(Editor’s Note: In early April, Dyn was named to the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces 2012. Below are some of Chief Operating Officer’s Gray Chynoweth’s answers to the WorldBlue questionnaire. How does your company practice democracy in the workplace? Please share with us on Twitter or Facebook.)
Why does your organization choose to practice democracy in the workplace?
At Dyn, we know that people believe in what they themselves create. The more people feel empowered and engaged by the projects they’re working on and the company they’re working for, the more likely they’re going to work harder, faster and stronger.
To justify this thinking, we view democracy in the work place as an extension of democracy as a government. As someone with a political science background, I look at the strength of democracies as a way to organize people. You don’t have to go any further than the United States – the largest economy in the world – as evidence that when people feel as though they are participating in governing themselves, the organization they’re part of us becomes stronger and more resilient. This pride in ownership is one of the major reasons we practice democracy in the workplace.
Please tell us how organizational democracy has benefited your workplace’s bottom line.
In a democratic workplace, everyone cares about the bottom line because everyone has a stake in the game. In government, you care because you have to pay. At Dyn, you care because you get to share in the success. When people share in governing what the company brings in and what it spends on, all the incentives get better aligned. When everyone feels invested in the success of the company, people think twice before upgrading their ticket or being careless with money. Employees are motivated to figure out how to do more with less.
The fruits of this policy are evident in our recent success. In the last year, we have increased yearly revenue from $10 million to $17 million, opened offices on the West Coast and in Europe, moved and already expanded in our new 25,000 square foot corporate headquarters and increased employees from 50 to nearly 150.
Please tell us about a challenge that was solved using a democratic approach.
People spend the majority of their waking hours inside their office, which is why when building a new corporate office space, we felt it was very important to solicit the opinions and ideas of our employees. Before moving into our new Manchester, New Hampshire, headquarters, we hosted an internal version of Pinterest where employees could put any and all ideas and pictures that they felt should be considered for the new space and the workstation set up.
We understood the old adage that you can’t please everyone but we did want to try to make as many people happy as possible. Many of these suggestions, such as the use of white boards, the open concept of the office, the different sizes of the conference rooms and the lighting, were implemented into the new building.
In the end, when you’re making a decision based on democratic feedback, the key vector for concern is transparency. People will be invested in the outcome, so long as they feel like the process for getting there was fair.
Please tell us how you promote democracy with clients and community.
We believe that at a time when a company in Manchester, New Hampshire, competes with companies in Mumbai and Milan, the ability to leverage human capital is paramount. That is why it is part of our corporate mission to engage other companies in both New Hampshire and the US. A strong corporate culture should not be held close to the chest but something that is shared and hopefully emulated.
But words carry very little meaning. That is why we recently hosted Culture-Con, hosting 50 businesses from NH and around the country that participated in a day of panels and lectures on company culture. The success of this event and the nerve we tapped made us realize we didn’t want this to be a one-time thing. That is why we have recently hired a culture evangelist whose job it will be to get out in the local business community and help change it.
At Dyn, we believe walking the walk is more important than just talking the talk.
Here’s a way that we celebrate our internal office superheroes: