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A lot has been written lately about employee engagement and how great of a benefit it can be to an organization. This post is not to dispute that research but rather to affirm it.

I often hear the phrase, “It’s the people I stay for,” even though my company “sucks” and treats us like shit. I think there is some merit to that phrase. A lot of young professionals start at a company and “grow-up” together. It’s only natural that they form a special bond.

dougAt my second job I was 24, and moved to Charleston, SC where I knew exactly one person. A few months later I had met the woman who would become my wife and several colleagues were in my wedding party. We all went through difficult times together… leveraged buyout and preparing to go public which we did in 2004. Did we all stay for the money? Maybe. But we had this special bond where we could lean on each other and diffuse the other stuff going on in both our personal and professional lives.

Why do people stay at a company they intensely dislike? Let me try and explain my thoughts.

A Focus on Culture

I co-chair my company’s Culture Committee. It’s a subgroup of our team members who make a conscious effort to continually evolve our company culture as we grow. Obviously our company culture is not the same as when we were 20 people as it is now when we are 200 strong. The CC strives to not equate company culture with “stuff” a la money, a foosball or ping pong table. Many other organizations around town feel that a game table is enough to say they care about their team members and that they have “culture”.

At SPARC we try to do sustainable programs such as a book club or other low-to-no cost events such as random gift cards or an unscheduled all-hands-on-deck for ice cream meeting.

But Really, It’s All About Energy

For our Culture Committee here at SPARC I feel we have moved on from “culture” to “energy”. Every other tech firm in town now beats the company culture drum and we collectively feel at SPARC that we have company culture under control and now try to continually maintain a high level of ‘energy’.

When you enter SPARC we want you to feel the energy and pulse of our company. When you become immersed amongst our team members we want you to feel the buzz that is SPARC. That said, we often have dips in our energy level which is to be expected. As co-chair of the CC, I often recognize that we must take the baton at times and re-energize our SPARC collective.

Finding Your Doug

I brought this up in a CC meeting about a year ago, and a team member emphatically stated that when he needs energy he goes to his best friend here at SPARC, Doug. They do things inside and outside of work like lunch together, workout together, and play ultimate frisbee. From this five-minute dialogue, I came up with a concept here at SPARC called Find Your Doug.

As you look around your organization I bet there are many groups of two that are best friends. I have one here too. It’s my VP of Marketing. We are friends inside and outside of work. As I looked around our team here we noticed that almost everyone has a Doug!

It’s just another reason why I love coming into work every day. Chad (my Doug) picks me up when I lack energy and I do the same for him. So I wholeheartedly encourage you to Find Your Doug!

So tell me, who’s your Doug?

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