September was a month of recognitions for South Mountain.
They feed the perverse (in my view) competitive impulses of our culture and our education system. The implication is that there are winners and losers – the worthy and the less so – when our attention should focus on each of us doing the best we can. All deserve to be recognized for their unique accomplishments.
But some awards have special meaning because they embody learning opportunities and inclusiveness at the same time as they hold some achievers out as particular examples. During the past month SMCo has received two of these.
The processes that led to these two recognitions are worthy of examination. I will try to do that in a way that is not overly self-congratulatory, with the knowledge that I am likely to fail.
When Great Places to Work first contacted us two years ago and asked us to go through the application process, we looked at it and went “Whoa. This is hard. A ton of work.” And we declined.
This year we looked at it again. Two things occurred to us. The first is that we felt that the work to assemble the information they require would be a useful exercise for us – the introspection demanded would point to new and better ways we can improve who we are and what we do. A learning opportunity.
The second was our appreciation for the heart of the process – an anonymous survey they conduct with each of our employees. Submissions go directly to them; we do not see them. We thought it would be interesting for our employees to have that opportunity to express themselves freely about the company. We liked that everyone has a voice; it’s inclusive.
So we decided to do it.
The work was useful, and it was nice to be named, but the most rewarding part of the process was that the Institute provided us with a selection of anonymous quotes from the employee survey.
Here are just a few:
“I have never before worked at a place where it seems that 100 percent of the people love their job. Turnover is almost nonexistent, and I felt so lucky when there was an opening for a position. I truly like to spend time with the people I work with every day. “
“The goal is to get your job done the best you can, but family comes first. “
“This company has a great reputation because we give back to the community. It makes it a place where everyone is proud to work.”
“There is a very strong sense of all-for-one and one-for-all.
“The people that work for the company are what makes it so unusual. When I first started working for the company, everyone was so nice, helpful, genuine and laid back that I thought something must be wrong. After a couple of weeks, I realized that’s just the way everyone is.”
“We have extraordinarily good and generous mental and health benefits, and outstanding opportunities are given to employees to shape and change their job descriptions and roles within the company. “
“We are an employee-owned company. Personally, this makes a big difference! Having worked in ‘corporate America,’ I know that the difference is real and profound. It is so great to have a say in everything, from the big decisions to the small.”
“It is a ‘choose your own adventure’ experience. Dream it and make it happen.”
Here is the full write-up that Great Places did about South Mountain.
B-Lab is very different from Great Places.
It is a non-profit that certifies companies as “B Corporations” based on a variety of factors including corporate accountability and transparency, treatment of workers, community practices and environmental practices. Their rigorous process includes in-depth examinations of company practices and documents. SMCo received B Corp certification in 2008. We have been re-certified twice since then, and over 1100 other companies have been certified to date in the U.S. and 34 other countries.
Until now, we have had no real standards to differentiate good work from good marketing. B-Lab provides exactly that. B-Corp designation is like LEED Certification among developers and the Fair Trade designation among product suppliers.
The “Best for the World” designation is applied to the highest scoring of the companies that have gone through the certification process.
One of those is SMCo.
So there they are. Two nice recognitions. Two pats on the back. We all need them from time to time, whether we like it or not (which we do!).