This article is featured in the March issue of Seattle Business magazine. Subscribe here to access the print edition.
A recent analysis in the Harvard Business Review emphasized the importance of performance assessments for employees.
That is most certainly not the thinking at Seattle-based Teleion. Employees never receive formal reviews.
“I know that sounds a little odd,” says Jon Elliott, one of four managing partners at the Seattle-based consulting services firm. “It’s a very egalitarian organization.”
Instead, the company, which last year earned a spot on Seattle Business magazine’s Best Companies To Work For list for the first time, focuses on nine “capabilities” for growth, including items such as dealing with ambiguities and client objectives.
The 13-year-old company’s nine-person culture committee meets weekly and works with the leadership team to create what it calls “commitments to one another.” It revolves around four areas: work/life balance, transparency, respect and achievement.
Every year Teleion does a deep dive into its culture and, based on the team’s feedback, the committee recommends priorities to leadership for the next year. There are also committees based around compensation and benefits and learning.
“Everybody has the opportunity to put their fingerprints on the organization and the culture as a whole,” says Elliott, who spent 18 years at Microsoft, where he oversaw the global IT transformation team of 4,100 employees and 8,500 vendors. “Leadership is about having transparency in expectations.”
In lieu of reviews, every quarter the business honors employees in three areas: internal recognition of coworkers, internal recognition by coworkers and praise from clients.
Company leaders also have frequent meetings to discuss what Elliott calls “blockers” to progress and hold conversations with team members once or twice each month. Teleion relies on its “capabilities for growth” model to support struggling employees.
The pandemic has been particularly hard on the company, Elliott says, not because of remote work — “we were very adept at working remotely because our clients are global in nature” — but because employees enjoy the camaraderie and friendship of their cohorts. “We’ve heard that over and over.”
The approach resonates throughout the company, which employs more than 100 workers. Wrote one employee in nominating Teleion for the Best Companies award: “This is a company that has a clear focus on employee happiness and delivering maximum value to the clients. Everything else just takes care of itself. It’s like magic!”