Why I Am Loving My New Job

Star Watch Case Company employees c1919

Star Watch Case Company employees c1919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have hit the three-month mark with this new job, and I have to say I am liking it a lot.  The people have been really nice, the work has been reasonably challenging and fulfilling, and the corporate zeitgeist is a pretty comfortable one for me.  But last week put it all over the top.

I was attending the quarterly Town Hall Meeting – a series of four or five meetings for upper management to talk to the entire employee base about the state of the company.  Quarterly financials – success stories for each product line, each market vertical.  The President did a nice bit to let us know that Pizza Fridays would continue throughout the quarter – the most well-received of all the slides – and the company constantly thanked everyone for all of their efforts in making the company successful thus far.

Of course every company, every senior manager does all of that – perhaps not the bit about Pizza Friday, as this is a first for me, but definitely thanking the peons for their hard work.  It was a touch more believable this time, though.

I had just sat through a “Breakfast With The Boss” meeting – something the President and COO hosted for all new employees – just a week before the Town Hall Meeting.  We all got to know a little about each other’s professional, and personal, history.  During that talk, our COO talked a little about how he had come from big companies, how he liked the “start-up atmosphere” where we work.

It got me thinking about it.  Yes, our company is fairly small (~150 employees) and is fairly young (13 years old in total, and really only 5 years since it’s been more than a 5 person operation).  It did firmly cross the line from being a start-up a few years back, and it is having a whole lot of success in the marketplace.  But it still has the feel of a small, agile, young company.

Once upon a time, ISI felt like that – if not young, then reasonably small and agile, something like a family company.  There were dozens of folks there who could attest to the freewheeling days of the past.  It even felt that way when I started working there in 1996, even though it was already owned by Thomson Corporation.  But in those days, Thomson was basically a holdings company – when I started officially, I was told Thomson meant nothing more to us than a really excellent vision plan.

Of course, that status wouldn’t remain for long.  Thomson got more and more involved every quarter, transforming the company’s personality to that of a corporate entity.  Transformed it from the top down.

During that “Breakfast With The Boss”, our COO talked about how he really liked being at our company – how there was the flexibility to get things done.  There was passion, and hunger.

I have to say that it was a long time since I felt that passion from management.  That drive not just to please the investors, but with a real desire to make a difference.  Frankly, that is something that I felt I had been missing in my own professional career as well.

As time wore on in my old job, and it picked right back up working for the government, my motivation to succeed, to try to effect real change, felt weak.  Sure, I wanted to make a real difference, to do a great job – but I also felt that it was not a priority, that it would be an uphill battle just to get heard.  And despite some perfunctory lip service to the contrary, I wouldn’t be surprised if my senior management completely agreed with me.  Middle management certainly did.

But here, I feel like it’s okay to spread my wings a little bit.  Not only is the job a challenge, and interesting, but I feel like I can bring just a little bit of myself to it.  People around here, just like everywhere else, have a good helping of personality, after all.

As I said at the beginning, last week was a good one.  I Took My Child To Work, I was quite productive in getting everything done – to the point of clients appreciating my support.  But I got a surprise at that Town Hall Meeting.

After the President wrapped up his bit about the state of the company – and the fate of our Friday pizzas for the quarter – he passed things along to the head of sales, to regale us with tales about how and where our company has been successful of late.  He then passed things along to our COO – about 70% of the company reports into this guy, including myself.  The COO went on to talk about some of the focus for his teams – areas of growth and change.

I was aching to leave by then, it approaching lunchtime fast and furious.  And as the COO ran through the quarter’s Employees of the Month (vote on by company staff), I figured the presentation was nearing an end.  And it was.

But first, there was one last set of slides – the COO gave out a Spot Bonus to about ten folks who gave a little something extra during the quarter.

I won’t go into the details of it, but as you may have guessed, I was one of the recipients of the award.  And, no surprise, it made me feel great.

I mean it was basically a balloon and a bonus in my next paycheck – the exact amount of which I don’t know, and probably won’t find out about until I can check my pay statement online.  But it was a handshake – a hearty thanks in front of my meeting’s 25% of the company or so.  And that meant more to me than any amount of bonus would have made.

This company actively recognizes high performers.  Sure, ten folks out of 150 is a pretty big group – at that rate it would take about 3 years for everyone to receive a similar monthly or quarterly recognition.  And just about two months ago another 20-30 folks received promotions – I was too new then to appreciate it, and know that with that many title changes the pay difference might be quite minimal.  But contrasted to Thomson Reuters, it was amazing.

It was a long time ago, the early aughties (~2003?) when ISI/Thomson announced a hiring freeze, and the elimination of promotions.  Until that time, the company had offered title (and salary) bumps to individuals who went above and beyond.  That pretty much stopped.  Sure, the company would promote someone from within when a manager would leave, or a position opened up in another team.  There were even the cases when job titles and even departments would be formed around an internal high-performer, well-liked by senior management of course.  But gone were the days when a hard-working secretary, for example, could find themselves with a new title (Senior Assistant?) and a higher salary.  Gone also were the days of Employee of the Month, or other public recognition of those who went above and beyond in their job duties.  Gone were the days of real merit raises – and before too long, gone were the days when even well-performing (above average employees) could hope for any more than a cost-of-living raise.

It’s not about the money.  I told several managers at the time – after taking some management courses on Motivating Employees and similar topics, I began to really think about what motivated me.  And while title and money were nice, those weren’t what really drove me to succeed – what made me want to keep that laptop open in the evening, or to search that extra mile for the right solution.

No, it was recognition.  Public acknowledgment that my efforts made a difference to the company, that my contribution was appreciated by management.

The rule in my new company is that you have to tie that balloon (printed with “Thanks So Much!” on it) to your cubicle and let it float there, for all to see, until the helium runs out of it and it begins to sink.  No false modesty allowed.

If the elation that I feel could be injected into that smallest of symbols, that inexpensive yet extremely valuable balloon hovering over my desk, it would be there forever.

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One Response to “Why I Am Loving My New Job”
  1. The idea of holding a town hall meeting for employees is a really great concept. I think it would create that safe and comfortable environment where everyone feels like they have a voice and an opportunity to use it. It sounds like you work for a veyr thoughtful company!

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