One of the first things people usually ask me when they meet my team, at least after asking how young we all are, is how we’ve been able to build a group that cares so much about our organization. While building a better place to work was at the core of the Online Optimism origin story, most of our cohesiveness, and passion for working together, came out of a simple policy: to listen to our staff earnestly. I am constantly asking our Optimists what we could be doing better. More than just having a suggestion box – we actively seek out better ideas from our staff to improve everyone’s life in the office. It’s such an easy idea, it’s shocking that more organizations don’t.
We were then pleased and humbled, but not too surprised to have been named to the Shortlist for Digiday’s Worklife Awards for “Most Passionate Employees” – nominated with 4 other agencies (all much older, much bigger, and housed in much larger cities than New Orleans.)
As I went to write this post to share the news, and showcase how we actually built such a passionate team, I realized that it would be silly for me to try to do that myself. After all, it was our staff’s suggestions than built Online Optimism’s culture to what it is today. Therefore, I’ll let me staff answer the question for me:
How did we build such a passionate team?
Morgan Bachemin, Digital Ads Director
As one of Online Optimism’s oldest employees, I’ve been incredibly lucky to be privy to the way our team has shaped the culture and the culture has shaped the team. One of the facets of our culture that I think has the best effect on our team is the way we celebrate. It is so easy to get caught up in the corporate world, with its deadlines and schedules and quotas. It is easy to create a culture of burnout and under-appreciation with that mindset. Online Optimism has a different approach.
When we gain another client, those who will be the Account Executives for those contracts get to pick a monthly activity to celebrate the new business – it can be team bowling, visiting a local bookstore or purchasing plants to brighten the office. These are small rewards but it gets us excited about starting a new client and makes it so that the extra work we are undertaking isn’t as noticeable. We celebrate not just ourselves but our clients as well. When a client joins Online Optimism, they get a custom-made care package filled with Optimistic swag to welcome them to our team. We celebrate the end of the year with a wonderful team dinner at our favorite restaurant. We celebrate award wins and birthdays and everything in between. These celebrations keep the office smiling and keep us wanting to gain more business and work harder for the clients.
Taylor Kincaid, Social Media Director
One of the most unique things about Online Optimism, and something that has kept me here and pushes me to advocate for our agency, is that no matter the level of your status or previous work experience you have a voice.
There aren’t a lot of places where you can have a direct line to the CEO and upper level management and truly have your voice and ideas heard. Some of the best things we implement as an agency have come from Specialists (our interns) or new employees. I love that we all value dissonance and bringing something contrarian to the table. Being able to take a step back and look at things from a new perspective helps us to not only stay youthful, but to bring in more innovative and interesting ideas that help to improve our client work and our culture.
Juan Pablo Madrid, Design Director
I think everyone here understands how important they are to the work we produce. I came on board when our team was much smaller, which meant each of us felt an enormous responsibility for the success of the company. As we’ve expanded our individual teams and outgrown offices, we haven’t lost that sense of ownership. At the end of the day, our smiles and Optimism don’t boil down to the variety of fizzy water options in our kitchen, the Friday lunches, or even the office dogs – it boils down to feeling like you matter; and when you work at Online Optimism, you do matter.
Sam Olmsted, Search & Content Director
Building a passionate workforce has very little to do with your industry or your day-to-day tasks. There are passionate mechanics, passionate stockbrokers, passionate doctors, and yes, passionate marketers. Passion is a reflection of how invested and committed you are to your company, your industry, or your team. At Online Optimism, we take our rigorous hiring process extremely seriously because we know that finding people that match our company culture is crucial in building a passionate workforce. As a small company, many employees wear a number of hats, and we have to lean on each other every day. Choosing smart and engaged people that you can actually get along with helps to reinforce the mindset that we are all in this together.
Almost all of our employees stem from our challenging internship program where we can assess the skills of each potential hire, and most importantly, see if they’re the right fit for our company. We choose people who are committed to building a lasting organization, not those who already have one foot out the door seeking other opportunities. What’s most exciting for me personally is that I can see our company growing in real-time. This (seemingly daily) addition of new clients can be stressful at times, but it’s encouraging to be a key player in building a structure and a business that continues to thrive.
Lauren Walter, Content Strategist
One way I’ve seen Online Optimism inspire passion among our team is to create company values based on all of our input and then find ways of enacting those values. If someone hands you a set of values, there’s no guarantee you will share them. By developing our company values as a team and revisiting them as time passes, we ensure our company shares the same values as its employees, and we’re shown that our ideas and beliefs matter here. At the same time, values need to be more than words on a piece of paper or a computer screen—they need to be visible in our actions and intentions.
Our values are included on a main wall of our office for everyone to see, we have a system for showing appreciation for team members whenever they exemplify those values, and we have systematically worked our way through our values to find better ways of performing them in our workplace.
Meara McNitt, Social Media Strategist
I feel valued here. Whether I’m being asked my opinion on matters concerning our work or having my suggestions taken into consideration (be that things that would make my work day more efficient or just some chalk markers so I can draw a ghost on the window).
It’s hard to find somewhere that at 23 you’re seen as a professional, and not just an inexperienced newbie.
When people and organizations take value in me, I take value in them.
Patrick Rafferty, Director of Business Development
What makes me most passionate about working at Online Optimism, beyond the wonderful culture, is knowing that everything I do has a direct impact on not only Online Optimism as a whole, but also the partners that we work with. It’s very satisfying to know that when I come into work I can make a difference, whether it’s helping a medical practice raise awareness about the health risks associated with diabetes or promoting the public initiatives that our partner creates to make New Orleans a better place.
The free Le Croix is a perk, too.
Julien Malet, Social Media Strategist
I believe that this begins at the foundation of Online Optimism. Our leadership’s desire to create a work environment that was beyond traditional norms created a precedent for all future employees to witness, take part in, and continue to improve.
We are a team of people dedicated to our work and city that build off each others’ morale.
Having a workplace that you enjoy showing up to and that challenges you each day creates the passion that you see in each of our team members.
It’s contagious and I think as we continue to grow it becomes more and more evident.