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In just 3 years, they went from being in the top 20% of companies in the United States for company culture to the top 5%.  And their dedication hasn’t waned.  Last week I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing Craig Dexheimer, the Director of Operations & Administration at Sálo, Oberon & NumberWorks based out of Minneapolis, MN.  Dexheimer’s unofficial title is the Ambassador of Culture.   First hand he’s experienced the impressive business outcomes that result from an extraordinary culture.   So I asked him, “How do you do it?”  And here’s what he had to say:

  • First and foremost, be intentional. This doesn’t happen by itself.  You have to set aside time to take the appropriate actions, efforts and measures to implement an extraordinary culture.  Everything “whether big or small” requires dedication and discipline.
  • The desire to have a great culture has to be supported by senior leadership. It has to be part of the internal DNA where there is commitment from the top, otherwise it’s simply not going to last. This is an organization where Co-Founder, John Folkestad, said “I don’t want my employees to be happy, I want them to be giddy!”  And giddy they are.
  • It has to be real. Fake won’t cut it; lip service won’t cut it.  Follow through is critical.  “It’s been especially beneficial to have an outside third party, like Choose People, evaluate and benchmark if our perception matches reality. The Forums for Feedback process that we implemented as a result of our work with Choose People has been invaluable. Garner feedback from your employees, take it seriously and constantly make small adjustments and improvements.”
  • The physical environment and the unwritten rules have to support the desired culture. “We have a ping pong table in the office that gets used by nearly everyone – including management. The message is that we truly want people to actively participate in the activities that make our office so dynamic.  I know of another company who has a ping pong table that sits idle near their cafeteria.  The unwritten rule there suggests if you’re playing, you’re not working.  And guess who doesn’t play…management.”
  • Play is powerful. In addition to ping pong, they have a foosball table, pool tables, several cool “old school” arcade games and the office almost always has a brackets competition going.  Teams are purposefully paired into unlike groups to play together and support team building.  Also, every month in Dexheimer’s department, someone is elected as the “VP of Fun.”  That person has complete autonomy to plan the next fun event that the team does together during the next month.
  • Hire people who fit your culture and provide clear cultural expectations. As Amy Langer, Co-Founder, says, “Everybody likes to attend the fun party.  We want the people who create the fun party.”  As a company that values excellence, they intentionally hire innovators, not followers.  Also, everyone knows when they walk through the door at Sálo, Oberon and NumberWorks that they need to be “on,” ready to bring energy to the table.  If someone is having a rough day or a rough moment, it’s better to leave, regroup and come back, than to bring negative energy into the office.
So if you’re not in the top 5% – yet! – take just one of Sálo, Oberon & NumberWorks best practices and run with it, intentionally.
Photo courtesy of Sálo, Oberon & NumberWorks

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2.9 min readLast Updated: January 14th, 2021Published On: January 17th, 2013Categories: Improving Workplace Culture, Organizational Culture ManagementTags:

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