Software Executive Magazine

December 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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▶ KNOW YOUR COMPANY TOOL Guilizzoni swears by this quick, efficient software tool designed for remote teams. It emails three types of questions to all employees each week. On Mondays, employees are asked, "What are you working on this week?" and "How heavy is your workload?" Results are collected and distributed to the entire team on Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, a company-related question is sent out, such as, "Do you think our culture is strong?" or "Do you think the company is the right size?" The compiled an- swers are sent on Thursdays. On Fridays, the team gets a non-work related question like, "What is the best vacation you've ever taken?" There is a one-time $100 setup fee per employee. Answering the questions is optional, and employees who do answer can choose whether the response will be sent to the entire team or just to Guilizzoni. tended outcome is to create the kinds of camaraderie, side conversations, and running jokes in Slack or Google Hangouts that would normally take place in an office. These aren't necessarily playbooks for creating remote cultures, though; companies need to find personalized ways to make personal connections with remote em- ployees in order to build strong cultures. Examples of how Balsamiq actively builds its culture include: ▶ FRI DAY FUN T IMES Every Friday, four randomly selected Balsamiq em- ployees are put in a Google Hangout for a half hour during the golden hour. There is no agenda — the purpose is to chat, not to work. One employee sends an invitation that is scheduled a few months in ad- vance to ensure that everyone selected can partici- pate. Guilizzoni got this idea from Michael Pryor of Trello (another largely remote company that sold to Atlassian for $425 million in January 2017). ▶ ALL-HANDS MEETI NGS Balsamiq's monthly all-hands meetings are opti- mized to foster personal connections. Before the meeting, employees are encouraged to share per- sonal updates on the Personal Updates Wiki page, which new employees are also directed to as soon as they are onboarded. This page allows employees to update each other on the past month of their lives. It usually gets comments for a few hours af- ter the meeting; then the page is mostly inactive until the next month's meeting. During the meet- ing, employees volunteer to give personal lightning talks — 20 slides that auto advance after 20 seconds — that are supposed to be designed in less than 10 minutes and can be about any topic (Guilizzoni re- cently gave a light-hearted lightning talk with just photos of his house). The last 5 minutes of the all- hands meeting is reserved for "pets and baby time." Everyone's mic is open, and everyone talks. It's complete chaos with kids, pets, and even puppets on screens, and it's designed to be just that. ▶ CLUBS & SLACK CHANNELS Balsamiq club channels are optional and are open to all employees. The media club meets once per month for 20 minutes to discuss a particular movie or TV show. There's a media channel in Slack where people post what music they are listening to and can select a company song of the day. The health club is popular, too (Balsamiq gives employees up to 5 hours per week during work time to exercise and encourages group exercise classes to help employ- ees feel more connected to the outside world). These groups are typically championed by one employee. People don't care if you have an office; they care about not being left out of important conversations. A REMOTE CULTURE STARTS AT THE TOP Guilizzoni's house is less than a 5-minute walk from Balsamiq's office. And he likes that office. He found a cheap warehouse to buy, and he told the architect, "Build me the most beautiful office that nobody is going to go to." The office space replicates the work stations employees get for their home offices. Even though Guilizzoni likes the new office design, he real- ized he was sending a bad message to the team by be- ing there. At first, he tried working from a closet in the office and making other in-office employees use Slack to communicate with him. Then he realized those same employees could still catch him for lunch. Now he's 100 percent remote from his home. Founders, CEOs, and other executives who manage a distributed team but go in to the office regularly will incentivize employees to work in the office to get a larger share of voice. "Remote work is a hard leap, but you have to take it," Guilizzoni says. "You can't just have the re- mote formula; you have to live it and believe it. Trust that people will rise to the expectation." S SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM DECEMBER 2017 28 By A. Sorensen EMBRACING & OPTIMIZING A REMOTE WORK MENTALITY EXCLUSIVE FEATURE REMOTE EMPLOYEES

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