Cultural Transformation and Meaningful Work: Crafting a Fulfilling Workplace Experience

BY Carrie Snider | April 05, 2024

Crumbl’s mission is to bring people together by sharing their cookies. But how could they make that idea real to their employees? The opportunity came when a snowstorm shut down most of Utah and leadership asked employees to work from home. But this wasn’t a normal work day. Instead, on top of the workers' to-do list was to build a snowman. 

The contest was a catalyst for employees to create a memorable moment, says Josh Olofson, VP of talent and culture at Crumbl, who was one of five panelists discussing the topic of meaningful work at From Day One’s Salt Lake City event

“We really went for it,” Olofson told session moderator Mekenna Malan, editor of Utah Business. Crumbl asked employees to share photos on Slack, and the prize for best snowman was $1,000. Memory-building was the goal, not just for the employee snow day, but to bring that concept to better drive their work. “We wanted our employees to really feel how powerful that moment is.”

It’s that act of integrating company values that helps nurture a purpose-driven workplace. How to keep that momentum going all year long? It’s probably something most companies are already doing—the key is to use them wisely.

“One of the tools I think that is most often overlooked in our space is effective one-on-ones,” Olofson said. Leaders need to make sure they’re not being reactive during these meetings, but rather proactive. One-on-ones are an opportunity to be open and connect and plant the seeds for change. 

Of course, companies should share successes with each other, but as Olofson says, sharing failures is just as vital. Those one-on-ones are a great place to share those.

The panelists spoke about nurturing a purpose-driven workplace at From Day One's conference in Salt Lake City

“When you open yourself up as a leader and you’re willing to share your failures, then your employees are going to be less against change, because they’re not going to be as afraid to fail themselves,” he said.

Where to Start? 

Start-ups have the unique challenge but also opportunity to create meaning and purpose in their company culture from scratch. Panelist Brooke Shreeve, chief people officer at Weave, said the trick was to go back to basics. 

“We did our first engagement survey, and we realized we had an identity crisis,” she said. What was Weave? They sat down and hashed it out and the result was Strategy on a Page: all the company’s vision and purpose at a glance. 

They rolled it out at a company meeting, and copies remain available at all times to every employee. “It’s on every desk, so it’s a reminder every single day on what we’re doing, why we’re here and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

After the rollout, leadership offered continual updates of what they were accomplishing with those values in mind. The result? Focus. “It put everybody on the ship rowing in the same direction. And that is huge.”

That’s the power of engagement surveys, and why leadership should not only read them but take action. While companies can’t do everything employees want, Shreeve says they choose specific items to address, and they share that with everyone. 

“That really has helped make a huge impact on our company.”

Personalizing the Worker Experience

It’s astonishing to think that five generations of people are in the workforce, says panelist Dan Kwong, vice president of talent and Culture for Woodward. The wants and needs of each generation and each person is different. 

“The opportunity is knowing your people,” he said. “Who are your people? What do they care about? What are their needs? What are their values? How do they like to work?”

Generally speaking, most people want flexibility and autonomy. But those things can look different depending on the employee. “There’s some give there. It does not have to be nine to five behind a desk.” And it’s especially important for HR to have space to really engage in and relate with folks, he says.

Recruiting must also be more personalized, Kwong says. The key is looking beyond the resume, removing barriers, and setting employees up for success. Integrate company values in the recruiting process and continue it during onboarding, he says. 

“Even without telling that individual what the mission is or what the values are, they should be able to feel it. They may not have the words for it. But once they’re hired after a robust process, then you can share those words. It’s about connecting the dots.”

After that, keeping lines of communication open is key, it’s important to discuss employees’ aspirations. What do they really want out of work and life? Especially since upward movement isn’t always available. 

“Growth does not always mean a promotion,” Kwong said. “There is growth. But it starts with that one-on-one conversation that starts with leaders role-modeling those behaviors.” Next comes building the structures, frameworks, and programs, Kwong says. 

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Nurturing a purpose-driven workplace takes time, says panelist Daniel Allred, VP of human resources at ZAGG Inc.

“It’s a process,” he said. “You can’t put in place corporate values tomorrow that are going to get you exactly where you want to be. But you do have to take steps today to get alignment behind, starting at the top with the senior executives.” 

The forward movement is the important thing to focus on, especially as things constantly change. ZAGG has experienced a lot of change as of late that wasn’t always handled well, says Allred. But they learned, and now they do things differently. They found that meeting regularly, monthly rather than sporadic, and transparency work best. 

“We put on the screen every single month exactly what we’re tracking,” he said. “We were very open and transparent about the hurdles we’re facing, where we fell on our faces and where we succeeded.”

That regular, open communication has helped alignment fall into place. “It’s not a two month process. Sometimes that takes place over a year. And so acknowledging that continuing to push forward even when it gets hard and discouraging, that’s what’s really going to make the biggest difference.”

The company recognized that managers needed a way to recognize team members, so they instituted the ZAGG Champion Awards, a gift card as a way to say good job. The hope is that as the employee enjoys the gift card with a loved one, they can connect the dots that they earned this reward for working hard on a project. 

Hope for Growth

Knowing what’s possible can help employees find meaning in their everyday work. For panelist Tracie Kalmar, head of human resources at ApplicantPro, the hope of growing in the company needs to start at hiring. 

“My favorite demographic to hire right now are women returning to the workforce after a break to raise their family or to go to college,” she said. Since there is a gap in their resume, they worry. But Kalmar offers hope. 

During the interview process, she shares how others have started in one position, but then grown into another position. So even before day one, potential employees can see where they could go. She continues this regularly by emailing open opportunities weekly, plus sharing internal promotions. 

“I love talking about it. I can actually say I see it happening. And it’s real.” Seeing those doors open for others helps new employees have hope and find purpose in what they are doing.

Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.


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