RedBalloon_company meeting

Here is an international success story… which is humbling – and has left all RedBallooners quite ‘Blu’. I post this here to answer a question I had today in my session at EY. What does WorldBlu or a democratic business look like?
Way back in 2001 when RedBalloon was founded, I had so many hopes and dreams for what the business could be. I wanted to change gifting in Australia forever and to encourage ‘good times’ over more ‘stuff’. After working for so many serious corporations, above all else I was intentional about creating a workplace where people genuinely wanted to wake up and come to work in the morning.
And well, we must have got more right then wrong because RedBalloon has been a BRW Best Place to Work five times in a row and I am proud to share that under the guidance of CEO Nick Baker we’ve been officially named one of the world’s most democratic workplaces. Making the WorldBlu List of Most Freedom-Centred Workplaces has once again proven our deep commitment to RedBalloon’s most important ‘competitive weapon’ – our people!
There are 10 principles that are looked at: purpose, transparency, listening, fairness, accountability, individual + collective, choice, integrity, decentralization and reflection.
It’s an honour to be included on this list alongside other international businesses we have admired for years. Businesses like ZapposDreamhost where employees elect their CEO; AIESEC (which coincidentally was started as a local chapter at University of Melbourne when I was an undergraduate student in 1985 – and it is still thriving today) and WD-40 where they openly share all financial information with employees just like we do at RedBalloon. You can view the full list of this year’s awardee profiles here.
Interestingly, WorldBlu founder and chief executive Traci Fenton highlighted WorldBlu-certified organisations out-perform their competitors with an average of seven times higher revenue growth. So practicing democracy in the workplace doesn’t just benefit employees, but also boosts business performance.

RedBalloon CEO, Nick Baker

RedBalloon CEO, Nick Baker

So what’s our secret? I’ll let our CEO Nick Baker explain:
“At RedBalloon people come to work as themselves and not as their job titles; as people, not staff. Our commitment to Freedom at Work™ is founded in our belief in transparency being essential to good business performance. We hold true to the ideal that once you are a ‘RedBallooner’, trust is implied, it does not have to be earned. We empower our people to make decisions in their roles, knowing there is trust from the business in those decisions, and knowing they are allowed to make mistakes – as long as the learn from them. We exercise freedom in the flexibility we provide for all our people – they are provided with the tools needed to fulfill their roles, which means we have happy people, leading to happy customers, and ultimately resulting in happy profits. Our commitment to freedom is fuel for our bottom line growth.” – Nick Baker, CEO
We’re the first Australian company to make the WorldBlu list of Freedom-Centred Workplaces, but we don’t want to be the last! We want to encourage more Australian (and global) businesses to make the important pledge of freedom over fear in the workplace.
Do you want to be an employer of choice? There are ways to achieve this, behaviors to encourage and values to stand for. How many positive experiences did your employees have today? If you’re not sure where to begin, then start with the basics and revolutionise the way people feel about their work through a free Redii trial.
In the words of our Head of Employee Experience Megan Bromley (who I’ve publically recognised time and time again for creating the award-winning culture we know and love), “We dream of the day businesses like RedBalloon aren’t the exception to the rule, but the rule.”

Megan Bromley, Head of Employee Experience at RedBalloon

Megan Bromley, Head of Employee Experience at RedBalloon

This article appeared as part of the LinkedIn influencer series in May 2015.

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