From Employees To Rebels: Here's How It's Done.
“Actions speak louder than words”. And as the words in our blog posts and presentations can be loud at times, our actions have to speak even louder. So, here we share some of those actions, and their results.
Take, for example, our work at Vermeer, a company dedicated to being more progressive.
Let’s be damn clear about one thing. Writing and speaking about making work more fun is a lot easier than actually putting it into practice. We’ve learned this from our past consulting projects. It’s challenging and tough, but when successful, extremely rewarding.
Luckily, we enjoy a challenge. We love to put our vision, ideas, and knowledge to the test. So, to increase awareness of that part of our work, let’s look at one organization we’ve supported over recent months.
Vermeer Corporationis a manufacturer of industrial and agricultural equipment. They distribute their products from facilities in Pella, Iowa, United States and several other locations worldwide.
Vermeer employs nearly 3,000 co-workers. Vermeer EMEA, who we work with, has 50 employees in the beautiful province of Zeeland (Netherlands).
The aim of our collaboration is "to boost entrepreneurship and innovation, and make work more fun".
Vote for change
Many say people are reluctant to change. We believe that to be utter nonsense. Of course, if you *force* people to change, they will resist. However, if people are inspired to change, reluctance can disappear in a puff of smoke. Or, as the well-known quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery goes:
At Vermeer, we challenged ourselves as we do with most of our clients: We put our project to the vote. If *less* than 75% of the employees voted “YES”, the project would be cancelled. If *more* than 75% voted “YES”, we would support Vermeer over the long term. No inspiration, no project. It’s that simple.
We were eager to support them, and we worked hard to get a large “YES” vote. We shared our radical vision of progressive workplaces via case studies, best practices, and transformation stories from organizations we’ve visited around the world.
It worked. When it was time to vote, over 95% voted in favor of the collaboration between Vermeer and the Corporate Rebels. We now had another cool project, and a perfect starting point—an inspired group of employees!
We believe change happens through ruthless experimentation, plus rigorous trial and error. Try something. Evaluate. Adapt as you go. At Vermeer, we organized workshops to design experiments. As input to those sessions, employees shared their ideas and frustrations through our survey.
During the workshops we shared in-depth insights into how progressive workplaces solve the issues that Vermeer’s employees were struggling with. The outcome? Ten tangible experiments employees were to conduct over a period of two months—all with clear measures to assess the results.
A few examples:
- Increase decision-making power at the front-line by giving technicians authority to order parts within a certain budget.
- Increase the focus on putting talents to work by discovering and mapping people’s talents.
- Focus on improving communication, trust and interdepartmental relations by getting to know each other better via activities and lunches.
- Increase transparency by (1) making management meetings open to anyone and (2) sharing the outcomes.
- Increase a sense of pride by creating a showroom to showcase latest products to dealers.
Run the experiments
During the experimentation phase, we supported teams remotely and onsite. Every other week we visited to coach, challenge, and support.
The teams did the great majority of the work. We supported from the sidelines by offering expertise on specific topics, and our experience in running experiments.
Sharing the results
After the first 8-week cycle we organized an event to share progress and learn from other experiments.
Employees proudly took the stage to share their impressive results. Here are some:
- Trust levels, atmosphere, ease of interaction and comfort with constructive feedback improved. In short, 92% are in favor of continuing this experiment.
- 80% of learned about new talents of their colleagues, and 93% believe it is useful to know of these talents. The next step is to apply them.
- Meeting interactions increased, say 80% of employees.
Beyond these results, many expressed excitement about the process so far: “I am glad that Vermeer and the Corporate Rebels gave me the opportunity to vent the thoughts and ideas I have had on my mind for several years. My opinion matters and that is a GOOD feeling. I feel a whole lot more valuable to Vermeer. Thanks rebels!”
Overall, 9 experiments have made significant progress, and one has been postponed.
The collaboration continues
The collaboration continues. In coming months, we’ll train a group of employees to become the internal Vermeer Rebels. They will take up our role. We aim for Vermeer to be self-sustaining as quickly as possible.