The Microsoft Treehouse: Outdoorsy Creativity

The Verge: “Microsoft has built some tree houses for its employees. One sits in a Pacific Northwest Douglas fir, while another is 12 feet above the ground and features charred-wood walls and a high ceiling complete with a skylight … Microsoft said it had been planning renovations and surveyed employees to see what they cared about the most. Employees said if they were given the opportunity, they would work outside more.”

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Danny Meyer & Enlightened Culture

Fast Company: “How do you persuade your waiters to forgo a 20% tip on each table they serve? Danny Meyer says they never wanted to hire people who would only have been nice to you if they assessed it out of the four tables in their section, you were the richest or you were the most generous.”

“By that he means building a culture where employees focus first on pleasing one another, creating a warm energy that in turn fuels the staff as it tends to patrons, the community, and suppliers. His restaurants offer employees a variety of rewards, from bonuses to birthday cakes. And employees in turn have discretion to give customers free extras, all creating a virtuous cycle of hospitality.”

“Meyer regularly tests his approach to see if it’s is working by asking members of the team to share their understanding and experience of the culture … He says these discussions happen at pre-service meetings and in employee town halls, and through multiple internal channels that employees can use to offer their honest feedback.”

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Zuck Asks Not: What Are You Willing To Give Up?

Quartz: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “explains his theory to LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman as it pertains to Facebook’s former value statement, Move fast and break things:

“So the value is actually ‘move fast.’ And my whole theory on values is that a lot of organizations have values which don’t mean very much—because they’re just table stakes, things like ‘Be honest.’ Of course you’re going to be honest! That’s not an option—you’re not giving anything up to be honest, that’s an automatic. That shouldn’t be a defining principle of the company, that should be a principle of every company. So ‘move fast’ I think is interesting because you actually have to be willing to give something up to get it. And the question is, what are you willing to give up?”

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Academy Sports: First-Responder Retailer

The Wall Street Journal: “A sporting-goods retailer found itself at the center of the rescue effort in flooded Houston, first opening its stores to rescuers in need of boats, life preservers and other supplies, and then converting its headquarters into temporary residences for hundreds of police and other emergency responders. As of Wednesday morning, retail chain Academy Sports + Outdoors was hosting more than 400 rescue-team members at its corporate campus west of Houston, with people coming to work in 12-hour shifts from as close as Waco, Texas, and as far away as Connecticut.”

“Academy has a history of contact with law enforcement because it sells firearms in its chain of 235 sporting-goods stores. Dealing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies is a daily part of its business. So when the first call came in Sunday from the Houston Police Department requesting flat-bottomed jon boats and paddles, Academy brass weren’t all that surprised. But the calls kept coming … they wanted kayaks, canoes, ponchos and pontoon boats. In many cases, Academy opened the doors of closed stores so first responders could grab what they needed.”

“As waterlogged evacuees made it to dry land, they needed more. Sleeping bags, air beds, backpacks, fresh T-shirts, socks, shoes and underwear. Rescuers needed all those goods, too, and a safe, dry place to rest. So Academy opened up its four-story sport-themed headquarters, which hasn’t flooded and still has power. It also has gyms for sleeping and places to shower … Academy is offering financial assistance for immediate needs like hotels for about 150 employees … (and) is deciding where to donate $1 million worth of clothes and shoes later this week.”

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Digital Scale Cuts Ikea Food Waste

Fast Company: “By the end of August 2020, Ikea wants to cut its food waste at its stores–both in its restaurants and in its smaller bistros serving cinnamon buns, hot dogs, and soft serve–in half. At the heart of this plan is a digital scale. Whenever employees in Emeryville (CA) toss food waste from the kitchen into a bin, it now records the weight of the food. On a touchscreen mounted on the wall above the bin, employees quickly record what type of food was lost, and see feedback about the cost of that food and the carbon footprint. Over time, the patterns in the data will help the company make changes.”

“Ikea began piloting its new food waste system in 2015, and began rolling it out to stores in December 2016. By May 2017, it had launched in 20% of its stores, reducing nearly 80,000 pounds of food waste and saving the company more than $1 million. It’s now in the process of rolling it out to all of its 400 stores, which serve 650 million customers a year.”

Andrew Shakman, CEO of LeanPath, makers of the digital scale, comments: “The moment you start measuring with technology you begin to change awareness levels and you cause people to start to think differently. Whereas in the past they could just throw something in the garbage, now they have to stop and for a moment; they have to record something about it. In that moment, you’re not just collecting data, you’re communicating your values.”

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David Chang & The Dropped Napkin Theory

Quartz: “Chef David Chang’s restaurants are pilgrimage sites for foodies from Sydney to New York. But the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group recently disclosed that he gets inspiration on kitchen management from a US fast-food chain where a double cheeseburger, fries, and a drink together cost less than a small plate of pea shoots at Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York.”

Chang comments: “Every time I go to In-N-Out, if there’s time permitting … I stay there until I see one of the employees drop something. ‘Cause it’s always so busy. They drop something, they don’t know they drop something, and then someone else picks it up. Let’s just say they dropped a napkin. They pick up the napkin. They don’t go, ‘Hey jackass, you dropped this,’ like most people would do. They pick it up, they don’t say anything.”

“Previous research has found that organizations that show concern for employees’ development and welfare have higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction. Unhappy workers make more mistakes, have more accidents, and are more likely to be absent. One key to maintaining happiness among the rank-and-file is to ensure good behavior at the top of an organization. Researchers have found that employees are more motivated to help co-workers when they see people in leadership positions going out of their way to do the same.”

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Walmart ‘Academy’ Trains Workers

The New York Times: “Walmart has spent $2.7 billion on training and raising wages for 1.2 million of its store workers over the past two years — an investment that reflects the pressures the company faces in the retail industry. Fighting Amazon for sales, Walmart is trying to make its stores more pleasant places to shop. That requires a well-trained work force with a sense of purpose and self-worth, qualities that can be difficult to nurture in lower-wage workers.”

“Working in classrooms set up in 150 Walmarts around the country, employees learn how to calculate profit and loss statements and how to run their department like a small business. Managers are also taught to get to know their employees and understand their home life … The company says its training programs are intended to help employees advance into higher-paying jobs at Walmart or in other industries.”

“Walmart has been working with the National Retail Federation, a trade association, to help devise standards for a certificate that retail workers could earn for gaining certain interpersonal skills like how to deal with angry customers. The hope is that certificate holders will have an easier time finding a job or getting promoted.”

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Chick-fil-A: Service Trumps Politics

Business Insider: “In a few years, Chick-fil-A has managed to shed its controversial image to appeal to a broader swath of America, all without losing its loyal customers base. Chick-fil-A’s successful expansion north came after its biggest controversy. Dan Cathy, the son of the late Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, set off a fury among gay-rights supporters in 2012 that led to nationwide protests after he told the Baptist Press that the company was ‘guilty as charged’ for backing ‘the biblical definition of a family’.”

“These days, Chick-fil-A is warning all its franchisees against speaking out publicly or getting involved in anything that could blur the line between their private beliefs and their public roles as extensions of the Chick-fil-A brand, the company has said … The company still encourages its franchisees to get ‘entrenched’ in their communities … But Chick-fil-A says its focus now — both for local and corporate involvement and philanthropy — is on youth and education causes.”

Also: “Chick-fil-A started modernizing its corporate offices in Atlanta and opened an ‘innovation center’ modeled after the offices of Silicon Valley tech companies … The company hired chefs, food scientists, and dietitians to experiment with new menu items to appeal to upmarket customers who frequent chains like Shake Shack and Panera and are looking for healthier options … Key to Chick-fil-A’s reinvention has been its customer service, which consistently ranks No. 1 in nationwide surveys.” And: The company is investing in its employees. Mark Cohen, a Columbia Business School professor, comments: “Your employees are your ambassadors to the public. The folks who are staffing those Chick-fil-A stores are aggressively reengaging with people and talking about how great the company is.”

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Adidas Grows ‘Creator Farm’ in Brooklyn

Business Insider: “In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in an unassuming warehouse space just across the street from a stone supplier, Adidas is plotting the future. That’s where the company has built its Brooklyn Creator Farm, a relatively secret location where Adidas hosts a small team of designers from studios around the world. Their job? ‘Creating culture,’ said Marc Dolce, VP and creative director at Adidas.”

“The farm is separated into two parts: the designer’s area, and the Adidas’ Brooklyn MakerLab. The MakerLab — which is one of three in the Adidas ecosystem — has all the high-tech machinery and materials needed to create any kind of sneaker or piece of apparel the designers can dream up … The designer’s area itself is chock-full of idea boards and materials to inspire … Global Creative Director Paul Gaudio said it’s called a farm because the brand wanted the space to be ‘earthy and real and where you can get your hands dirty’.”

“The farm designers are influenced by the fluid and dynamic culture of where they are in Brooklyn. For example, a designer can join a night running group and learn not just what they need from a running shoe, but what these runners do for fun and what kind of lives they lead … “In the end, it’s very much a brand statement,” Gaudio said. “It’s who we are; It’s who we want to be. It’s so deeply connected to that strategy of understanding where culture happens. New York City is the place.”

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