Unique Work Environments, Philosophies, and Perks

ideas that have set some workplaces apart from the pack

V1 Staff

Royal Credit Union HQ break room.

“We run our company on a set of values and we’re really serious about them,” KRM president and CEO Rick Olson told me, immediately segueing into a statistic. Forty-five percent of the people that leave KRM do so because they’re asked to. They find those people don’t fit with KRM’s philosophy and principles, which to most may seem radical, but you can’t argue with success. “We find this all makes things more productive, and if they truly believe in it, it makes a healthy workplace environment,” Olson added. One of Olson’s KRMites, or people in their employ, is former Stout psych professor Dr. Don Baughman. He coordinates 14 hours of healthy communication training for every new employee. “It’s the best return on investment I’ve ever made,” Olson says. KRMites are profiled by life approaches and communication styles (big-picture extrovert, emotional thinker, etc.). This lets them all know how to communicate, relate to, and understand each other. “We spend a lot of time learning, but in the long term it saves a lot of time and energy,” Olson said of conflict resolution. “We actually coach them into being blunt and noisy about the things that are most difficult to talk about.” KRM also takes pride in a work-life balance that allows employees to work from home in emergencies without docking pay or days off, and their open book management in which employees own 20 percent of the company’s stock and always know the financial status of the company. Though KRM specializes in helping companies put on seminars and webinars, Rick said “great communication is essential to any business.”

This web-based company from Menomonie is known for party planning and supplies. “We get to help people celebrate incredible life events. We take that very seriously and sincerely,” said Brenda Knutson, the customer service manager. But they inject just as much fun into their workplace culture. “We want everyone to love coming to work,” she added. Their philosophy, dubbed The Big Dot Way of Life, is immediately obvious in their office aesthetic: curved walls, bright colors, and themed rooms made unique by the employees inhabiting them. Employees are also encouraged to answer the phones emphatically and uniquely – “It’s a phenomenal Friday, this is _____” – and are given odd job titles such as Datafier of Dots (Brenda’s). As companies get larger, they often lose these touches of occupational character, but the owners of Big Dot are committed to keep things this way. They even go so far as to occasionally blindfold employees, pack them on a bus, and take them on excursions (recent ones includes the mall and Action City). “Everything is crazy and fun with us, because that’s what we’re about,” Brenda said. “We just have a blast.”

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.