Improve Company Culture With Volunteer Task Forces

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Most people hate being told what to do.

It seems like an obvious statement, yet companies still drive most of their company culture initiatives from the top down. There’s a better way.

When it comes to building a truly iterative, progressive company culture employees love, volunteer task forces are the way to go.

What is a volunteer task force?

A volunteer task force is a small group of employees who volunteer themselves to own a high priority company initiative.

How Stride benefits from volunteer task forces

Stride is continuously iterating on our company culture. We do this by getting input from our employees often through:

Each of these activities produces valuable insights into what Striders want and what they value. From these insights, we choose our top priority initiatives as a team, and then we form a voluntary task force to own a top priority initiative.

Volunteer task force guidelines

Each task force follows these guidelines:

  • Two Striders who volunteer themselves to be on the task force.
  • Almost always comprised of employees who aren’t on the Stride leadership team.
  • Accountable for delivering a proposal to the leadership team regarding the chosen initiative.
  • Accountable for gathering input from Striders.
  • Accountable for setting their own timeline.
  • Accountable for iterating towards a solution that meets the needs of the Striders and the business.

The secret

If Stride can’t find two employees that are passionate enough about an initiative to champion it, that tells me there’s no true interest in the initiative.

If we can find two employees and form a volunteer task force around an initiative, we know any initiative that gets implemented is truly created by the employees.

Here’s the secret to the whole thing: If the task force stalls, then the initiative is dropped.

The initiative simply falls through the cracks and no one on the leadership team requires it to be completed.

Think about it.

For example, if Striders say improving, our professional development policy is important to them and they are adamant it must be changed, it’s on them to come up with a proposal that works for both them and for the business.

Leadership’s role in volunteer task forces

Now, it’s important to note the leadership team at Stride has a very important role in voluntary task forces.

It’s the leadership’s job to be servant leaders.

It’s the leadership team’s responsibility to truly be ready to implement change, so long as it makes business sense.

If, for example, there is great passion about an idea that isn’t feasible, the leadership team needs to state that clearly up front. If a task force works hard on an initiative that never had a real chance of being implemented, that’s a surefire way to sink morale quickly.

How to decide which initiatives are owned by volunteer task forces vs. owned by the leadership team

It is true not every high priority initiative can be owned by a task force. Some initiatives ought to be owned by someone on the leadership team.

Here’s how we decide: Every quarter, the Stride leadership team holds a strategic planning session. In the planning sessions, we identify the top 3–5 quarterly company initiatives (that tie into the annual initiatives).

These top 3–5 quarterly initiatives are owned by the leadership team. Anything else that comes to us from Strider input is fair game for a volunteer task force.

The results

I am proud that Stride has a 5 star Glassdoor review, has been named Crain’s Best Places to work two years in a row, and has a 3% turnover rate (industry average is 18%). Are task forces to thank? I, for one, think they play a strong role.

Originally posted on HuffPo

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