TINYpulse Awards: Interview With Event-Planning Masters Social Tables

by Dora Wang on Feb 18, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Dan Berger Of Social Tables Talks Employee EngagementCongratulations to Social Tables, the winner of the 2015 TINYpulse Happiest Company Award and Employee Recognition Award for the Hospitality industry. As a leader in employee happiness and peer-to-peer recognition, Social Tables knows how to build up workplace engagement and camaraderie.

CEO Dan Berger founded Social Tables in 2011 with the belief that "great things come from bringing people together." He was named as one of BizBash's 2014 Event Innovators of the Year and Collaborate Magazine's “40 under 40″ industry leaders. He talked with us to share some of his secrets to employee engagement success.

Q: Tell us about some of the great things you do in your workplace that keep employees engaged and energized.

A: We consider ourselves a Deliberately Developmental Organization. A DDO commits to constant personal and professional development of its employees by creating a trusting environment where constant, honest feedback flourishes.

Here are some examples of how we commit to being a DDO:

  • We have a blog called "Every Day Is A School Day,” where each week, one employee chosen at random writes a blog post about something they are actively working on improving. We then broadcast it to our team and our customers via social media.
  • We have introduced the Social Tables Education Fund, where each employee has $1,000 per year to use towards education and professional development of their choosing.

Q: Tell us a little bit about what your company does and why employee engagement is so important to you.

A: Social Tables is a meetings and events company that just so happens to do software. Our cloud-based solutions allow meeting planners, venues, hotels, and caterers to collaborate on events for flawless execution.

Employee engagement is not only important to us because we want our company to be successful, but also because we want every single Tabler (what we call ourselves here) to excel as both an employee and an individual.

One of our newer Tablers, Will Merrick, recently said he comes to work “with a sense of greater purpose.” That’s directly attributed to the spirit we share internally between one another and how that energy is able to be transferred to our customers. If our employees weren’t engaged with one another and the spirit of our vision, we couldn’t possibly add value to our industry.

Q: How do you think peer-to-peer recognition has improved your employee engagement?

A: Peer-to-peer recognition has improved our employee engagement because it shows each individual that the hard work they are putting in is being noticed by more than just their manager, and that we value them.

We have a monthly all-staff meeting, which is an overview of our industry, our company, and a recognition platform for our employees. We spend an entire section reviewing Cheers received through TinyPulse, which motivates people to continue recognizing their peers for all the hard work they do on a day-to-day basis. We are also adding TV screens in the office to circulate through Cheers.

This November we held a “Cheersgiving” competition, where our two offices competed to see which office could give out the most Cheers the week leading up to Thanksgiving. We had 359 total Cheers sent that week, and the number of cheers sent each week since has skyrocketed.

Q: What methods do you use to promote an honest, transparent work environment?

A: First and foremost, our company is an open book, written by Tablers. When we implement big changes, we give every employee the opportunity to give their feedback before finalizing anything: New Employee Handbook? We gave each employee two weeks to review the proposed policies. Our Core Values? The result of an initiative where each employee submitted as many values they could think of that described us, then we voted on the top nine together.

Additionally, our employees know exactly how their contributions are impacting our bottom line. In our monthly all-staff meeting, we give updates on all company financials. When our investors get an update, our team gets the same one.

As for feedback, TINYpulse has been critical for us in promoting an honest and transparent work environment. We not only utilize the standard question but have engaged the virtual suggestions option for additional input. Our employees feel genuinely comfortable giving feedback when they know it is anonymous, which has allowed us to make significant pivots, edits, and/or additions to our company’s culture along the way.

One thing we are most proud of is our ability to show every Tabler how seriously we take their feedback. Once we have decided on a course of action as a result of TINYpulse feedback, we then present our changes to the entire company in our monthly all-staff meeting. We’re proud to back up our words with actions, and we do this by committing to these changes, admitting our missteps, and introducing new policies in front of the entire company.

Q: When you think back to your time as a junior-level employee, what’s one of the best pieces of feedback you received from a manager?

A: I wish I could say I had good managers. I never have. Everything I know or do, I learned in one of several ways: trying/failing/repeat; from mentors; from peers; and from anyone who would listen and advise.

In fact, I think part of what has helped me be good at my job is the fact that I've never had a good manager. I am giving Tablers the experience I wanted but never had.

Thanks to Social Tables and Dan for sharing their story! Keep an eye out for more interviews with TINYpulse award winners.



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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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