Wanderlust's core mission is to create community around mindful living: yoga, personal development, organics, sustainability and ethical consumption. Our festivals offer a wide variety of "mindful" experiences for attendees from yoga classes to meditation sessions, from nature activities to farm-to-table dining.
Internally, Wanderlust is committed to building a conscious company and culture that reflects and aligns with our mission and the experience we create for our guest. However, things like creating corporate retreats and providing the best 401k packages can be quite challenging while you're experiencing rapid growth and in mid-transition out of the bootstrap stage. In 2014, Wanderlust is expanding to 17 events around the world and we are all working long hours to meet the demands of growth.
My co-founder (and best friend), Sean, and I spent the Christmas holiday writing our employee handbook with a focus on developing a mindful corporate policy. While we tackled a lot of the basic employee benefits (health, dental, 401k, family medical leave, PTO), we also focused on ideas like:
• Social profit
• Mission fluency
• Centralized values & decentralized decision-making
• Anonymous feedback
• The red flag
• Regular de-stressing activities
• Desk swapping
• Employee blogging
• Team-building outside the office
We developed these concepts with the intention of creating a corporate policy that reflected our brand and with the hope of building an engaged and passionate team who feels like their work has a greater purpose. We want our outside end product to be aligned with the inside process of the company.
Successorship: This idea is all about creating upward mobility within the company. Team members will work harder if they know they will be rewarded with advancement. Traditionally, employees try to make themselves indispensable. Successorship relies on completely the opposite. We encourage employees to create systems that make themselves dispensable in the sense that they can easily onboard someone new within two weeks to fill their shoes. This allows management to promote junior employees without the anxiety that they are the “only one who can do their job.” Successorship is a promise to the team that we will always look inward first to fill roles and hire from the bottom. This creates loyalty and has led to very little turnover.
Social Profit: This idea inextricably links core mission to bottom line. Our team is highly invested in our core mission of creating community around mindful living. For Wanderlust, the more mindful community we can create the more profitable we are, and, in turn, the more profitable we are the bigger the community we can build.
Mission fluency: We regularly, and sometimes randomly, ask team members to recite the core mission. It is part of every employee review. Fluency with the core mission creates a sense that everyone is working together in service of an over-arching purpose. We want to collectively internalize our focus.
Centralized Values & De-centralized Decision-making: This is tied in with mission fluency. The imbuing of our values across company ranks allows management to let go of making all the decisions. A decentralized approach to decision-making relieves us of the need to micro-manage and allows us to focus on growth and business development. At the same time, it empowers individuals on our team, as they feel trusted to make important decisions for the company. Sure, people make some mistakes, but, in the end, their confidence in their ability to lead flourishes.
Anonymous Feedback: We set up an anonymous feedback form that allows all team members to report problems and constructive criticism directly to the executive team without revealing their identity. Feedback pops into our email inboxes and we review once a month.
The Red Flag: We literally made little red flags for everyone in the office. They actually resemble little red cornhole bags. Once a year, any employee can throw their red flag and everything in the office must stop within 10 minutes. This allows an employee to address something VERY important or share a stroke of genius. A red flag rarely gets thrown but, psychologically, it makes everyone feel empowered to have an effect on the company and have management’s ear.
De-stressing Activities: Once a day, Isabelle, our activities programmer, can call out a spontaneous 4-minute yoga plank/upper push-up position and everyone drops to the floor and holds it while the music bumps. We do the same with 4-minutes of complete silence. These little activities aren't only healthy but they are fun and build team spirit.
Desk Swapping: This is really for the executives. 99% of my work is on my laptop so I can plop down anywhere. I make a point of sitting with other departments a couple of days per week. Just sitting in a different point-of-view creates a connection between all levels of employees and me. It creates a feeling of accessibility. I often learn something, too.
Employee Blogging: Once every month, we publish a piece from Wanderlust HQ on our website and social networks. Everyone takes a turn at writing something and getting out in front of our audience.
Team Building Outside the Office: In our office this comes down to, generally, yoga or beer. We brokered a great deal with our local yoga studio that we pass along to all employees. They practice consistently together. Fortunately, there is also an amazing beer hall in our building. And often, our team goes on weekend trips together. Building relationship outside of the office creates trust and friendship that carries back into the workplace.
Some people expect that a yoga-based business would naturally be very mindful. But, even though it’s yoga, it’s still business and there is an intense pace and bottom-line pressures. I often joke that there is nothing like running a yoga festival to make you stressed and overweight. Integrating these techniques have kept Wanderlust fun, even as we clack away into the wee hours.