Much of my career in organizational development has involved coalition-building: getting others to buy into a big vision. So I am impressed by a program that is an essential part of the culture at LinkedIn, the business-oriented social media site that has become a go-to resource for corporate recruiting.
How successful is LinkedIn?
It was founded in 2003 and sold to Microsoft in 2016 for $26 billion in cash. Since 2010, LinkedIn has set aside one day each month for its 8,000-plus global employees to focus on self-growth and group progress. LinkedIn calls this monthly break for development its Investment Day, or “InDay.” On that day, traditionally a Friday, LinkedIn staffers are encouraged to think about “themselves, the company and the world,” according to a company video.
On Oct. 20, I had the privilege of witnessing InDay by attending a TED talk at LinkedIn’s brand new office in downtown Detroit — the first new U.S. office for LinkedIn in 10 years.
I was invited by a young leader named Ashley Goodwin, who is a Sales-Solutions relationship manager at the new Detroit office (and niece of my friend and business associate Pam Perry). The TED talk, given by Brian Frank, one of the leading forces behind LinkedIn’s move to Detroit, was an extraordinary presentation on personal and corporate transformation.
A 2014 Inc. magazine article described the creation of InDay as a turning point in the growth and development of LinkedIn. Before that, the company had no identifiable corporate culture that would attract young recruits to the company and away from Facebook, Twitter or Google. But InDay appealed to young leaders who appreciated having one day a month to concentrate on subjects that held long-term value for them.
LinkedIn’s visionary theme for 2017 has been Transformation, and its InDay theme for October 2017 was Learning. Dozens of LinkedIn employees blogged on Oct. 20 about their in-house educational experiences on InDay, some of which were tied to transformation goals for the year.
Judging from the examples shared in the LinkedIn blogs, it’s clear to me that when leaders encourage staff members to take a break from regular work to dig deeper and reach higher, they can expect at least three positive outcomes:
Staff members develop skills and explore personal interests that reflect the organization’s mission and group values.
Melanie Schimmel, a German native who is working in her first post-college job in LinkedIn’s Dublin, Ireland office, wrote an article about teaching coding language for computer programming to young people through a company initiative called LinkedIn for Good.
Leaders and staff members learn from organization-sponsored seminars.
Deirdre McGinn, a LinkedIn sales director for southern Europe, was part of an InDay seminar called The Diversity Journey with Women, led by several women who discussed workplace challenges and opportunities.
Team-building events build group friendships, spirit and unity.
LinkedIn’s Marwan Zeineddine of the United Arab Emirates recognized outstanding UAE participants in company events on InDay that involved a celebration of national culture and friendly team competitions.
As a bonus, on staff development days, there are sometimes opportunities to promote the organization externally. LinkedIn announced to the news media on Oct. 20 the opening of its new Detroit office. The announcement on InDay drew attention to the company and the value of its team-building activities. During the Q & A session of the opening-day TED talk that I attended, I asked LaRon Johnson, the top executive in LinkedIn’s Detroit office, who has been in the city for three brief months:
People who do not live here always have interesting, oftentimes negative perceptions about Detroit. You’ve been here 90 days. What surprised you most about Detroit?
LaRon responded that the resilience of Detroiters, their ability to get things done, be on point and willingness to get involved impresses him most.
The Detroit event and InDay stories that I’ve read underscored what I found in LinkedIn’s official corporate blog: “Every company has a culture unique to them. Managers and leaders play an important role as stewards of their company culture.”
BOTTOM LINE: Leaders can make their organizations bloom and grow by giving staff members time “on-the-clock” to develop themselves and learn about subjects that are important to the entire group. What has your company done for you that you think is really cool?