Research. Research. Research. That’s what most people hear from SSRN, and it’s fair to say that’s a huge chunk of what we talk about. What can I say? We’re a collection of people who enjoy a good academic paper. Behind the scene’s, though, there’s a lot more than meets the Twitter feed. It’s about time the public got to see what actually drives the team at SSRN.
How Much Do You Actually Know About SSRN Culture?
The best way I can think of to give you a first impression of SSRN is to share my first impression, which came via a phone interview just over three years ago. I asked about company “core values”, something that was important to me in co-workers and managers. I’d asked about company values in every job interview I’d had starting in college and usually got a weak “oh…yeah…we have those” in response. From SSRN I immediately got the answer “integrity”.
My soon-to-be colleague went on to describe that SSRN maintains standards of integrity for when and how tasks are completed, and how we treat our users to ensure authors and researchers have what they need to be successful.
SSRN Culture – Not Just a Phrase
In the same phone interview something called “SSRN Culture” was described to me. If memory serves, the actual phrase used was “we’re not, like, a cult, but we read a lot of books”. As someone who reads a lot of books, and also tries to avoid cults, that certainly got my attention.
SSRN Culture is an actual on-going training course designed around the idea that a solid training program can show most people how to do a job, but it takes certain ideals to fit within a company and actually care about their job. Several times a year, books are suggested or appointed for SSRN Culture Training. Team members then break into groups and, using various book-club styles, we read and discuss the book. We see how social experts and workflow studies apply to our individual jobs as well as our personal lives. We get insight into how others work, how we can better ourselves, be more excited about our check lists on a day-to-day basis, and be open to change and innovation.
The four core books of SSRN Culture are The Four Agreements, Who Moved My Cheese?, Moments of Magic, and Mindset. You’ll notice a trend of personal and professional development with a side of confidence and a smattering of customer support (yeah, I’d say that sums it up pretty well). For a full list of the books we’ve read in-house, see this post. For a full list of the books we read outside the office, you’ll have to stop by our office coffee station.
If you’re picturing a spaceship and a desk full of buttons with blinking lights, good. If you’re picturing all of the most-recently-hired SSRN employees getting together in a room with all of the most-recently-hired employees at ITX, our contracted technology and development company, than you are right. Mission Control is a one and a half day training session hosted by Gregg Gordon and Ralph Dandrea to help new employees prioritize and be successful.
Mission Control covers things like principles of integrity and how to recognize the things you are Doing Now (action items to be completed immediately), Not Doing Now (action items planned for the future), and Never Not Doing Now (action items you hope to complete but have no immediate plan to complete). It also offers little tips for happiness like, keep a calendar of things to do (not calendars) and to make a statement of success when making a to-do list. For example: Don’t write “Exercise from 6am-7am”, do write “I’m so strong I can lift a car over my head from 6am-7am” or say “I have enough healthy food to last me all week!” instead of “grocery shop”. See the difference? We like that difference.
How often do we do this? It depends on how rapidly we are hiring. Usually once a year, but as needed is a much better description. Most of our new hires have already attended, and those who haven’t are in for a treat.
Remote vs. In Office
Being a global Network means we’re not always confined to an office. Our headquarters are based in Rochester, NY, but SSRN actually has employees speckled all over the country. Our parent company offers access to even more talent around the world, which means occasional travel for some employees and a ton of travel for others. Either way, our office staff is just a sampling of the employees we work with around the world. So, how do we keep them all engaged in company culture?
Having things in place like discussing the same books helps us get to know each other. We’ve also implemented a weekly happy hour call to discuss goals and achievements. Don’t underestimate the power of a good conference call for sharing some company excitement.
There are easy measures for keeping in contact with each other across state lines and international borders. Skype and cell phones are all used regularly. Slack helps us all keep track of things like each other’s availability, but it’s also a great place to share articles, shout-outs, and random achievements with the team. Trello helps our remote team members stay organized and on-task. We share pieces of our unique personalities through tone of voice, word-choice, pictures, and emojis when body language isn’t an option. Mostly, it’s about keeping the team mentality and recognizing that no co-worker is an island.
What do you think?
What do you think about SSRN Culture? What do you see come through as a user of SSRN? Share your input with #SSRN.