Even in our remote work environment, LVL-Up’s founders have found creative ways to show the team that they appreciate us. Some gestures are traditional; after working with the company for one year, I received a thoughtful gift in the mail from Rona and Laura to commemorate my anniversary. And some smaller sentiments carry just as much weight and ensure the team feels valued. For example, Laura recently forwarded a LinkedIn post she came across that resonated with her. The post read: A bottle of water in the supermarket is worth about $0.50. The same bottle in a bar costs $2. In a good restaurant or hotel it can be worth up to $3. At an airport or on the plane, you may be charged $5. The bottle and the brand is [sic] the same, the only thing that changes is the place. Each place gives a different value to the same product... Have the courage to change places and go to a place where you are given the value you deserve. Surround yourself with people who really appreciate your worth. Don't settle for less! (Kimberly Stefanski)
In Laura’s note, she wrote: “I think each of you is $5 bottled water.” That note was just a small reminder that Laura was thinking of and expressing value for the team.
As we have all experienced in the Covid-era, it can be hard to build a company culture when you don’t get to meet in person or have quick “watercooler” conversations, but we’ve been able to overcome that with a few regular features, in addition to the quick notes and thoughtful gifts that Rona and Laura send:
Monthly Coffee Chats Each team member gets compensated for one monthly coffee chat with another team member. It’s a great way for our growing team to get to know one another better, and to reconnect with those with whom we haven’t been on any recent projects. While these coffee chats are almost always done virtually, we occasionally get lucky and get to meet in person. When colleagues posted abroad pass through DC, we make it a point to meet in real life, and for those of us who live in the DC area, we do our best to have regular, in-person work dates, too.
We have an all-hands staff gathering once a week, but it’s not called a meeting; it’s a huddle. It’s a chance for us to put our heads together and share resources and best practices. We catch up on all of our projects - internal and external - and share accolades and accomplishments. Our huddles are over video conference, and the clapping hands emojis are frequently used to celebrate these wins. We have a rotating schedule of who leads the huddle, so we each get to practice running and managing a virtual discussion.
Friday Group Chat Post This is what we all look forward to each week. It started last year as a way to get to know each other a bit better, and it has since become a staple in LVL-Up’s culture. The team member who leads our weekly huddles gets to pick a topic for our group chat post, and we almost always share a picture as part of the response. Some themes we’ve recently had
Favorite fall recipe
Favorite monument (in the US or overseas)
Halloween costumes past and present
These chats give us a great insight into all of our personalities and preferences, and we get to connect in a fun and meaningful way. Last month we recognized our veterans with our favorite memorial photos.
All-hands Group Chat Having an all-hands group chat has been a great tool for us to have quick, collective conversations beyond our weekly themed posts. We have shared happy birthday memes, posted about upcoming events, and brainstormed business ideas. In fact, it was on our All-Hands group chat that we came up with the name for LVL-Up’s blog. It was a great thread, and we had a lot of fun considering different ideas.
Our culture is collaborative and supportive and provides the psychological safety needed to grow and progress. It is not only evidenced in the somewhat informal processes outlined here, but also in numerous formal processes our founders have instituted to ensure our team members are equipped for success. It leads to a sense of belonging for our team members, which allows us to care for our projects, our clients, and each other.