Be one team. 10 practical tips on building a cohesive culture and a better work experience for everyone.Preview
As of late, there has been much discussion about the on-demand workforce and worker classifications. In the past few months alone, I have travelled to countless DC roundtables and spoken to a variety of reporters covering labor issues and technology.
While I’m encouraged by the recent interest on the future of work and employee relations policy, I know it’s also important to recognize how those discussions manifest themselves in the lives of real people and businesses. My business, Hello Alfred, is pioneering a new workforce classification and business structure, and I’m seeing first-hand what that means for our workers on a human level.
Although Hello Alfred is still a young company, my co-founder and I have built the business with the belief that investing in people, treating them well and creating a great work environment improves everyone’s experience – and, therefore, our customers’ experience.
And I’m here to tell you: So far it’s working (!)
We pay competitive wages, ranging from $18 – $30/hour, plus full health care benefits for those who work at least 30 hours/week. Empathy and human intuition play an integral role in our business, and there are many examples of the tactical ways in which we engineer for this.
In many companies – within the on-demand world and elsewhere – there can be a huge disconnect from those who work for “Headquarters Corporate” and those on the front lines. Hello Alfred tries to create a uniform experience for all of our employees, whether they are designing the next iteration of our app or taking care of customers in New York and Boston each week.
“I think it will be hard for companies to build strong teams if they treat their headquarters-based team with respect and their field operations with anything less,” says Homebrew VC Hunter Walk. I couldn’t agree more.
Deep respect and team commonality lie at Hello Alfred’s core. Here are just a few ways we practice what we preach:
Our employees are our primary customer.
Prioritizing the people powering our business comes through strongly in our product. While this approach does present difficult tradeoffs which prioritize employees’ experience and success, it ultimately leads to organically happy customers.
We make work meaningful.
Hello Alfred has a clear logic of growth and we ask ourselves questions: Why are we in this business? Which problems are we trying to solve? Why does success rely on the whole team? Time is our most precious asset, so we want to make sure that the time we are all investing in our work and mission is meaningful.
We push power to the edge.
As Hello Alfred continues to grow, we want to push agency and decision-making to the front lines. We trust our employees’ judgement, give them frequent and fast feedback, and don’t punish people for making mistakes. Learning from mistakes is the only way a business can grow.
Getting a job at Hello Alfred is competitive (because we pay more).
Competitive pay and benefits are a great way to signal how we hold our employees. It’s also allowed us to raise the bar on who we hire. Our acceptance rate is just a fraction of the total applicants we receive. It should be a respected accomplishment to get a job at your company.
We build it into the UI.
In Hello Alfred’s app, we place a picture of our Alfred Client Managers front and center. This reminds our customers that there’s a thoughtful human serving them each week. The care and attention put into designing our consumer-facing communication is also paid to our internal tools. Consistency is key.
Hello Alfred lives for the details.
We make a point of knowing the names of all our employees by building it into our weekly meetings. Photos of our Client Managers and our corporate team hang side-by-side on our wall. We don’t have uniforms; we make it a choice if you want to wear Alfred gear – and we invest in the best. I love Arc’teryx gear, so when it came time to make sure our field staff had gear to protect them from the elements weestablished a partnership with Arc’teryx so our people had the best outerwear. These are just a few of the many details at work.
We help build career paths.
It’s very difficult to do in some cases, but to truly avoid divisions in the workforce, there must be a ladder and pathway between different roles at the company. We’ve promoted many of our Alfred Client Managers to team leads, managers, and full-time in our HomeQuarters (HQ).
We get to know the people.
Life is way too short to talk about the weather – we truly get to know our employees: How do they spend their free time? Why do they want to work here? What makes them tick? Some of my favorite moments have been when different employees come together to support one of the team in a solo piano performance, comedy show, or weekend soccer game. Our people are talented beyond the walls of work. We want to honor and celebrate that.
We prioritize approachability.
We serve our employees well so that they can serve our customers well. If something isn’t working, I want our workers to be the first to say we need to fix it. As a leader, I make sure to meet every worker one-on-one. I ask them “to come and find me” at the end of the day in their first few weeks and ask them about their experience (and make sure they do!). This sets the expectation that they always have a direct line to the CEO.
Everyone at Hello Alfred is part of #OneTeam.
Our office was envisioned as a home for our entire team – a place to rest, feel productive, and return each day. Our employees are welcome to go anywhere within the open space whenever they want, including our roof deck and kitchen. The fridge is stocked with food and snacks and available for everyone no matter what their job – field or corporate.
Hello Alfred is a unique company that is by no means perfect. But we’re genuinely trying to create equality within our culture and the practices we bring to work each day. To build a better team, build for #oneteam.
What do you think? Would this work for your organization?
CEO Hello Alfred