Guest Column | August 28, 2018

The "C" Word: From CEO To CCO — Why Your MSP Needs A Chief Culture Officer

By Kam Attwal, IT By Design, Inc.

Team Meeting

The C word, whether community or culture — take your pick, are both equally integral in building strong teams. As an MSP in today's candidate-driven market, it is more important than ever we, as leaders, create a corporate culture that invests in our team members with a ‘community first’ approach.

As integral as the CEO, the Chief Culture Officer (CCO) is leading initiatives to drive internal community engagement within organizations. At IT By Design we made it our mission this year to dedicate ourselves to our community. Whether that means our peers, partners, customers, or internal community members, we are actively investing our time in nurturing the relationships that have led to our success. It is with this in mind I took off the CRO hat in January and became Chief Culture Officer (or Chief Community Officer, take your pick) in order to invest time in the organization we have worked so hard to build.

So you may be asking, “How did you do it?”

Identify Your Core Values

It actually began a few years ago when we went through the exercise of identifying our organization's core values. We brought together key team members for an offsite brainstorming session where we asked everyone to identify five core values they themselves consider essential to who they were as individuals. We filtered all these core values, about 30, until we finally came down to five key values that embodied our core team and what we wanted our organization to stand for. This exercise was an eye-opening experience and helped us, as leaders, understand what our key team members truly value. By understanding this, we were able to establish the principles we would continue to build our organization on: Integrity, Community, Innovation, Accountability, and Value.

Identify Your Brand Ambassador

The next step in building corporate culture begins by identifying your brand ambassador, the one individual in your organization that exemplifies your core values. Most often this is probably an owner, but it must be a leader willing to put your people first and allocate a significant amount of time into fostering the community. They must have the endorsement of all leadership and have part of their scorecard aligned with community building and employee engagement activities. While it may not be a full-time role at every organization, it must be at least 25 percent of this individuals job duties. If enough value is not put on the role, then no one will value it and it will inevitably fail.

Build An Employee Engagement Plan

What do your employees value? One of the first steps is understanding what is important to your team. Do they value recognition, social gatherings, and opportunities to collaborate? It could be one or maybe all of the above — the goal is to understand what is important to your team and build upon it. Having surveyed our team it was determined communication was important. With five separate offices there was sometimes a feeling of disconnect amongst the teams. Team members from one office did not know what was happening at the other office or vice a versa. We needed to build a ONE TEAM, ONE CULTURE mentality. So we started to brainstorm.

First was our communication plan, a method to connect all of the different offices together. It began with our employee newsletter, a once-a- month community connect that allowed us to inform the entire staff what was happening in and around IT By Design. These included corporate announcements, new product offerings, birthdays and anniversary announcements, corporate messaging, a video from the CEO, etc. This was such a success it led to our daily email, Coffee with Community, where team members receive their quote of the day, daily birthdays and anniversaries are highlighted, teammate of the day, maybe a recipe from a team member, or pet of the day – we mix it up to make it fun. It has now become a mainstay with our team’s morning dose of coffee. We setup the emails in our email marketing software — we use Hubspot — and it can be configured weeks in advance.

Next, we began employee engagement activities which came in two parts. There are quarterly reboots with our Quarterly Rewards and Recognition ceremonies where we highlight achievements by team members. Included in these are division winners along with core value award winners and rising stars. This ceremony is then followed by an offsite activity for teambuilding. It could be bowling, an escape room, poker nights; whatever it is it does not have to be an expensive activity, it has to be a teambuilding activity.

We then followed these activities up with monthly employee engagement activities. These are in office, once a month events that bring team members from different divisions together in fun activities to help them work on community building. This could be a salad-making contest, inter-office Olympics, or a music video — the whole point behind these activities is to allow team members to unwind in a social setting where we are collaborating and having fun. We do not spend much money on these activities; just use creativity to come up with fun ideas.

Finally, we incorporated our social media into our employee engagement. We started building out a teammate-Tuesday strategy where we would highlight a different teammate on Facebook on Tuesdays and tag them. Now this wasn’t just random individuals; we were highlighting someone for doing great work. By tagging them in the post we were extending ourselves into their network. This not only made the team member feel good about them self, it helped us build our brand in their extended networks. We also continually asked our team members, in every email we sent to the community, to follow us on social media. This has helped us tremendously in building our brand and getting employee referrals.

Create A Scorecard With Smart Goals

What does good look like? Once we understood what we needed to do and who was going to do it, we needed to set up SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound). These goals were then incorporated into the CCO’s scorecard and became 25 percent of the Community Teams annual goal. These daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks were then incorporated into our team scorecard which is reviewed on a weekly basis during our leadership meetings.

The age-old adage “it takes a village” is true in delivering managed services to your customers. In today’s candidate-driven market, taking care of your employees is key to retaining your ideal team players. Understanding financial compensation is not the sole source of retention and placing emphasis on community building helped ITBD improve our attrition rate, our customer retention, and build our brand within the market. Happy employees deliver quality support services to your customers — at the end of the day how can you not pay attention to culture? Today’s MSP cannot just be about service tickets, SLAs, and NOI; there needs to be a culture first mentality if you want to build and retain your team. CEOs need to become CCOs for the health and growth of their organizations.

About The Author

Kam Attwal-Kaila is a Partner and President of IT By Design. Having been with the company since 2000, Kam is ITBDs Brand Ambassador. Leading the ITBD Community teams, including Communications and Marketing, Kam is instrumental in building the ITBD brand worldwide. It is her vision that has helped ITBD become a leader in the MSP community, and build partnerships with leading industry solutions providers, including becoming the official Helpdesk / NOC solution for ConnectWise.