how we show up at work, what energy we’re bringing into the culture, and why it matters.
- To get inspired, invigorated, and refreshed!
We developed greater empathy for each other, better conflict resolution skills, and left inspired by the commitments of the group. The deep work can be exhausting, but the rewards are high.
The results were evident immediately. Now, just a few days after the summit, we noticed…
Employees feel equipped and empowered to implement new ways of working.
Through cross-functional sessions, we challenged everyone in the company to learn skills outside of their defined role and put them into practice. Our people left the three days equipped with tools and frameworks to apply immediately to their work, whether they’re planning a meeting, critiquing a piece of design work, or facing a challenging internal conflict.
Silos are starting to break down.
We watched our employee experience team bond with our consulting leaders, our marketing team receive valuable feedback from the sales professionals out in the field, and our designers work hand-in-hand with the executive leadership team. Everyone worked together, all at the same time. Instead of our typical one-off department-specific summits (where participants have to get buy-in outside the group in action), we were all working as one company, and had full buy-in to keep moving forward.
“We can now truly be innovative because we have everybody working together and heading in the same direction.”
— Deanna Rizzo, Program Manager
Employees feel more connected to each other and their work.
Through a mix of empathy and listening exercises, leadership card games, and passion-lead Ignite-esque sessions, our employees bonded both one-on-one and as a group. We used frameworks to guide us through listening exercises and allowed time for colleagues to present about everything from the best iPad tips-and-tricks to diversity and inclusion. Employees from all levels of the company left the summit with a deeper understanding and sense of empathy for colleagues that they’ve never connected with before.
“As a leader I now feel like I have pulse on what the employees are seeing and seeking. I feel more informed for our strategic planning cycle than ever before.”
— Kathryn Jarrell, Chief of Service Delivery