brandon west

A People-First Culture Requires Being “Extra”

The other day, an agency partner applied to work at PHOS.

One of the things she’s known for on the team is her jean jumpsuit. We first saw her wear it this year at Created Gainesville’s Life Reclaimed fundraiser. Afterward, the team raved about her jumpsuit. 5 stars. 10/10.

At her interview, she chose to wear the jean jumpsuit.

I happened to walk out into the lobby while she was waiting to start her interview with our HR manager. When we first caught eyes, she motioned downward at her outfit. I smiled and started to applaud.

She responded, “I feel like it’s a little extra. Is it over the top?“

“PHOS is extra,” I said. “Well done.”

Being over-the-top, excessive, dramatic, and doing way too much

We are extra at PHOS. We’re known for going above and beyond. We regularly do big, adventurous, competitive, outrageous activities and games that foster a culture of love and fun. It is almost assuredly too much.

But, I’ve been thinking about this more and more lately—maybe this is exactly what being people-first means. Maybe being people-first requires you to be a little extra.

Employment Is Like Marriage, It Takes Work

What if you only did the bare minimum in your relationship with your spouse? I’m talking about the ground floor. You ate together, communicated only when necessary, and made sure the chores were done. That’s it.

Life would function, but it could never thrive or flourish. 

How deep of a relationship can you develop with someone you don’t invest significant time and treasure into? Maybe a 3/10?

Companies love to talk about being people-first or people-focused. We say things like, “We’re about people before profit.”

But I wonder, how could you legitimately determine whether or not a company was actually people-first?

  • Could you tell if you looked at their mission, vision, and values?
  • Could you tell if you looked at their profit and loss statement?
  • Could you look at their strategic objectives for the year and determine whether or not being people first was just a nice-to-have catchphrase or a deeply integrated, top-down commitment?

Meeting the Great Resignation Head-On

Across every industry, 2021 has been the year of people leaving their jobs. They’re quitting in droves.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4 million people left their jobs in September 2021. That’s the highest amount in over 20 years.

As a result, employers across the nation are raising their hands, shaking their heads, and asking, “What do we have to do to keep people around?”

The more employers I have lunch with and the more workers I speak to, the more I realize people just want to be seen, valued, and loved.

So…how do you make people feel seen, valued, and loved?

My recommendation—do something extra. You can’t go with just the floor. People expect you to pay them as best you’re able, so that’s not going to work.

  • Do something beyond the normal. 
  • Do something that would demonstrate others-focused intentionality.
  • Do something extra that communicates, “You are special and you are loved.”

This is why we do ridiculous things at PHOS. We do things that force people to ask the question, “Why would you take so much time or invest this much money just for me?“

Not every team or every culture requires the level of quirky, funny things that we do, but every culture needs something extra.

Commit to Inefficiency

What is something you could do for your team that most people would look at and say, “This probably is not a great use of your time?”

To be honest, it’s probably not. It’s probably not a great use of your time for you to:

  1. Write a funny poem or a song for your team.
  2. Make a silly video and email it to your people.
  3. Hand out personal gifts to each person on your team.
  4. Write a handwritten note for all your production team members.
  5. Invent a wacky game you can play that is intended just to make people laugh.
  6. Bake something and with a banger pun written in icing on the top.
  7. Ideate a radically generous way to bless your team members’ families.
  8. Put together an all-day retreat on your company’s anniversary (if you’re not a good party or event planner, hire one).
  9. Take a minute as you start your day and round-robin some intentional words of love, appreciation, and affirmation randomly to members of your team.

These things won’t maximize your productivity at your office. They’re not efficient.

Being extra is never efficient. It’s not supposed to be.

An agency friend said something 2 years ago to me that hit really hard. He reminded me, “Love is not efficient.”

Maybe being extra is not efficient because it is a demonstration of love.

As I finish this article, we are wrapping up a 3-hour video shoot at the studio with the whole team filming a wacky, funny film for Christmas. At our average billable rate, those two hours cost the organization about $10,000. 

From the outside, this morning was a giant waste of time and money.

Unless it wasn’t.

What if we saw demonstrating this over-the-top, extra-sort-of-love as part of our job description?

If this morning was a part of my “why,” if it was a part of the role I play, then it wasn’t a waste. It was an inefficient necessity to build a love-fueled, culture-driven, and people-first company.

Be extra. Your business needs it and love requires it.

Let's get started.