Growing weirdly Archives - Page 2 of 5 - Weirdly

Shiny! New! SmartRecruiters integration

Well, the product team are looking a bit dazed but it’s all in the name of success! We’ve launched the first in a series of recruitment tool integrations: Number one on our list? SmartRecruiters.

Making sure the different HR technologies you use play nicely with each other is vital. For Weirdly, that means making sure you can use us within (and alongside) your current ATS or candidate management system.

A SmartRecruiters integration was a natural choice for our first biggie. They’re on a mission to make hiring easy. We liked the sound of that. The fact that they’re one of the world’s fastest growing Talent Acquisition Platforms doesn’t hurt either. They grew over 500% between 2014 and 2015, and this year looks like it’s shaping up well too.

We’re super chuffed to be connected with these cool guys and featured in their assessment marketplace.

This particular integration has also allowed us to add a new offering to the Weirdly stable.

New Culture Screening Surveys

Our team (led by our new psychology head-honcho, Jeff Godbout) has used years of collected data to pull together a few off-the-shelf screening assessments. While these aren’t matched to an individual company culture, they can screen candidates for the common attributes needed to be awesome in certain types of company or team. These new off-the-shelf screening assessments are:

SmartRecruiters integration: For assessing startup culture

StartupCulture: There are common attributes needed to really succeed in the high-pressure world of startup. This screening assessment will help check whether your candidates have what it takes.

 

Better off Tedteam

Innovation Culture: Creating a culture of innovation is still ranking high on most larger company priority lists. Creating a team that captures a bit of the startup innovation culture, while still being able to operate in a larger corporate environment requires a special kind of screening survey.

SmartRecruiters integration: Assessing graduate culture

(Coming Soon) Graduate Culture: Screening graduates on their resume is, well, often sort of redundant. This survey will help you understand if your candidates have the qualities you look for in grads, even if they don’t have a lot of experience in a particular role.

So how does this SmartRecruiters integration actually work?

As part of our new integration, these screening surveys are available in the SmartRecruiters marketplace.

SmartRecruiters users can then send them out to candidates without ever leaving their dashboard. Once the candidate completes the screening survey, their score is displayed on their candidate profile, and a pdf copy of their answers is automatically attached.

There’s a handy link on each candidate report incase you want to know more about what the screening assessment is measuring. We’ve even kept it really clear and concise – no-one’s got time to wade through loads of confusing babble!

Finally, for people who are keen for something more customized to their specific company culture, Weirdly’s full custom option is just a click away.

We can help you design your dream screening assessment. Customised so it looks and feels like your brand, with an awesome candidate experience, video integration and a tailored question bank written by our in-house data/psych team. Once you’re happy, we can load it up into your SmartRecruiters account so it’s only accessible to you and your team.

You can check out more about how this SmartRecruiters integration works and put your hand up for first access when we go live later this week.

What’s next for Weirdly integrations?

This is just the first of many integrations we’ve got planned over the coming weeks and months.

Those of you who use Lever, Greenhouse as your ATS, and who use video or Slack somewhere in your process – keep your eyes peeled here.

And if you’re using another HR technology or software in your recruiting and want us to add it to our integration hit-list, flick us a tweet or join our People-people slack channel .

New Weirdos: Malcolm Fell and Jeff Godbout

Hold on to your socks, data nerds, there are two new Weirdos in town, their names are Malcolm Fell and Jeff Godbout and they’re taking Weirdly’s technical and scientific skills to the next level.

Over the past few months, we’ve bought a couple of new guys on board that are lending serious muscle to our product development. Malcolm’s a senior engineer, helping us evolve the product structure (and build out our first phase of exciting integrations). Jeff is an organisational psychologist who’s working with us to analyse the mountain of data we’ve collected and refine our awesome question bank.

Here’s a little more about both of them:

Jeffrey Godbout – Organisational Psych and data guy.

Dancing baseball player

While not exactly salsa, this is an example of what the world lost when Jeff stopped playing competitive baseball.

Jeff is the most american guy you’ll ever meet. A salsa-dancing, blond-haired athlete; he wanted to be a professional baseball player as a kid and even though a college injury meant he never got to the big leagues, he can still wear a baseball cap like Matthew MacConaughey in Angels in the Outfield.

After a stint living in Vegas, (where he pulled a Matt Damon and dominated the poker tables) he moved on to more academic pursuits: Organisational Psychology. After working in the field with big-wigs in Washington DC, Jeff made the move to NZ.

Interested in how the field is evolving, he was keen to investigate how his Organisational Psychology skills can be applied to the humanitarian sector, and he reckoned the kiwi beaches sounded like a pretty good place to hang out with his wife and new little daughter.

You know when everything just falls into place at exactly the right time? Weirdly meeting Jeff was like that. We were just ready to bring an Org Psych into the team to help us analyse our giant piles of data, and after years writing psychometric assessments, Jeff was really, REALLY ready to help someone shake up the very traditional way companies screen people during a recruitment process.

We’re chuffed to have him on board – partly for the awesome question bank he’s helping us build, and partly for the way he says “right on” after every thing you say. It never gets old.

 

Malcolm Fell – Lead Engineer, amateur rockstar, king of internet funnies.

The funniest gif on the internet

The funniest gif on the internet, as awarded by the king of internet funnies: Malcolm Fell.

When Malcolm was in highschool, his metal band “Turbine” was a finalist in the SmokeFree RockQuest. He played the lead guitar and wore a wig of chains.

From now on, that’s the yard-stick we’re all measuring ourselves against:

“Hey man, check out this cool thing I made!”

“It’s pretty good, but is it “16 year old headbanging to your own band while wearing a chain-wig” level cool?”.

Before his debut as the most hardcore teenage rocker in Hamilton, Malcolm wanted to be a builder. It’s a dream he’s sort of achieved, even if these days he’s building with 1’s and 0’s, rather than hammer and nails.

Before joining the Weirdly crew, Malcolm was Lead engineer at Vend. And before that, he worked with Satellite Media helping to create some of NZ’s most boundary-pushing tech campaigns.

Remember that Powerade Challenge where people were running all over Auckland using RFID chipped wrist-bands? It was one of the first times we’d seen RFID being used in a marketing campaign. Malcolm built that. Along with the ASB Tennis Live Quiz campaign.

These were both projects that pushed the boundaries of what’s possible using cool new technology. And both campaigns required not only killer technical skills, but also a real understanding of what engages people.

Malcolm is an awesome addition to the Weirdly team for exactly those reasons. He’s looking after the back-end engineering of our system. But he’s also bringing a layer of strategic thinking to the role – analysing how people are using Weirdly and working with Jeff to structure and collect the data that will, eventually, help our system learn on its own.

They say the future is in data. Well we’ve just levelled up with two data experts, working from different angles to make Weirdly better, faster and more sciencey.

If you want to see the magic in action (and make your next hiring process faster and less stressful to boot), give a free Weirdly trial a go today.

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Going global: A Kiwi Entrepreneur’s first adventure in the USA

We’re taking Weirdly over to the USA and in the spirit of throwing up lighthouses, we’re sharing the journey with other startup founders – warts and all. Here are a few of the key things we learned from our first couple of trips over so far:

Well, Dale was back for a grand total of 10 days before jumping in the next plane heading over to The States. This time, she’s gone over as part of package BNZ offered Weirdly – to exhibit at the Global StartupGrind conference last week (she took Simon with her for that part) and now scouting out another of our potential target cities.

This scouting process is a mixture of channel partner, sales and networking meetings and so far, seems to be giving us a really good feel for how well we’d fit in each city. We chose the USA for a myriad of reasons – not least of which was the huge market that a is leader in recruitment practices, and the fact that there’s a very supportive NZTE team on the ground. If you want to know more about how we arrived at Destination:USA rather than say, anywhere else in the world, we wrote a blog about picking where to start.

In terms of that first scouting trip though, there were a few key insights for any other startup founders or entrepreneurs about to take the leap. Here’s Dale’s breakdown:

Dale likes Soylent

First off, expect to be busy. That first trip consisted of 30 meetings in 5 cities in 14 days (excluding weekends). Whew. What a whirlwind. And it just kept getting busier. People like to book meetings at short notice, so I was cramming in follow-ups and last minute sit-downs right up to the very last minute.

America is a place of extremes. Never have I seen so much money and so much poverty in the same place. Everyone is moving at a pace that’s so fast they’re a blur, or they’re sat on the side of the road not moving at all.

Whatever the size or location, business happens FAST. Meetings are 25 minutes at most and these guys like to get straight to the point. One minute of chit chat then “what I can do to help you” or “tell me what you need”. This can be a bit off putting for a kiwi like me, but by the end of the trip I was pretty used to it.

Here are some of my observations that might help some of you entrepreneurial business travellers to the USA:

  • Be clear on what you want to achieve from your trip and plan everything around this. For me it was to establish 1-2 channel relationships, meet recruitment and hr professionals to suss out if Weirdly’s focus on recruiting for culture fit was some thing they could get excited about and to understand what the business landscape is like. And experience the US to decide if I like it – a big deal considering my team and I are going to be there a lot over the next few years.
  • American’s don’t like to book meetings more than a week out. I had a goal to have three meetings per day booked before I left. And I ended up making tons more once I arrived – some at very short notice.
  • The food isn’t really that big and bad. I found some great supermarket chains and plenty of cafes/restaurants that were super healthy and organic.
  • Make the most of every moment. You never know what’s going to pop up when you’re in a city you’ve never been to before. Meeting minor celebrities, extravagant parties, crazy stories from uber-drivers, dining alone in a romantic couples restaurant on top of the San Francisco hills, anything can happen.
  • Make sure you have some down time. Travelling alone is a blessing and a curse. Sure, you never have to check what someone else wants to do or eat, but you’ll also find yourself working every minute of the day and you might forget to look up once in a while and realise where you actually are.
  • It can be really draining having high stakes, high intensity meetings all day with no-one to debrief with afterward. Make sure you’ve got a communications plan set up with your team so you don’t fall down that isolation spiral. We had daily skypes and phonecalls, as well as the ever-present Slack chatter – it worked pretty well but it was still challenging.
  • Three weeks is almost too long. I had the opportunity to stay an extra week to attend an amazing conference. Towards the end of that week I realised I just wasn’t absorbing everything anymore – I’d reach saturation point. Shorter trips allow you to go harder and get more out of them.
  • Don’t always take a taxi. Walk sometimes. It’s enforced downtime – good for those things I mentioned above like taking time to appreciate where you are, and processing after your last meeting.
  • Be yourself – Authenticity and honesty goes a long way. They friggin love Kiwis over there. We’re from tiny little NZ and we made the trip all the way to America. This carries a lot of kudos immediately.

If you’re a kiwi startup and the USA is a market on your horizon then stop dilly dallying and get over there. The sooner you go, the sooner you’ll start learning.

And if you do get to the USA, be sure to pat yourself on the back. It takes a lot of guts to take on one of the giant markets of the world.

Better dust off the cape, we just got picked as a 2016 NZ Innovation Hero

Guys, we just got the call. No, not the “hey, you’ve been picked for that cool new NASA job” call, this one was even better. It was to tell us we’ve been selected by the NZ Innovation Council as one of their 2016 Innovation Heroes.

As you can imagine, we’re pretty chuffed.

Each year, the NZIC select up to 5 of NZ’s top innovators to profile at a series of events for NZ entrepreneurs and innovation enthusiasts all around the country. People can hear these five Innovation Heroes share inspiring stories, experiences and advice about some of NZ’s most exciting business ventures.

This year, we’ve been chosen to join the clever, inspiring founders from EatMyLunch, Martin Jet Pack (who make actual jet packs), Kode BioTech and the crazy geniuses at 8i who, awesomely, just picked up funding from Ashton Kutcher.

We’ll be touring the country with these guys in May – tickets will be on sale from next week so keep an eye on our twitter profile (@weirdlyhub) for the link.

If your company is interested in innovative new recruitment tools – check us out here. No credit card needed and it only takes 30secs to get started.

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Ready to launch your startup into a new market? Start here.

If you’ve been following us, you’ll know we’re making the big leap from the tiny NZ testing market, to the giant US market. As we were prepping to jump off this particular cliff, we kept getting asked the same question by almost every startup founder we talked to:

“How did you choose where to go first?”

The short answer? We still don’t really know. This is the first real sales-focussed trip we’ve made to knock on doors and shake hands in a market outside of Australasia and, early on in the planning process one thing became very evident:

The world is a really huge place.

In NZ, you often hear people throwing around phrases like “we’re going to expand into the US” or “we’re moving into Asia”. The thing that’s hard to fathom is the sheer scale of these markets. 4.3Million people ride the subway each day in New York city. That’s the entire population of our country. And we’re only counting one group of people, on one day, in one city, in one state of America.

Forget about the country being big, these cities are massive. You cannot hope to move into one of these markets and continue to do sales and marketing the same way you have been at home.

 

Finding your niche

Whether you pronounce it nee-shh or nitch*, it’s really important you find a way to zero in on the people who are going to be the most receptive and most valuable to your growth.

Zoolander who am I gif Finding your niche

Your niche will help you understand what cities are worth investigating. Is your product insanely popular with hipster café and bar owners? Maybe include Portland in your list of places to investigate. Are your best customers SaaS founders in rapidly growing companies? Don’t just look at San Fran, maybe also investigate other growing tech hubs in Chicago, LA or Denver.

Research where your best customer base is likely to be and then go there. There’s no substitute for getting your feet on the ground, shaking hands and looking people in the eye. Scouting out cities by going there and making sales is far and away, the best way of understanding whether there’s great expansion potential for you. It’s the old learn-by-doing idea, applied to business development and sales.

 

So how did we choose where to go first?

In the spirit of full transparency, narrowing down a shortlist of places to scout has been a mix of strategy and accident. Asking heaps of people for advice, using previously booked holidays to have meetings and visit startup hubs and reading acres of market research documents. But beyond those things, here are the steps we’ve taken and things we’re considering so far:

Joey and chandler go to london

  1. Where are you already getting traction?

We’ve slowly been building an international user-base since day one so a few spots around the world have organically popped up on our radar (I’m looking at you, Portugal). As these emerged, we’d aim short bursts of marketing activity specifically at those markets to see if that initial flurry of signups would keep momentum. The ones that did were most likely to have big audiences of low hanging fruit, the ones that didn’t were likely to require harder work to get people across the line. It’s a bit of a sledgehammer approach, but it’s been a useful way of working out which places are going to be really easy to sell in, and which are going to be hard.

  1. Do your channel partners have an established/growing client-base there?

Building good channel relationships was always going to be a key part of our growth strategy. Weirdly is an awesome tool that gets even better if you integrate it with other recruitment apps. We have a pretty good idea of who these partners are going to be now. Since we’ll be selling to similar audiences, it makes sense to consider where their client base is located too.

  1. Where do you already have established advisor/influencer contacts?

Getting doors open for meetings – whether they’re with potential clients, investors, channel partners or some weird combination of all three, is much MUCH easier if you’ve got friendlies on the ground who can stage introductions. Places where we have good advocates are way more attractive to us and that’s had a pretty major impact on our location decisions.

Also, accommodation is really expensive so it’s a big bonus if you’ve got mates in town who can lend you a couch or patch of floor to sleep on.

  1. Do people have the right problem in that city?

Ultimately, we’re all solving problems, right? If you haven’t worked out what problem your product is solving, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. If you have, thinking about where in the world people are experiencing the problem you solve is useful. We’re awesome for screening job applicants and helping people get from a huge pile of resumes to an awesome-quality shortlist really fast. That means markets that are having major talent shortages aren’t as good for us as markets where most jobs are getting lots of applicants.

  1. Is there a healthy investor community?

At some point, we will need investment from outside NZ. Working out which markets have a bigger, more active investor community has been a consideration for us as most of the advice has been that investors prefer you to be based in the same city as them. That said, this seems to be changing – particularly with San Francisco based investors, so it’s worth doing your own research on this one.

  1. Is the market evolving in the right direction?

Markets change and evolve. We’re awesome for mid-large startups. Companies who are tech-savvy and have moved beyond that early-stage of growth, but aren’t quite being referred to as Unicorns yet. At first glance, this would make San Fran an interesting spot for us, but it’s not quite that simple. You’ve got to ask yourself, are you launching into an aging marketplace? Is it about to tip (grow exponentially), or is it on its way down and about to be succeeded by a new hotspot?

  1. Can you picture yourself living there?

Expanding always involved making big sacrifices for the business, so this question can seem a bit…frivolous. But that’s why it’s really important to consider. You’re going to be spending a load of time in this place. You might even be asking your family to uproot their lives and move with you to this city. You’ve got to be able to enjoy it, otherwise ultimately, the sacrifice isn’t worth it.

 

We’re still smack-bang in the middle of this process so we’d love to hear what you think the most important thing to consider is when scaling into a new market. Tweet yours to @weirdlyhub.

If you’re keen to get onboard the Weirdly train before we officially launch ourselves into the States, jump in for a free trial now. It’s takes 30seconds to get going and no credit card required.

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*Please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t pronounce it nitch.

Recruiting 101 for Startups: The ultimate guide for hiring your first 10 people

In our every-day business with Weirdly, we’ve been seeing loads of startup founders really struggle hiring their first 10-15 people. These first teams members are crucial – they set the foundation for the rest of the business. But to hire them, founders either have to throw heaps of money away on expensive recruiters, or try to fumble their own way through a Do-It-Yourself recruitment process (while still juggling everything else). We’ve been doing this stuff for a long time, so we thought we could get some of our expertise down into a guide and help make life a bit easier for everyone.

We wanted to make it really practical – with actual templates people could use, step-by-step guides to help with decision-making and checklists. There’s even an over-pizza-and-beer style activity you can do with your team to help define that most slippery of intangible things: Your company culture.

It’s totally free to download and use – get your hands on it here.

As a special offer to celebrate launching, we’ve got 3 one-year-long subscriptions to Weirdly to give away today only. To enter the draw, just share a link to our guide (you can find it here) on twitter or facebook and include the hashtag #weirdhunt. We’ll be announcing winner on our Twitter profile during the course of the day today.

Happy hiring!

Startup Thanksgiving: great advice that’s not about holidays or leftovers

So Thanksgiving is done. Time to grab a leftover turkey sandwich, kiss your Mum goodbye and pack those elasticated pants away ’til Christmas.

There’s one thing you shouldn’t pack away too quickly though, and that’s the reflection and gratitude that comes with this most cosy and delicious of holidays.

Here at Weirdly, we’re really big on gratitude. Acknowledging the awesome help, startup advice and support people give to us is a pretty huge part of growing a happy, healthy team – as well as making us better founders (not to mention, much nicer to be around).

Some of our favourite things to be thankful for are the clever, wise and sometimes plain funny nuggets of advice people have given us along the startup journey. So we thought we’d give you an opportunity to share yours.

Click into the field below and share a piece of advice or encouragement someone gave you, early in your startup journey. It could be short and sweet, or long and kind of serious – whatever. We want to hear it all so make sure you share this around your team as well.

Then, we’re going to pull them together into an awesome startup advice compilation. An advompilation, if you will. Then you can stick it on your wall in your office kitchen – something to inspire everyone while they’re making cups of tea and way better than that tired old “hang in there” kitty.

Good feelings! Warm fuzzies!

 

 

[ninja_form id=5]

 

 

In the meantime, if you wanna try setting up your own weirdly quiz,  click through  on the button below for a free trial.

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The hard truth of keeping your focus in a startup: Letting those houses burn

In tech startup land, success comes with the ability to say ‘no’. A lazer focus should keep you on track, moving towards your strategic goals rather than being distracted by shiny opportunities.

Big clients asking for specific features? No. A pivot that looks like richer pickings from the other side? No. My mate told me Bulgaria’s really hot right now. You should try… No.

At Weirdly, we’re totally on board with saying no.In some cases, we’ve even had to say no to the customers who are paying us money, because we know, long term they’re not the ones we need. We’ve been known to take turns, just to get some practice in:

“Hey Dale, do you want a…” “No.”

“Hayden, you look really lov…” “No.”

And then, at the last Flounders Meeting, Josh Robb (@pushpay) said something that didn’t just strike a chord, it exploded the whole guitar. He described startup life as feeling like you’re standing next to a bunch of burning buildings.

There is too much to do and not enough time or money or expertise to do all of it at once. Every day problems crop up that are Most Important And Urgent Ever.

So you’re stuck, surrounded by burning buildings, trying to save them all, trying to solve all the issues. After a while, once you’re sweaty, exhausted, covered in soot and singed hair, you realise something: you can’t save them all.

House-on-fire

At some point you have to choose which building to save, and which ones you have to be ok with burning to the ground.

So, when we say “no”, it’s not just to opportunities. We also have say “no” to solving problems.

Say, for example, you’ve decided to focus on growing sales for the month. You’re coming up to the final few months of runway, you’re about to raise and you need another spike in sales growth to get you into a better investment position. So you’ve got the whole company dedicated to filling and resourcing the sales funnel – from the product team to the marketing crew.

Suddenly, you realise there’s a massive, gaping hole in your customer care process. Whoof! The building across the street just burst into flames. Your users are starting to grumble. Your customer success manager is manually updating 5 different spreadsheets and a collection of free tools to track issues and keep users happy. It’s hugely inefficient and not as effective as it could be.

This is when the “no” comes into play. Your instinct will be to turn the tap on full and slosh across with the road with your bucket. The panicked instinct to respond means you’ll forget all about the plan you set with the rest of the team: To focus on sales.

Too bad. The fire in your smoldering sales building has started up again. You had a good setup to deal with that one – a human chain of bucket haulers, maybe a couple of garden hoses. But instead of doing a great job of putting out that fire, you’ve abandoned your plans and rushed to solve an issue that suddenly seems much more urgent.
The thing is, if you keep running from fire to fire like this, three things happen:

 

  1. You never complete fixing or building anything to any high level because you keep getting distracted away from your primary focus.
  2. Those issues start leading your product development roadmap – you’re letting problems, not strategy, determine the direction of your product.
  3. Your money will run out.

 

Letting houses burn is a part of growing a business fast.

True, you’ll have to rebuild them at some point. There will be a price to pay. But this is the reality of startup – you’re juggling elephant-sized passion with teacup-pig resources so you’ve got to be ruthless about where and when you spend your attention.

At Weirdly, this challenge is really relevant. There are things we want to do, things we need to do, and things we can do. That last list can only ever have three items on it so making the lump-in-throat choice about which buildings we’ll save is the first, difficult step.

Then it’s about having the strength to focus hard and say ‘no’ as we let the other burn.

Weirdly is an #HRTech, recruitment software tool that helps you hire teams who share your mission. Based in NZ, we’ve got users all over the world – sign up for a free trial today and find out how you can streamline your own recruitment. 

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*Edit: We originally credited Lance Hodges with the whole “Burning Building” metaphor. While Lance DID drop some wisdom bombs at that particular Flounders meetup, he didn’t drop that particular one. Sorry Lance, we still think you’re the smartest fella we know.

How to improve retention: Keeping employees around for the long haul isn’t (always) about cake.

You spend a lot of time finding, interviewing, and training your employees. So it’s not ideal if they up and leave 6 months after starting the job. You have to go through the whole tedious process again from the beginning, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find someone as good. For a tech startup, that can be the death-keel. We’re all growing too fast with targets that are too high-pressure as it is, without losing precious months to finding and re-training newbies on our systems every five minutes.

So it makes sense to put a bit of effort in to keeping your team-members happy and engaged, so they stay around. If people feel that the company cares about them, they’re more likely to care in return.

With that in mind, here are our tips for improving retention. Or more accurately, looking after your people (so they look after you):

 

Get the right person in the first place

OK, so this is about hiring rather than retention – but it’s one of the most important things you can do to keep people happy. If you hire based on cultural fit, new employees are more likely to slot into your company culture without an awkward transition. They’re also more likely to feel comfortable and happy in their jobs (and therefore less likely to look for opportunities to leave).

Don’t push too hard

Of course you want your employees to work hard, but having unrealistic expectations about hours and deadlines can be disastrous. People are generally happy to work hard and even put in extra time when there’s a big project on, but the fact is, it’s unsustainable to expect people to put in long hours every single day. Also, being selective about who you push and who you care about doesn’t work here. If your engineers see you employing a “burn and replace” attitude to your sales people, while treating your product team like golden gods, it’s not going to win you loyalty. Eventually they’ll realise this is the 4th “Gary from sales” they’ve met this quarter, decide you’re being a bit of a dick and start responding to those recruiters who are always hanging around the git hub forums.

Be generous with high fives and rewards

When you do expect people to stay late or work through the weekend, a little recognition goes a long way. Even something as small as a positive comment or pat on the back can make people feel appreciated – rather than hard done by. Find ways to reward employee contributions – awards and bonuses are the obvious ones, but smaller things like vouchers or celebratory cakes are good too. And remember, if your team’s just pulled an all-weekender getting a new feature shipped and you start getting awesome customer feedback rolling in, share it with everyone.

Show you care (but actually)

You don’t have to hug everyone or bake personalised birthday cakes. You just need to truly care about your employees. Show this by being a bit flexible and sympathetic if they have a personal crisis, giving them the odd perk just because, and listening to and then helping them achieve their goals at work. And actually, birthday cakes do help.

Don’t be afraid to challenge 

Being happy at work doesn’t necessarily mean being comfortable all the time. People want to improve themselves, so push them to work on challenging projects, encourage and reward professional development and training, and help them set ambitious professional goals.

Help them with the boring stuff

Everyone has parts of the job they hate. Boring, repetitive admin tasks tend to be top of the list, along with the usefully vague “things I have to do heaps but are always hard and confusing” (read: bug fixes). Automating as many of these tasks as possible helps people enjoy the job more – and cuts out a lot of human error. Depending on your business, a CRM platform could be a good way to eliminate some of these tasks and improve your employee engagement stats. Having a policy of flagging challenges early and an openness to asking for help (in every level or department) embedded in your culture is useful here. Just knowing that your boss is totally open to pulling in someone on a short-term basis to help puzzle out an impossible challenge is often enough to give you the confidence to work it out yourself.

Do social media:workplace edition

An online platform can also be an easy way for employees to engage with each other, bond the team together and encourage collaboration. Slack is obviously good for this, but if you’re prepared to commit startup treason you could use one of the hundred other options. Whatever you do, choosing something your teams actually find useful is key. A tool that helps streamline processes, share important data (eg. sales), and provides a bit of social stuff can make a huge difference to people’s sense of investment in the company and each other. It’s also good for in-jokes.

 

In the end, it comes back to caring – and showing it. If you don’t give a toss about your employees, it shows, and people won’t wait around til you do. Investing time and money in your employees’ happiness is the right thing to do – and the best part is, you’ll improve retention with loyal employees who feel so invested in your business they’re impossible to poach.

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The best innovation culture in the world: The dark side of NZ’s No.8 wire mentality

At last month’s Innovation Awards (where we totally won a trophy) it was clear that the everyday inventiveness that Kiwis take for granted as just part of being a “good bastard” is alive and well. There’s some seriously cool stuff going on in this little nation of rebels and tinkerers.

Building this kind of embedded “culture of innovation” is one of the most common goals for businesses these days. So considering how successfully NZ has done this as a nation, why aren’t we producing more world-leading, innovative businesses? Sure, we perform well in small pockets – Rocketlabs, Xero, Fonterra are impressing on a global stage. Anyone who has spent anytime anywhere in the world knows our banking system is comparatively speaking, a total dreamboat. But given how many truly clever, world-leading solutions we create here, only a relatively small number of those make the global impact they deserve.

The burning question is, why?

 

The dark side of the No.8

In 2012, Hayden and I spent a week building a village in Sri Lanka. We were sorted into teams of ten, a mix of kiwis and other internationals, assigned to construct one house. We were building to an exact specification under the guidance of experts but otherwise left to our own devices. We were essentially very inefficient labourers, a bunch of soft office workers mixing cement with spades on the ground, hauling loads of spilt coconut palms and digging holes in the sweaty, sweaty heat.

Innovating cement mixing - just jks. This is old skool as.

Observing so many cultures working together, I got to see the opportunistic “No 8 wire” thinking in living Technicolor. The kiwis were always looking for better ways of doing things.

While the other volunteers slowly got dizzy from the wood treatments, we worked out that we could mount the poles high across saw horses and paint lying on the ground, our paintbrush swishing away blind. The Americans busily moved one or two bricks in each hand, while we’d load up our tee-shirts, or lay them all up our arms, staggering away with six. Nearly every one of us had our drink bottle stashed in the massive ice cooler that supplied chilled water for our headbands. Of course it didn’t work out that well all the time. Our painting was sloppy and the brick scratches up our arms were infection dangers (although the icy water was totally worth the dirty looks from our fellow builders).

A week or so ago, I caught the tail of an interview with ex Saatchi&Saatchi Boss, Mike Hutcheson. He’d just finished a masters on NZ creativity, having come to the depressing conclusion that we’re, statistically, not world leaders in creating innovative businesses – despite that ‘no 8. Wire’ mentality that drives us to actively look for new, better ways of doing things. The issue, he’d identified, was that our innovativeness nearly always comes with a little too much independence.

 

You’re not the boss of me

What does too much independence look like? It’s the go-it-alone mentality our European forbears brought with them from the old world, if pop-psychology is to be believed. That spirit may have helped us break the shackles of an oppressive class system and it could be the same reason we have so many kiwi small businesses.

Weirdly - Are NZ'ers the innovation sorry people?

Essentially, no one tells us what to do. And as anyone running a business knows, that’s a dangerous attitude. Hutcheson reckons it’s the reason why so kiwi many companies stall at the medium-sized mark. They start with a great idea, and then spend all of their energy defending their independence. The same pigheaded confidence that gives us the gumption to go out on our own also means we often avoid collaboration, taking advice or seeking criticism. This is the dark side of our No. 8 wire culture.

 

So how do we strike a balance?

How should we go about structuring our companies and our teams in a way that both supports that ballsy innovative spirit while also getting everyone pulling in the same direction? This is something the Weirdly team are working through ourselves so we’ve got no decisive answers for you. But here are some thoughts based on what we’ve discovered so far:

 

Don’t employ innovative people, build innovative teams,

Innovation is about seeing new ways of doing things. That’s the key commercial benefit to a diverse team – more points of view, more ideas, more ways of doing things, more devil’s advocates. The trick is, your diverse team must also have values that align – that is they’ve got to care about and be working towards the same things. This gives them a firm foundation that means, even if there are working style or communication hurdles to cross, sharing the control of ideas and projects feels a bit safer for everyone.

 

Get a companywide mission

Planeteers on a mission

Having a clear mission – and a team who totally buys into it – will allow you to harness people’s do-things-better mentality. It means their changes will at least pull in the right overall direction and that inventiveness is more likely to have a laser focus. You can have the best innovation culture in the world, but unless that energy is pointed in a clear direction, you’ll have trouble marrying your innovation with snazzy business outcomes like profitability and happy shareholders.

 

Celebrate failure

In innovative companies, failure is totally an option because it’s an inevitable part of trying new things. Failure must be seen as early attempt at success – or no one will risk it. There are some key elements to this. First is to define what an acceptable failure is – sloppy planning or poor teamwork shouldn’t come into it. Then think of ways you can reward people who gave a project a good crack, and still failed. Lots of companies are starting to hand out rewards for daring, but unsuccessful, projects.

 

Feedback happens, get used to it.

Like we talked about last week, getting everyone involved in each other’s projects builds a culture of collaboration. It basically forces everyone to get used to the idea that other people’s opinions matter and gives people the opportunity to be open and honest with each other – about the positive AND the challenging stuff. Done consistently and respectfully, this kind of feedback culture builds trust between teams and creates opportunities for ideas to be refined, challenged and pushed forward.

 

In short, collaboration (and giving away a bit of control) isn’t the enemy of innovation – in fact, it’s the only thing that truly makes it work. The sooner we kiwis – and kiwi businesses – work that out, the sooner we’ll start taking our deserved place at the world innovator’s table.

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