Tech firm takes remote work to the extreme

Chief People and Culture Officer, serving as interim CEO, explains employee engagement strategy

Tech firm takes remote work to the extreme

Employee engagement, especially in a post-COVID world, is Mentimeter’s top priority.

Following a hybrid work model, the Sweden-based tech firm (which also has a presence in North America) heavily invests in employee connection. In the annual budget, there’s 4,000 Euros allocated for team experience: each employee receives 2,000 Euros for team building activities and another 2,000 for learning and development.

Additionally, the entire company relocates once a year to a different European city for a full month. This past March, Mentimeter rented an office in Barcelona and put its roughly 300 employees (and their families) up in nearby apartments. Obviously, most companies won’t be able to empty the coffers for such an experience, but interim CEO Anna Gullstrand argues that you have to spend time and money to build employee engagement.

“We’re very clear that it’s business as usual, but with new inspiration and connections,” Gullstrand told HRD. “What I think is very powerful is that new ideas or strategies probably won’t happen at work, but will come up during a glass of wine at 5 o’clock with someone you’ve never talked to before.”

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Gullstrand, who is also the chief people and culture officer at Mentimeter, has taken the reins while co-founder and CEO Johnny Warström is on paternity leave until the beginning of 2023. “It’s an honor and a great challenge,” Gullstrand says. “I’ve always been interested in leadership and group development. Because we have a high-performing management team, it’s not as stressful as it could’ve been.”

Gullstrand’s promotion symbolizes a paradigm shift in the corporate hierarchy. Historically, whenever a CEO had to step away from the business either short-term or permanently, the chief financial officer or another high-ranking executive would fill in. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, HR leaders have seen their stock rise, as leadership realizes the value the role brings to a company. After all, if you create an engaging company culture, that not only increases profitability and productivity, but also decreases stress, risk and turnover.

Finally, HR has gotten a seat at the table.

“You shouldn’t sit on your high horse as part of the management team thinking you know it all because you don’t,” Gullstrand says. “You have to make sure you listen to people with knowledge, insight and competence about what should be the next step for the business.”

Although every company has a culture, the question is whether it’s a winning culture for long-lasting performance. To ensure you’re welcoming the right people into that culture, Gullstrand says you have to know the company’s core values and then align your recruitment questions with those beliefs. Therefore, if you attract employees whose personal values align with company values, the culture will develop and nurture itself intrinsically.

Read more: How to prevent ‘quiet quitting’ from infecting your company

Promoting an inclusive culture, Mentimeter gives employees a real voice, gathering anonymous feedback from surveys and hosting a town hall meeting for 90 minutes every week. “Everything starts with listening and being curious about people’s needs and aspirations,” Gullstrand says. “You can’t just pretend to take employees’ opinions.”

By including employees in the decision-making process, Mentimeter strives to maintain employee engagement. In the U.S., employee engagement has been on the decline this year. Although engaged workers still represent 32% of the workforce, those who consider themselves actively disengaged increased to 18% in the second quarter of 2022, according to a recent Gallup poll. The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade.

Lack of engagement has fueled the trend of “quiet quitting,” which is when an employee is physically present at work, but has made the decision to cut back on above and beyond work and set stricter boundaries for themselves. Quiet quitters make up at least half the workforce in the United States, according to Gallup. Indicators of this troubling behavior include employees refusing to do projects outside of their job descriptions, not actively participating in meetings and consistently logging on late or leaving early during the workday.

Gullstrand suggests companies are demanding too much of employees. “Our philosophy is to work smart rather than work too much,” she says. “We train everyone on determining what are the three things I should do this week that will be most impactful. You shouldn’t work more than 40 hours. That’s not reasonable. I’m convinced you can actually work less and achieve more.”

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