Employee Happiness and the Essence of Team Culture
Employee happiness or Team culture is a term that has often been tossed around as a buzzword, sometimes even reduced to trivial gestures like a pizza evening or a marketing catchphrase. Yet, at its core, it represents something much more profound: a genuinely safe and enjoyable work environment. Agriplace having an eNPS(Employee net promoter score) score of 72 showcases how this culture is not just spoken about but lived and breathed in our daily interactions. But how did we get there?
From our journey and experience at Agriplace, also inspired by insights from McKinsey and other thought leaders, we believe this hinges on three pillars: authentic leadership, effective management of scale-up dynamics, and a deeply ingrained team culture which our colleagues will have shared more about below.
“There is no product without a healthy team to build it, sell it, and support it. “ - Jack Obeney
Our team December 2023
Authentic Leadership: The Nico Factor
Central to our ethos is our CEO Nico, who usually is not a big fan of the spotlight, however his dedication to authentic leadership has been a catalyst for the trust and growth we feel within our company. Nico's approach challenges traditional leadership - as it's about fostering an environment where honesty about personal well-being is as valued as professional performance. This commitment to transparency and empathy, especially during challenging times, creates a space where every voice matters and every opinion has room to breathe. It's a leadership style that not only advocates our values but actively embodies them through clear, consistent actions. This all became clear once we calculated our eNPS score (Employee net promoter score) and saw that our result, 72, was triple the average of software companies who’s eNPS score averages at 20.
“The way in which Nico, and in turn others, offer anyone the opportunity to pick things up outside their comfort zone (i.e. when someone has an idea to improve something about the team Nico often asks that person to lead the effort) really embodies the "owned responsibility" value." Another consistent, but less frequent one is how we bake the values into our 360 reviews, and that one of the ways we measure personal success is how well you live up to the values?” - Jack Obeney
The Dynamics of Scaling Up: Lessons from McKinsey and more
“Our research and experience show that six factors in particular are important for achieving this balance and scaling a product or business up successfully: a structure especially built for growth, effective ways of working, a strong talent development engine, a distinctive culture, leadership capabilities at scale, and an aligned founder CEO and top team that set clear direction” - McKinsey & Company 2022
Another factor that we believe contributed to this score was the management of fluctuating dynamics. Scaling up is not a light journey and is faced by rapid changes and growth through various phases. Each phase represents its own challenges to the maintenance of employee happiness & the insistence on a healthy culture. Firstly, the organizational structure must be tailored for growth, promoting innovation and agility, this leaves room for building trust which is the spirit we hold for nurturing our culture.Secondly, operational methods need to be refined to handle the increased scale efficiently without tumbling into chaos. Talent helps cultivate team culture, with having strategies evolving to attract and nurture the right skills and attitudes for growth. The company's culture must adapt to these new phases, while still maintaining its core values as it embraces change. Additionally, the right leadership capabilities at different organizational levels must be strengthened to meet these new arising challenges. Lastly, the alignment of the CEO and top team is crucial to maintain a clear and unified direction. These elements are fundamental in transitioning from a startup to a mature organization, without losing who you are as a team.(Jules et al., 2022)
“We're growing rapidly, so retaining that talent is integral, and the work environment plays a huge role in this. We're in that sweet spot of 35-100 people right now but once we cross that 100-person threshold, things will change; it's inevitable. But the decisions we make in this phase will undoubtedly shape our culture during the next phase. Focusing on culture and getting it "right" now is infinitely easier than trying to fix something later.” - Jack Obeney
Team Culture: The Core of Our Identity
Despite emphasizing the importance of authentic leadership and the way the company’s scale-up dynamics are being handled, we as Agriplace believe the culture is what has played a major role in our growth as well as the energy we have. Starting off with being a small team of 5 not sure of what the future held, we were in it together and realised a culture was born. Acknowledging how special the feeling within the team was, team members Frederic Unger and Jack Obeney took initiative and decided to preserve this by getting the team to write down all the words they felt within the company on some post-its in the moment. From these post-its, a summary was made and voted on by the team, from which the below cultural values were born.
Our team currently consists of 45 people, representing around 30 different nationalities, all in one office. This diversity brings a wealth of varied experiences in work, education, and knowledge about the world. It's not something we explicitly aimed for, but it has created an environment where anyone can feel welcome and proud of who they are and where they come from, all of which adds to having increased genuine happiness at work. It can go from hosting potlucks every once in a while, to bringing your culture treats to the office. (see image below)
As we grow and expand internationally, the strength of this diversity will become even more apparent. For us, it's exceptionally important to craft our culture together without forcing anything. Our cultural values are a good example and they should reflect who we are now. Some aspirations are valuable, but it's more important that we can all say we live up to each value in our own unique way. Moreover, they should always be rooted in actions, rather than just aspirational words like "Be bold". Company Culture will happen either way, it's important to be conscious of what you really want it to be.
Views from the Inside:
Jack Obeney - Tech Team Lead:
“The term "company culture" and the ideas surrounding it have developed a bit of a negative connotation in recent years, especially among my generation and younger. We expect more sincerity, as we tend to be more upfront and honest about things, while being less likely to endure a negative environment. We often hear companies boast about their "wonderful culture", but our experiences tend to be very different, revealing that it was more of a marketing tactic. This has bred a lot of cynicism. It's a shame because the underlying ideas are important and, if implemented well, can create amazing workplaces with passionate people working together. I think it's important to make all this public. As I mentioned, I dislike the efforts of many companies to use their culture as a marketing tool, especially when it doesn't reflect the reality of the company. However, when it does reflect reality, it's valuable to showcase it. This not only helps to attract the right people by saying, "Hey, this is what we're about, and if you like the sound of it, there might be a place for you here" but also demonstrates that it's possible to discuss these subjects sincerely. […] Ultimately, the well-being of the team is the most important thing.”
Hanna Kirchner and Adrian Längle DACH Account Executives: “Another point I personally find strong in the company and which contributes to the scale up vibe & culture of ours: Giving and receiving feedback. I think we proactively do that a lot and embrace it as well as a team. We all want to grow and can learn from each other by regularly sharing constructive feedbacks and asking for it” Sorin - Quality Assurance Manager(in very much his style):
In essence, our journey underscores the role that authentic leadership, genuine cultural values, and a commitment to preserving the human aspect in a workplace has. Our focus on employee happiness and authentic culture is an ongoing journey, with futures up and downs. We remain dedicated to creating an environment where every team member can thrive authentically. After all, our culture is not just a reflection; it's a living testament to the values we uphold and the people we aspire to be.