Business stressors can really test a company’s culture and values and it doesn’t get much worse than a pandemic. Job loss, furloughs, fragmented work groups, cash flow strains and dramatic business pivots are the name of the game right now.
So how does an organization stay true to what they stand for during times of extreme human and business fragility? I've read a lot of great stories but needed to find out for myself so I decided to ask my friends at Superfeet, a Northwest 100% employee owned maker of insoles and footwear, how they were handling it. I hope you’re just as inspired as I am.
One Team Culture
Of the six people I interview, they all described the culture of Superfeet as “one team”.
“I'm sure this has been the answer for many, but I feel like "one team" describes our culture best. We truly care about each other and are motivated to succeed and work hard” said Heather Knudsen, Social Media and Marketing Coordinator.
The employee owned company facilitates a strong sense of commitment and shared purpose across the organization no matter the tenure, position or job level. Peter Meddick, E-Commerce Manager, shared his thoughts on the culture: “Every hour I put in to Superfeet is like putting sweat equity into my home - pardon me, our home. We’re building value for all of us, together. It’s a mutual commitment to nurture the business and take care of one another.”
All company meetings have increased from monthly to weekly with Covid-19 to provide transparent updates on the state of the business. “One team!” has been a rallying cry across the virtual workplace, a reminder that they are all in it together.
Encouraging Employee Involvement
Listening to employees and encouraging employee involvement is one of the things that employees love about working at Superfeet. Ryan Anderson, Product Development Engineer, told me that the company gives employees room to try new things. Amy Olive in Marketing said “I love working at Superfeet because I’ve never been put in a box. When I have ideas and opinions, my leadership team listens. This DOES NOT happen at every company.”
The company also gives employees the opportunity to be involved in cross-functional leadership roles by participating on Pillar Teams. The Pillar Teams cover categories like innovation, brand, execution, environment, customer driven, culture and diversity and inclusion and influence company strategies and priorities.
In Times of Crisis aka COVID-19
Adapting to the shift to working from home meant skilling up on Microsoft Teams, increasing company communication and having fun with virtual happy hours like many companies we’ve read about or worked with.
What struck me about how Superfeet pivoted was the attitude of the employees when the going got tough. Their culture stood on solid ground, proving the depth of commitment at all levels in the organization. I asked Jeff Gray, Director of Outreach and Fit, how the company culture adapted to the pandemic and his response was: “Simple one team, develop new products in a different market with the same passion, culture and commitment. Everybody showed up ready to work.”
From a business perspective, Vice President of Marketing Linda Balfour described how the company’s innovation culture showed up big time with the onset of COVID-19: “We were able to apply all the skills we’ve built to provide immediate relief to the personal protective equipment supply chain shortage caused by the pandemic. As soon as the stay home order hit Washington, the Superfeet team immediately went into action building relationships with hospitals and suppliers, developing patterns and 3D print designs, setting up our warehouse for assembly and putting a call out to the country via our marketing reach. Within a week we went from the question ‘how can we help?’ to building 30,000 masks for Northwest hospitals.”
Superfeet is one of many organizations who have rallied to support the pandemic while maintaining a strong company culture. Thank you Superfeet for rising to the occasion while staying true to your core. I’m proud to be an ambassador for your product and company.
**You can read more about Superfeet’s mask building efforts HERE.