The special ingredients for a DelCorian workplace culture

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The DelCor office can sometimes feel like Grand Central Station with many of us coming from and going to client engagements, vendor meetings, conferences, or vacations. But whether we’re on the road for business or pleasure, there’s a moment we all cherish—the welcome back, the welcome home to DelCor.

“It’s good to be home,” one of our consultants said recently upon his return to the office after some extended time on the road. And that made me think: what is it about our office that makes him (and others) feel that way? How did this DelCorian spirit take root and grow? I admit, I’m proud of it, and in trying to put my finger on what this “it” is, I came up with a few practices that are so engrained in our culture that we might actually take them for granted.

When you find the right match, don’t let go.

People create culture. A new team member has to be the right fit for DelCor, and DelCor has to be the right fit for them—not so unusual when hiring. However, a critical factor for us is that they deeply understand associations. Many of us actually come from an association or nonprofit background.

We can teach methodology—how we write reports and RFPs or how we conduct client interviews. But, it’s much more difficult to teach someone the association mindset.

Our consultants need to fit right into the association world, understand it completely, and hit the ground running. They must ask the right questions—questions that elicit insight for everyone. Clients need to think of our consultants as ‘their kind of people’—no translators needed because we get it. Naturally, we’re pleased when we get client feedback that the details were not lost in translation!

When hiring staff, I also look for an interest in participating in the greater association community. Are they the type of person who would like to get involved with ASAE and other groups? Do they want to serve on councils and committees? Are they willing and able to share their successes and lessons learned through articles or presentations? Will they enjoy hanging out and talking shop with fellow association professionals?

Although there are association professionals all around the globe, it often feels like we’re part of a small, well-connected community. Only a few degrees of separation exist between many of us. How many degrees separate the candidate and me? Do we already have a relationship or do I know them only by reputation? What does that reputation tell me? Do I have a sense that they will excel at this job?

Skills, experience, and reputation are important factors in hiring—but there’s more. Each person brings to our team a critical certain something that’s difficult to describe. It’s a type of personality that fits in with our culture and our big, blended DelCor family—a natural inclination to help each other out, share insights, and enjoy each other’s company in the office, on the road, or outside of work. This sense of family contributes to our individual and collective growth and success, and makes coming to work each day a joy.

Provide support to help staff grow.

At DelCor, our mantra is to exceed expectations. Our clients expect us to meet their expectations. My job is to empower our team with the professional and personal support they need to excel and exceed those expectations.

During reviews and casual discussions, we find out what kind of professional development someone is interested in pursuing. For example, DelCor consultants who manage projects for clients are given the resources to obtain their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. We’ve helped other consultants earn their Microsoft, VMware, and other technical certifications. We even supported one of our consultants as he studied for the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation. Congratulations, Tobin Conley, CAE!

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Of course, growth means more than acquiring knowledge. We encourage staff to develop new perspectives beyond their normal duties by shadowing other positions or collaborating on projects. We help them stretch their comfort zones and practice new professional skills, like public speaking and networking at association events. For the introverts on our staff, these new experiences can be quite challenging; I try to help them by providing coaching and guidance. 

Embrace and appreciate the whole person.

People do their best work when they enjoy what they’re doing. We encourage our DelCor team to bring their whole selves to work, not only their talent and expertise, but all the other parts of their personality that make working with them so invigorating. Our friends and clients see this on display at conferences, on projects, and at social events like our ever-popular Cooking with DelCor evenings that bring us together outside the cubicle.

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That’s one of the special ingredients for our workplace culture: we enjoy the time we spend together outside of the office—traveling together, sharing parenting advice, and, notably, giving back to our community. Whether it’s an ASAE event, volunteering at Shepherd’s Table and Capital Area Food Bank, or making a meal with clients and partners at CulinAerie, we love hanging out with each other. This was particularly evident when we conducted 30 Acts of Appreciation throughout our 30th anniversary year (2014)—many of the Acts involved group activities and contributions, like assembling care packages for homeless veterans.

Even our clients say, “People matter.”

As most organizations do, we seek regular feedback from our clients about how we’re doing. When we most recently surveyed our clients, we learned that the top three reasons they chose to work with DelCor were:

  • the expertise of our consultants
  • the client’s interaction with our consultants, and
  • our consultants’ understanding of the client’s needs.

It was evident from these responses how much our people give to DelCor, to their work, and to their clients. The ‘it’ that creates the DelCorian spirit is our people.

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If you have an opportunity to work (or play) with us in any capacity—on a project, in committee service, designing a session, or even on the golf course—I hope you’ll get a taste of what makes a DelCorian a DelCorian. We are not light on ‘seasoning'! And, of course, I welcome feedback on our people—we are constantly growing and we like to stay limber, so we can climb those mountains and travel those trails to progress with you.