At Lulu, we take steps every day to build practices that help our employees thrive. The benefits of building a positive work environment including ensuring we are happy, healthy, and productive at work. When we’re set up for success, we can build the best products and provide the highest level of service to our authors.
In order to build this positive work environment, we have focused on the following areas:
- Inclusive Culture
- Open Communication
- People First, Profit Second
- Think Like An Owner Mentality
When I came on board in August 2020, there was a strong need for building a more inclusive environment at Lulu. We had a solid foundation but given the world’s events, the leadership at Lulu saw a need to help everyone develop the skills, knowledge, and tools needed to operationalize the behaviors of inclusivity.
Inclusion has always been our focus and will always be a part of how we operate. From the people we hire to the author content we promote; we thrive on ensuring that marginalized voices are represented and heard. To ensure we listened to and understood the perspectives of all Lulu’s employees, we conducted an inclusion survey in the fall of 2020.
This informed our areas of opportunity for training. Over the past nine months, we have held a series of training sessions together.
The first was a company-wide empathy workshop where we learned about the different levels of privilege in the organization. We partnered with Natalie Egan, CEO of Translator.company. She led this (virtual) workshop and then we put people in small virtual groups to share their stories. This allowed our company to build more authentic relationships and equity and increase our understanding of each other.
Next, we had micro-aggression training led by Sarah Morgan, CEO of Buzzarooney. This was an educational session to learn about commonplace microaggressions —those brief, intentional or unintentional, slights that people experience in their personal life and work life. This session was not only to increase understanding but to also increase accountability.
At the end of the day, Lulu Press is striving for a workplace where everyone can show up as their authentic selves. We want to recognize our differences, celebrate them and use them to power our company culture and ensure we are looking through this lens while working with our global list of customers.
Open communication has been another focus of ours over the course of the last nine months. In August, we started doing consistent, monthly company-wide meetings where we highlight team accomplishments, feature recent publications and authors (that’s you!), and look ahead at what’s coming.
Two days before each company meeting, we have employees submit anonymous questions and comments that are then voted “up” by the employees. The executive team then answers all of the questions during the meeting, prioritizing the questions that have the most votes. (We use SliDO) This helps keep employees more informed and has allowed more transparency to flow through the organization. It’s been a big hit with everyone. Especially due to all of us working remotely, we needed a set time each month to come together and share the highlights from the last month as well as give everyone an opportunity to ask questions. This is important for our customers too! When our teams are communicating and working cohesively, we can tackle issues quickly and release new features at a faster rate.
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The other aspect of open communication that has always been a part of Lulu is our “open door policy” with leadership. At any time, we can reach out to any member of the leadership team for a conversation. No one is off-limits. The goal is to present a variety of channels for communications so everyone understands we value their input and want to hear from them.
It’s all about the HUMAN
In the last few decades (and unfortunately in some companies still today), humans were labeled as “resources.” If a company wants to attract the best employees in today’s competitive world, it has to be about humans. Lulu hires great people and we see their humanity first.
In order to operationalize this mentality throughout our culture, we started our internal leadership development program. Each of our people leaders will be attending manager training twice a month. We started with the focus on building trusting relationships.
As with any relationship, if there isn’t trust and a safe space, people cannot thrive. All of our people leaders will be doing a “values exercise” with each of their direct reports. This is straight out of the pages of Brene Brown’s book, Dare to Lead. Each manager will identify two core values that resonate with them. As a management team, we’ve learned about each of our individual values and how we can work better together.
The next step is to go through this exercise with our teams. When you understand someone’s personal values, it allows you to connect at a deeper level, to acknowledge their individuality and recognize what is important to them. This is all working toward building a solid foundation for openness, trust and consistency.
The saying of “People don’t leave companies, they leave managers,” is still true. We want to ensure people are getting the leadership they need to feel valued so they can truly thrive.
When it comes to valuing our employees, we are increasing our positive feedback across the organization. We recognize 4 employees at each company meeting who “lived our Lulu values” in the past month. Our four company values are Lulu Press are: Community, Optimism, Innovation, and Creativity. Employees nominate each other and share stories about how the employee lived the value to earn them the recognition they deserve. This has been a tremendous success and a great way for highlighting our employees that are going above and beyond for the entire team at Lulu Press.
Think like an Owner
Lastly, in striving to build a more open and positive work environment, we want everyone at Lulu to “think like an owner.” If this was their business, what decisions would they make? I’ve learned in my career in people development; high performers want “a direction,” not “directions.” The best thing we can do as leaders is to set goals and then get out of our people’s way.
This type of approach gives employees ownership over how they do their work and accomplish their goals. It allows the leaders to set goals and guard rails and then see people excel in a way that leverages their strengths. Gone are the days of bosses telling their employees what to do, how to do it, and giving advice. It’s more beneficial for the individual because it allows for a higher level of engagement, opportunity to grow, and autonomy in their work and it benefits the company through loftier goals we can hit through a variety of approaches.
Encouraging everyone to take the approach that best fits and supports them is a sure way to leverage their strengths. When you do something you love, something you’re good at, and you make an impact on the business, well, that’s the trifecta! The employee thrives, the business grows, and the customers are the ultimate winner.
Erin is the VP of People and Culture at Lulu.