How to create the right work culture

In a guest post for Sales Confidence, DocuSign VP of Sales, Jacqui De Gernier shows us how to create a successful workplace culture.

 

When James asked me to write an article for Sales Confidence I knew immediately that I’d like it to be about workplace culture, as it’s essential to a successful sales operation. A toxic culture will never yield good results on a long-term basis, while implementing a culture where your team are happy to come to work usually leads to big wins.

There’s a reason why Mark Fields, former CEO of Ford, says ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’

I’d like to talk about 4 things we did at DocuSign to create, almost from scratch, a workplace culture that has led to high growth, revenue and satisfaction.

 

Hiring

When I first came to DocuSign in 2015, I was faced with some challenges when it came to culture. DocuSign was experiencing hyper-growth in EMEA, the team was rapidly expanding and this growth brought with it some potential cultural issues. I really wanted to make the London office fun and energetic whilst still focusing the team on achieving our aggressive growth targets. When I was joined, there were 7 very individual salespeople in the team. They were very successful in the marketplace, but there was no long-term plan as to how the team would grow. I had some decisions to make.

People make the culture in a workplace. Therefore, we decided to be thoughtful about the type of people we wanted to work at DocuSign. We drew up a list of attributes of the type of people that would not only be successful at DocuSign, but also contribute to the type of culture we wanted to create.

  • Ambitious
  • Long-term goals – able to get past a shaky day/week/quarter, because they know they’re in it for long-term success
  • No ego – I don’t like managing salespeople who are just in it for themselves
  • Focus on team/company/customer
  • Flexible
  • Comfortable with ambiguity – when a business is growing quickly, there isn’t always black and white
  • Can roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done – no such thing as ‘someone else’s job’

In partnership with our internal recruiter Carleen Boyle, I made sure everyone we interviewed, then hired, fitted the bill. We’ve grown from 7 to 30, and the culture has grown with it.

 

Encouraging interaction

As more of the right people joined the company, the culture began to grow exponentially. DocuSign became an even more fun place to work.

Team members began to collaborate well. They would go to each other for help. When things went well they would celebrate together and analyse what went right. On less successful days, they would review where they could improve in the future.

It’s the culture that keeps people here, and gets them to focus on continually improving performance.

 

Progression

Another thing we are very strong on at DocuSign is internal progression. We always try to grow our sales teams with internal appointments. There are numerous benefits to this:

  • Retention – the knowledge that dedication leads to progression means people stay at the company, rather than look elsewhere when they feel they deserve a promotion. At DocuSign, you don’t have to move on to move up.
  • Inspiring – When people see their colleagues progressing through the company and making a success of their careers, it inspires them to keep improving.
  • Good people – Most importantly, we know we’re filling our higher-up roles with the best people. We already know these people are strong salespeople, with all the attributes necessary to succeed at DocuSign. It’s never a gamble.

Every team at DocuSign acts as a bench for the team above, providing the talent, until you get to the Enterprise team. If you’re dedicated and good at your job, the rewards are there in the culture we’ve created.

I’ve seen it so often at DocuSign. One of the sales team here has progressed from an SDR, through the SMB team, to a Mid-Market AE in 3 years. It’s proof of what you can do if you take control and deliver.

Another member of my team has progressed as far as heading up the EMEA AM team. They embody the DocuSign culture, never ‘what’s in it for me?’, focused on customer success and backing their team all the way. They’re a contributor to the culture. They really embody DocuSign’s values and the culture we want to drive.

 

Monitoring

The final thing to remember is that creating a culture is a job that’s never finished. It’s always a work in progress.

At DocuSign, we use Culture Amp for our annual employee surveys. They’re anonymous, although you can analyse results using different criteria such as age, team and location. We think of it as a yearly litmus test to keep our culture on track, helping us to adapt if we need to. We recently found that our people feel that recognition of their performance is more important than ever, and that they feel they would like to collaborate with their colleagues on a deeper level. That’s something for us to think about.

From a personal point of view, I’m always looking for ways to learn how to improve our working culture. Last November, I was privileged to attend a 4-day, Women In Leadership course at Berkeley University. Of all the many things I learned there, the culture section was the part that stayed with me. I learned that you should start by reviewing the company’s strategic objectives, identify what cultural attributes are important to be successful in those objectives and to then focus on building a culture that drives those behaviours. By starting with this clear cultural vision linked to the company’s strategy, you can ensure that your cultural initiatives are meaningful. I also learned to realise when you’re doing ‘culture for culture’s sake’. These are all things I’ve taken back to London and am working on regularly.

 

To conclude, I believe that culture makes all the difference to the success of a company. There are many different ways to implement culture. We’ve looked at hiring, interaction, progression and monitoring at DocuSign, but you must do what works for you and your company.

 

I’d love to know what you think about working culture. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Leave a comment below to share it with the Sales Confidence community.

 

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