Digital-Telepathy

What can other companies learn from the way you’ve designed and maintained your work environment?: 

Our company is made up of three divisions, Services (client-facing agency work), Products (digital tools for the world to use), and Publishing (the bread and butter of us sharing to the world of our findings and learning from them through conversation as well). Our Publishing team, however, is purely born from this exact need of sharing with others anything and everything we’ve discovered/learned/considered/experimented/tried.

Truthfully, there is no single path to creating an amazing work environment. And we're just discovering these things ourselves and just putting it all out there through our publishing division in hopes that others can experiment just like us and discover their own special work environment. We take influence from the world and think about what we can learn from it… therefore constantly evolving even what we do.

Through our own shared experiences, we hope that other companies see these experiments – like throwing a meaningful experience behind a birthday surprise, going beyond the traditional gift and celebrating the special abilities of individual team members to add some soul to gift-giving, or founding your entire company on values that are more than just words – and experiment within their own companies in order to evolve their enviroments in the name of betterment.

 
What are the key aspects of your work environment that make it conducive to productivity and employee satisfaction?: 

We have a single core word that pumps through the veins of every single soul in our office: Betterment. It’s what our blog is named after, it’s what we do with every single thing we tackle, and it’s what binds us all together towards a common force and action.

When the goal isn’t to make monumental leaps in the span of a day or two… if it’s more about a slow layering process that builds exponentially, then it easily becomes the engine that pushes our team forward. It ripples out into everything and it produces these amazing small wins that just keep reinforcing that we’re progressing in the right direction of a place where there are no roads.

Take for example, a year back, we realized (after a huge flu season) that we really want our team not only thinking but feeling brilliant. We created a new role, Director of Vitality, and then rolled out small projects here and there to get people on their way. Every Monday and Wednesday, we have family lunches around one gigantic table where work is off the table… and we just eat and share experiences together. Eventually, we bettered this process by having organic, home-cooked meals (though we do have the occasional fun fishy treat). It wasn’t planned, and it was something that every single person at DT cherished because we all understood the meaning and depth behind it. It was more than just a perk, it was an embodiment of betterment working for every person… both personally and professionally - at the table.

So when asked how we keep our environment alluring, appreciated, and growing… then this is exactly how. It’s our underlying philosophies that we don’t just recite… but live and breath into everything we do.

What challenges and opportunities in creating a positive work environment are unique to user-oriented practitioners?: 

While we have three main buckets of specialization at our company (design, development, and strategy), we don’t really discern between any of them within our process and workflow. We call everyone a designer, whether it’s designing a beautiful interaction through crafted code, designing a user experience as an account strategist or UX designer, or designing some good homemade brew to relax with at the office.

With design at the heart of everything we do, most of our team wear multiple hats. And while there are individuals who are extremely good at a couple skill sets (like illustration or user research), our flow is so collaborative that others still learn quite a bit of these other buckets to keep it even. So you could say that our environment has a baseline of many of these backgrounds and skill sets and then we utilize the special abilities of certain skill sets on a per need basis.

What measures do you use to monitor and maintain employee satisfaction, both at a group level and an individual level, and how has that affected how you’ve crafted your work environment?: 
Here are just some of the many "experiments" that have flourished on their own and made a huge impact on maintaining employee satisfaction at DT:
 
  1. Twice a year performance reviews that we've dubbed, the Betterment Reviews
  2. Employee satisfaction surveys with teams dedicated to implementing solutions to problem areas
  3. Utilization of consultants to help with culture and employee satisfacation: Delivering Happiness
  4. Two Dedicated roles within a 30-person company: Director of Company Culture and Director of Vitality. (About to hire a third focused on people, happiness, and employee development - Talent Ambassador) 
  5. Careful decicion-making on what clients we work with. Yep, we've got a "No assholes" rule ;) 
  6. Encourage employees to explore areas of the business that are of interest to them. (i.e., we have a dedicated account strategist who is commited to being an integral part of our Publishing division)
  7. Values based organization with a strong nobel cause that was brainstormed, created, refined, and approved by the team 
  8. A complete culture first workplace. And people are the #1 thing that supports the culture.

 

Please provide any employee testimonials and, if available, retention/turn-over data that indicates your work environment is especially healthy.: 

"I started at DT in Aug 2012 right before we decided to expand our services division - we had 13 employees at that time. 18 months later we have 30 employees. During that time, 2 people have left (one of them was a bad hire who has come and gone and the second was a beloved employee who's family decided to move to San Fran. He left the office on his last day crying with the entire company standing and cheering as he walked out). This low level of churn does not exist at agencies."

- Laurence Mongtomery, General Manager