Creating Positive Work Culture: Bright Horizons CEO and CHRO Give Great Place to Work Keynote

positive work culture tips from Bright Horizons

Ask anybody in the Bright Horizons home office about the quarterly meeting back in February, and they might not recall the precise business we discussed.

What they will likely remember is...giraffing.

Embrace the Giraffe

Giraffing, as our Chief Human Resources Officer Dan Henry explained to us in Boston that day, was the act of stretching your neck as far as you could before driving into one of the intersections...the ones that at the time were blocked on all sides by seven feet of snow.

We had all been giraffing back then. A lot. We also mused about parking (half of the spaces in our lot had been replaced by newly arrived ski slopes), snow days (how many board games can one person play?!), and ice dams (or as Dan put it...indoor waterfalls).

This wasn't your typical company meeting. But then, for those of us in Boston, this wasn't your typical winter. And commiserating with Dan and our CEO Dave Lissy about the universal challenges of getting 107 inches of snow in a month and remembering that Mother Nature requires you to shovel no matter how far up the ladder you are...well, it was a cultural touchstone that said...we're all in the same boat.

More than just a lighthearted moment, it was also an illustration of Dave's and Dan's philosophy about how we operate as a company: that we're a culture of community.

United by a Common Language  

As one of our 25,000 worldwide employees, you didn't have to personally experience the snow to share in this company moment. Bright Horizons culture transcends geography. The lines of communication in our company are so connected that what touches some touches all.

Home office employees heard from colleagues all over the country during the deluge (mostly to gloat...but still). Watertown employees may have been a half a continent away from the floods in our Colorado office a few years back, but we all felt the pain of colleagues displaced from homes.

It's a subject that Dave and Dan spoke enthusiastically about at their keynote this week in Dallas at the Great Place to Work conference. The conference is a celebration of FORTUNE honorees - companies that know positive business cultures equal positive business results.

Positive Work Culture by Design...Not Decree

Dan and Dave are fond of saying that positive culture isn't something you can install like a benefit - it comes from design, not decree.  You can't mandate company culture; you can only create the conditions for positive work culture to thrive. "Culture is not about what we say," Dan told the keynote audience, "it's about what we do,"

That's especially important when your company starts at a kitchen table (as ours did) and then grows to tens of thousands of people around the world (as ours is now). So to create a positive work culture, Dan's and Dave's strategy has been to connect us not just as employees...but people.

At Bright Horizons, we're linked by our oft-cited values statement (our HEART principles) and shared pride in company-wide accomplishments (no matter where in the country Bright Horizons people were on November 20, they were probably in front of a TV watching the unveiling of a new Bright Space on the TODAY show). We also share awards we get to vote on, annual events held across the company, and occasionally taking time to embrace the silly - like giraffing.

Collectively, it's a common language - shorthand for the things we all share, whether we're sunning ourselves in Pasadena, or digging out in Watertown. And when we're all challenged to manage the things we have to do every day, that's no small thing.

Because what's clear as part of a company that values culture is that sometimes what gets the job done isn't just having the right tools...it's knowing someone shoveling right there alongside you.

Dave's and Dan's Great Place to Work keynote  A People-Focused Partnership Driving Sustained Success  took place Thursday, April 23. Weren't able to attend? Check back with us for a video replay of the session. 

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.