I’m impressed with what I’ve read about Bazaarvoice, the fast growing social commerce business, particularly its emphasis on creating a learning culture. Brett Hurt, CEO of Bazaarvoice, describes in his blog the elements of this culture.

 

  • Testing for all new hires - many fail the test and it is frustrating when under pressure to hire, but it ensures that we make fewer mistakes and build a strong culture (without a strong foundation, building a strong culture is not possible).
  • No vacation policy - we trust our employees to not abuse it and we do not want to limit them from taking personal time when they need it; for example, we had an employee take a 3-week vacation to China just two months after starting with us (and beating all of his goals at that time).
  • Quarterly performance feedback (our "3/3/1" process), including "upward" feedback for the managers from their staff - to help all of our employees rapidly grow and reduce the anxiety in our organization (everyone always knows where they stand)

In addition to these elements, he recently rolled out “Total Leadership”, based on the work of Stewart D. Friedman, professor in the Wharton MBA Program. (An hour presentation by Friedman can be seen on youtube.com.) The program is being offered to everyone in Bazaarvoice with the hope that all employees will learn how to be leaders in every aspect of their lives: work; home; community; and self. Friedman got this program started in the company and Hurt will keep it going through a series of discussions and exercises over the next four months. It’s unusual to hear of such a comprehensive approach to learning and performance improvement in a business.

 

I found it interesting that even within Bazaarvoice, a company that has a strong commitment to an engaging and empowering culture, Hurt still worried about participation in learning programs giving the appearance of a “decrease in time spent at work.” To me, learning to be a more effective leader, or employee for that matter, IS the work. Continuous learning must be part of the job in a high performance company.

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