By Brandon Southward
October 22, 2013


Google’s “Bureaucracy Busters” program was designed to cut down on internal red tape and make administrative processes more efficient. Instead of creating a committee of senior leaders to conduct an internal review of various processes and make recommendations, CFO Patrick Pinchette asked all employees to post their bureaucracy-cutting suggestions on an internal site and vote on the ones they found most promising. Ultimately, close to 4,500 Google employees voted on nearly 1,200 employee-generated ideas. This year, Google has begun implementing changes, which range from improving their internal expense report system to adding more maps of buildings around their campuses. Nine of the top 10 suggested improvements have been enacted, with the tenth currently in progress.

SAS Institute

SAS Institute uses a series of videos to help employees from every discipline answer the question, “What does SAS do?” in a way that doesn’t require the audience to know technical terminology or marketing-speak. While the videos are humorous in nature, they nevertheless underpin an important belief — that because all employees, regardless of their roles, contribute to SAS’ success, they should therefore be able to speak knowledgeably about the company and its products.

The “60-Second Scoop” videos give employees a glance at a new product and the basic need-to-know details in a minute flat, while the “Help Me Understand” videos feature executives communicating more broad-reaching software or business concepts. Additionally, a special website was created featuring presentations, documents, and online resources to help employees tell the SAS story.


Tom Mendoza, the Vice Chairman of NetApp, personally calls hardworking employees to thank them for going above and beyond in their daily work, a program he calls “Catch Someone Doing Something Right.” Any employee can write directly to Mendoza describing how another employee helped the company, helped a customer, or generally exemplified NetApp’s culture. Mendoza then makes 10-20 calls every day to employees around the world, and has been doing this for more than 15 years. Employees are often filled with pride when they receive a call from Mendoza, and note that the program speaks to NetApp’s commitment to creating a culture of appreciation.


Microsoft strives to empower employees to chart their own career paths, starting from day one with the “Welcome Experience” online tool, used to introduce new employees worldwide to the company. Through the tool, new hires develop a personalized “action plan” — including training, learning and actions for their first 90 days — based on their role, location and business function. The tool also delivers more than 1,000 pieces of curated, filterable on-boarding content, which employees can save to a personal library or automatically schedule time in their calendar to view later.

W. L. Gore & Associates

When filling key leadership positions, Gore seeks broad input from the associates. For example, after two longtime divisional leaders retired, the company held a series of input sessions across the division, asking more than 1,300 associates to identify the attributes that should be considered when selecting the new leadership team. A similar process was used to ask Human Resources Associates for input on a new global HR leader, and the current CEO was named only after asking a wide group of leaders whom they would support as the next president. These practices are in keeping with W.L. Gore & Associate’s core belief that leaders must demonstrate “followership” to truly lead — in other words, that leadership is something to be earned, rather than appointed.

Kimberly Clark

Kimberly-Clark partnered with IBM to host its first-ever “One K-C Culture Jam” in order to hear directly from employees on how to best accelerate culture change and drive better business results. The five-day online event provided a space for employees to share ideas, problem-solve and collaborate on things they could do to close any gaps and deliver outstanding results. Over 16,000 employees from more than 60 countries gathered online to share their thoughts and ideas. More than 22,000 comments were received, including ideas related to the company’s products and culture, as well as grassroots initiatives that employees and Kimberly-Clark could begin acting on. Additionally, feedback gathered through the One K-C Culture Jam is now being incorporated with results of the company’s global engagement survey, with the aim of creating a world-class workplace.


Marriott provides its associates with a variety of formal opportunities to communicate with management. At every Marriott property worldwide, associates have the chance to ask questions, share best practices and personal news, and raise concerns with managers and their fellow associates during brief daily stand-up meetings held at the beginning of each shift. These meetings, which provide ongoing training of guest service standards, have a themed name in each of Marriott’s brands, such as the “Daily Line Up” or “Daily Hello.” Most properties also conduct monthly departmental meetings and either monthly or quarterly associate rallies, during which associates may ask questions and provide feedback on any topic.


One way that Diageo values employees’ contributions is through running “VIP Tours” of the company’s Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland. Over a six-week period, employees were invited to bring their friends and family to these company-organized tours, which offered a unique “insider’s view” of the brewery behind the gates. This practice was designed to recognize the contribution that families make to people’s lives within the brewery, and to involve them accordingly in Diageo’s operation.

National Instruments

At National Instruments, managers are given the tools to acknowledge employees for their extra effort. National Instruments’ discretionary bonus program gives managers the ability to recognize individuals or teams of employees for completing special projects outside the scope of their normal job responsibilities. Employees may receive up to $2,000 in cash, and because it is at the manager’s discretion, it can be distributed immediately. In a recent year, the company awarded more than $969,000 to employees through the discretionary bonus program. National Instruments also trains managers on the importance of freely offering recognition and giving feedback through a program in its Supervisory Development Series titled, “Recognition Is Free and Unlimited.”


Cisco’s Off/On Ramp program allows eligible employees to take a career break of a minimum of one year and up to two years. Participating employees can use the Off/On Ramp for whatever reason they choose, such as for elder or childcare responsibilities, working on a nonprofit activity, or simply taking time for personal renewal. Unlike a personal leave of absence, an Off/On Ramp does not require employees to exhaust their Paid Time Off. In addition, while employees are not paid during an Off Ramp period, the leave provides employees with company-paid health benefits for the first year they are away from work. Employees returning to Cisco after an Off Ramp are connected with the staffing group to find a new role within the company before returning to work.


Autodesk’s executive team strives for transparency in its internal communication — even when discussing financial results, traditionally a sensitive area for many companies. The quarter-end financial results are shared with all employees through an invitation to listen to the quarterly earnings call, which is announced via e-mail by CFO Mark Hawkins. Playback of the call is posted on the corporate intranet and further reinforced by a “Carl Talk” podcast, where CEO Carl Bass recaps the earnings review, answers related questions from employees about the results and shares his latest insights on the direction of the company.


Monsanto’s array of recognition awards is notable for its range and high level of inclusion. All areas of the organization are represented by a recognition award, with awards given for Global Safety and Health, Finance Excellence, Manufacturing Excellence, and Science & Technology. The Monsanto Pledge is an award all employees are eligible for, it recognizes employees or teams for exceptional work on projects or programs reflect the values of the organization. Through these awards, Monsanto seeks to ensure that areas of the company have means by which to recognize and reward excellent performance.


BBVA recognizes employees for their dedication through the annual BBVA Passion Awards. More than 2,000 executives can nominate employees for a Passion Award using a designated web application. Twelve individual winners and six teams are selected globally. Each of the individual awards is accompanied by a “success story,” identifying the outstanding behaviors of the respective employee, while the “Team Award” recognizes and celebrates the best projects launched during the current fiscal year. In addition to the Passion Awards, each business area with BBVA has country-specific recognition programs.

American Express

With more than 30 chapters worldwide, the Women’s Interest Network (WIN) at American Express provides female employees with a large array of resources for personal and professional development. The WIN Leader Interview Program, for example, provides rising women leaders the opportunity to interview current senior leaders one-on-one and in small groups to discuss business challenges for the company and learn about competencies necessary for success at American Express. Likewise, employees are able to hear company leadership share best practices, leadership tips and their own personal career experiences through WIN’s Leadership Speaker Series. WIN also spearheads American Express’ yearly participation in International Women’s Day in 11 markets across the globe. Each local WIN chapter delivers programming that focuses on driving career development, building leadership capabilities and promoting community outreach and education.


At Hilti Corporation, the Culture Management Team believes that while orientation of new employees is important, it is equally important to ensure that all employees experience company immersion beyond the first year. Accordingly, the team has developed a series of follow-up “Team Camps” that all employees must attend every 12 to 18 months. Together with their work teams, employees participate in interactive sessions such as The Rubicon; The Pit Stop; Four Moments of Truth and Why Not. The team camps are normally held in a location away from their home base, which gives the employees a getaway from business to focus on teamwork and core values.


Telefónica utilizes a unique “Trust Spaces” process to assess the company’s strengths and opportunity areas. An experiential activity, Trust Spaces is conducted in an environment of respect and confidentiality, in which employees volunteer to share their perceptions about their own job and the company. In the activity, employees are asked to answer three prompts: (1) If you met someone who wanted to work at Telefónica, what would you say to him or her? (2) Draw your feelings toward the company, your team, and your work, and (3) Share the opportunity areas Telefónica has as a company and as a culture. The activity concludes by asking employees to commit to different ways that they can work toward solving the issues they identified.


At Accor, a select “Task Force” — composed of high-performing employees from different roles and areas across the company — helps new hotels get up and running. Management and Human Resources identify employees with training skills and offer them a role on the team. Whenever Accor opens a new hotel location, the Task Force is sent to this hotel as internal trainers, onboarding the employees and generally helping to start the day-to-day operations. If this work results in Task Force members having to work extra time on setting up the hotel, they are paid overtime accordingly.


Every year, employees at Quintiles are encouraged to take a “QDay,” an extra paid holiday to spend giving back to their communities. Employees can volunteer their time on their QDay for any charitable, not-for-profit organization, as well as local schools. Some choose to volunteer individually, while others give their time as teams, often volunteering with fellow members of their business units or functional teams. Home-based employees also get to participate in the program. Employees are then encouraged to share how they spent their QDay and post pictures via a designated page on the Quintiles’ intranet, as well as the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

SC Johnson

When SC Johnson recently announced its business objectives to employees, the company issued a 50-page summary to each person to keep and refer to when needed. These books were available in 15 languages and were personalized with the employee’s name. While this decision came with the risk that employees might share a copy externally, company leadership decided that the benefit of having every SC Johnson employee in the know about its long-term goals outweighed any risk of external distribution.


At FedEx, the Purple Promise Award is given annually to 25 employees who exemplify the company’s “Purple Promise” to make every customer experience outstanding. In a recent year, over 100 employees were nominated for Purple Promise awards, in acknowledgment of performing acts of spontaneous and extraordinary customer service. Recipients are celebrated at an annual award ceremony and receive a trophy and lapel pin.


Every year local Atento Rally Teams organize the “Atento Rally,” a series of recreational, sporting, cultural, and social events. The rally teams consist of groups of employees who volunteer their time to plan activities and survey colleagues about new initiatives in the company. The rally is designed to encourage teamwork and, acknowledge the unique talent, skills and creativity of individual employees while also allowing an opportunity to bond with fellow employees and foster a connection to the company’s values. For example, the Rally Team in Peru hosted a talent show open to all employees and their families, while the Spanish team put on a Carnival costume contest.


The Mars Ambassador Program is a global initiative that allows Mars associates across all segments and regions to apply to spend four to six weeks working with non-profit partner organizations in key countries around the world. There are also group assignments available where teams can travel and work together to boost knowledge on a particular subject, such as best practices in coffee or cocoa farming. The program grants associates the opportunity to leverage their professional or technical expertise while making a positive difference in major societal and environmental issues, and in doing so, putting Mars’ company Principles into action. In 2013, 100 Mars associates representing every region and business segment will have the opportunity to participate in the program.


McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada’s long-standing scholarship program demonstrates the company’s commitment to responsible student employment — an important factor in an organization where 50% of employees are aged 18 or younger. McDonald’s offers both an Educational Assistance Program (CAD $1,500 per year in tuition reimbursement) and an Employee Scholarship Program (nine annual scholarships of CAD $10,000 each) to corporate restaurant employees, with similar programs offered to owner/operator restaurant employees. Since this program began 25 years ago, more than 4,000 McDonald’s employees have shared in scholarship awards, totaling more than CAD $2 million.

The Coca-Cola Company

The Coca-Cola Company’s long history of sponsoring major events, such as the Olympics, is a point of pride for the company. Whenever possible, the company provides “once in a lifetime” opportunities for associates to experience these special events as Coca-Cola ambassadors. For example, for the London 2012 Olympic Games, Coca-Cola held a contest to create the best “Move to the Beat” video. All associates worldwide were eligible to compete in the contest, and 26 winners were selected based on online votes from colleagues. The winning Olympic ambassadors contributed social media messaging and blog posts while at the Games, allowing their colleagues at home to live the experience and participate in the fun.


Every September, Novartis holds a “Be Healthy Celebration Week,” capping off a year-round, worldwide program for its employees called Be Healthy. The program includes discounted gym memberships, screenings and vaccinations, and affordable healthy food.

During the week, Novartis offers from free health checks, exercise classes, and information on support programs for managing a chronic condition or illness.

Ultimately, Be Healthy provides associates a platform to become more involved in their personal health and live healthier lives, and currently reaches more than 95% of associates in over 50 countries.

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