Recent events have compelled nonprofit organizations to change the way they get work done, how they deliver their services, and what they do to achieve a more just and equitable society. So, The Business of Giving has connected with those organizations that are doing this exceptionally well in a segment we call: The Paths Forward. Because there is more than just one way.

Denver: Today we’ll meet the team from The Better Business Bureau of the Pacific Southwest. Their mission: to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust.

The foundation of their exceptional workplace culture starts with the hiring process, a process that Madi and Stephanie have a lot of confidence in.

Madi: In my opinion, BBB starts with trust. That’s something that we really stand by and I think that we also stand by that when it comes to each other. We trust our supervisors to get someone for our team that’s going to fit in with our BBB culture and that’s going to add to it. Not just fit in, but also they’re going to teach us things and they’re going to add to that culture. So I think everyone all the way from the top takes that really seriously. And so when there is someone new that comes in, we trust that that’s going to be someone that’s perfect for the BBB, and that’s going to teach us things as well.

And then even with like new employees, just as a couple other people have said, we start with trust and we start with who they are as a person, if they’re going to be a culture fit for our company at the very get-go. And I haven’t seen a single person come through the BBB that I’ve thought wasn’t a good culture fit. I think they’re very intentional with how they interview. They’re very intentional with who they decide to bring into our culture. And they’re protective of our culture, too, because we’re such a good [unintelligible] knit group, so I think it’s very important to have that as a process.

You can tell a lot about an organization by the length of service of its employees. Anthony, Stephanie and Alexis share their observations on this.

Anthony: Yeah, so one of the things that stood out to me when I was hired and also when I started was just how long people have been at the company, my boss as well as the other… for context, I’m a graphic designer, and the other designer on the team have both been here for six years each. So instantly, for me, that’s one of the indicators that there’s something good going on in the company or organization, right?

Stephanie: When I first started with the BBB about a year ago, one of the first things that I noticed is that the staff retention was astronomically high. I think I met with, on my first day, probably 15 to 20 people. And each one of those people said, oh yeah, I’ve been here for 10 years. Oh yeah, I’ve been here for 12 years, I’ve been here for 20. Not a single person said, oh, I’ve only been here for a couple months. It’s just very high retention rate, and I think that plays into the fact that we care about our employees so much. We care about what they’re doing, how their life is going.

Alexis: People are always willing to take some time out of their day to show you something or train you on something. And it is because there is such a longevity for the careers at BBB. Chances are you’re going to stick around, so people will take the time to be friendly, show you around, help you with something because they’re making an investment into your relationship as well, because it will be ongoing, most likely.

It is so important that the members of a team are learning continuously. BBB sees to that as Marilyn and Tierra illustrate.

Marilyn: So continuing, keeping your skills up. I mean, it’s a crazy world out there. Everything, sometimes technology’s outdated within three weeks. So it’s been so good to see the BBB embrace that and know that we need this as a whole, not just… everyone, everyone on staff, everyone that participates in the BBB culture can continue to pursue and I guess hone their skills. And if you want to take a class that has absolutely nothing to do with anything that you are in particularly doing, they provide the opportunity for you to be able to do that so that you can just grow as a person

Tierra: Also bringing in outside resources and individuals who are experts on topic like financial wellness or mental health, or pretty much anything that staff can use to better themselves. We’re very much open to bringing people in for that. We are… oh, we even have tuition reimbursement, which is amazing. We have a lot of great things we have available

A distinct feature of the workplace culture is that managers want their direct reports to do even better than they did when they were in a similar position as Stephanie & Alexis explain.

Stephanie: And I’ve seen just so many people at the BBB wanting people who are working with them, working as… like if you’re a manager and you have people that are on your team, they’re constantly wanting those people to be above them. They want them to grow into somebody that’s even better than they were. They want them to grow into somebody who’s going to achieve higher goals than they did when they were in the same position

Alexis: Just going off of what Stephanie was talking about earlier with building each other up and your leadership, just wanting you to be a better version of what they were when they were in your shoes. That’s exactly the experience that I have on my team. And I’m sure that a lot of the people on the call do also have that experience since we do try to like promote and give people the opportunity to work in
other departments if they feel like they’re going to be a better fit there. But specifically my supervisor, Katie, I mean, she is constantly just giving me ideas to help with my current job, just my current role. So I feel like she’s always trying to help me improve myself and it’s not competitive in any way. Like it’s always all about building you up to be a better version than you started.

The people at BBB are not only good at what they do, but their good people who care. Anthony and Stephanie share their thoughts on this.

Anthony: My boss told me everyone’s just a good person. And in my head, I’m like, there’s no way that’s true. Everyone says that. No one’s can’t be, you know, not everyone can be that good. But lo and behold, a year and like six months into the job here, it’s true. I haven’t met anyone that was not pleasant to be around at the very least. And so many good people here

Stephanie: Absolutely. I think it comes from the top down. Matt cares about everyone. He does have that open door policy. He makes sure that everybody is well taken care of. He’s transparent with everyone. He is always looking for new ways to listen or to put something into action that’s going to help everyone. And then it just trickles down. The managers that were put into place as a manager or to put in place as leadership, they were there for a reason. They have shown that quality of caring for their people. They’ve shown the qualities of taking care of everyone else.

Even in the most collaborative of work spaces, there is conflict as there should be. Marilyn and Claudia explain how they address it at BBB.

Claudia: And so conflict is resolved with transparency and communication and also feedback as you were saying with performance. And it’s so interesting because I just had mine maybe a few weeks back. And one of the highlights was, Claudia, you need to continue to find more life-work balance, because I like to work a lot. And so conflict within the BBB is resolved by open communication and also talking to people and saying, what can we do to help you?

Marilyn: Authenticity, being able to be yourself. And when we do, we were talking earlier about conflict. When we do address conflict, I think coming at it from the perspective of when’s the last time I woke up perfect? Never. And so kind of trying to be self-deprecating in a sense, and then utilizing this amazing ability to forgive

Finally, we’ll close with Marilyn on Volunteering, Madi on building relationships, Claudia on Gratitude and Tiera on the secret sauce of the organization.

Marilyn: We came together on the idea committee, and it’s not just about giving back culturally to our own staff, but also to our communities. And so we accepted suggestions from all of the staff of different places that we could volunteer, places where we could go and get involved in our community. And we challenged people to meet a goal of all of us coming together as a staff and donating 500 hours of volunteer time. And then we’re always working to try to up that goal. So I’m sure it’s going to be greater this year, but it’s a wonderful experience.

MADI: To me, I think that the BBB is really, really, really good at building strong relationships. I think from my interview process all the way through and even today, I feel like we’re still building those relationships with each other, with our management, with supervisors, with our community, and with businesses. And building a relationship, there’s a lot that goes into that. And I think that BBB does take that seriously and that’s one of the things that sets us apart

Claudia: So when we are speaking to new people coming in, we make sure that they understand, you are in a good company, you are in a good place, you are safe, you are embraced, you are welcome. What do you need? What can we do for you? And so because we have this sense of gratitude, right, that we work for a good place that values our family and values our time and values our commitment with work and responsibilities, they also value what we love.

Tierra: And as a whole, I feel like, well, me, personally, I feel genuinely appreciated for the things that I do in my role in the organization. And that’s really… it’s a good comforting feeling to know that like what you’re doing actually matters. The work that you’re doing matters. And I think the secret sauce, I don’t know, the secret sauce could be the food that we get. We are fed so much. I don’t know. I know my first year working at BBB, I gained like 15 pounds, but happy pounds.

Denver: I want to thank Kryistyna Hook for organizing this and to all those who participated in the piece: Tierra Terry, Stephanie Tuttle, Anthony Bui (Bwoy), Madi Posey, Alexis Hudemann, Claudia Lozano, Marilyn Mott. Kudos/well done to Matthew Felhling, BBB Pacific Southwest President and CEO, for his vision at BBB, for supporting and uplifting staff, and for making a culture like this possible.

Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Ever-Changing World, will be released later this year.Listen to more The Business of Giving episodes here. Subscribe to our podcast channel on Spotify to get notified of new episodes. You can also follow us on TwitterInstagram, and on Facebook. 

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