Thursday, November 18, 2010

No. 1: Bazaarvoice puts priority on teamwork, challenges and just plainfun

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Just another day at work at Bazaarvoice! My picture was included in the article.
By Lori Hawkins


Updated: 7:23 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010
Published: 2:42 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010

New hires at Bazaarvoice Inc. spend their first week on a scavenger hunt. Literally. 
Workers are given a list of more than 60 things to do, find or see, such as sitting in on a sales call, taking several people from outside their team to lunch (paid for by the company) and learning about company traditions. (Such as the meaning of "DSB," a frequently spoken abbreviation for Don't Stop Believing, which has become a company theme.) "Instead of 'Welcome, here's your cube,' the idea is to spend the first week digging in and getting to know your company and your co-workers," said Leigh Choate , Bazaarvoice marketing communications manager. "Your training — your real work — begins the following week, once you're really had a chance to dig in and get to know the place." 
The quirky orientation is an example of Bazaarvoice's focus on its people and its culture. The company came in as the No. 1 midsize employer, based on employee surveys, in the American-Statesman's Top Workplaces project. In their survey comments, employees repeatedly mentioned the company's emphasis on teamwork, the shared passion for its mission, and benefits that help them balance work and life. CEO Brett Hurt says maintaining the close-knit, team-driven spirit is a top priority, even as Bazaarvoice's work force is expanding rapidly. The company has 600 employees, about 500 of whom work at its headquarters in the San Clemente office complex on Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360). Bazaarvoice's 17 full-time recruiters are seeking to hire 100 more. 
Five-year-old Bazaarvoice sells software that lets companies add ratings and reviews to their websites. The company has more than 950 customers, including Costco, Crate & Barrel, Home Depot and Best Buy. Even though it's in rapid expansion mode, employees say the company has remained faithful to its core values, which are repeated often: passion, performance, innovation, openness, respect, teamwork and generosity. At Bazaarvoice, the culture starts with finding the right people. Job candidates go through an exhaustive interview process, including tests that simulate the duties of the position for which they're applying. 
"Because of the investment of time placed on the interview process, Bazaarvoice truly focuses on making sure you are both a fit professionally and culturally," said Maureen Shriver , who joined the company this year as a client services support manager. "I have worked in startups, large corporations and small privately owned companies," she said. "I can say that through all my professional lifetime, this is an excellent fit for me in both categories, and I attribute it to the time and attention during the interview process." New employees hit the ground running, Shriver says. "The pace is incredibly fast but because of the excellent vibe and great people, it's manageable," she said. 
Workers are encouraged to challenge conventional wisdom and get involved in decision-making.
"It's not just lip service," said Jon Loyens , director of Bazaarvoice Labs, the company's product innovation group. "If someone in engineering sees something going on in sales that they think needs to be fixed, the leadership will be completely open to that conversation. It's really easy for individuals to bring about change here." The company invests in professional and personal development, as well as plain fun. Each employee get $500 annually to spend on wellness, with half for personal use and the rest for a team activity. Teams plan quarterly outings, which have included a chartered bus trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, floating down the Guadalupe River and zip-lining in Wimberley. 
"Teams that work and play together drive better performance and innovation and become more respectful of one another's strengths and weaknesses," said Kathy Smith-Willman , director of People Operations. Every employee also gets an annual amount to spend on conferences, seminars, books or in developing broader skills such as public speaking. In addition, the company provides frequent, always optional training in the office over a catered lunch. Topics include negotiation training, presentation skills, Toastmasters and leadership development. Volunteer work is also encouraged through the BV Foundation, the company's community outreach arm. Bazaarvoice hosts quarterly company-wide and team sponsored events.


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