This podcast by Bean Greet Verhaest features an interview with Tim Berghmans, the COO of Marbles, a communications agency known for its innovative employee benefits, including unlimited vacation days.
Berghmans explains that his role as COO, which he humorously interprets as the “Creator of Opportunities,” entails inspiring and coaching people at Marbles. The company’s philosophy centers around the happiness of its employees, with the belief that satisfied workers are more likely to create satisfied customers, ultimately contributing to a happier society, and perhaps even the world.
Tim emphasizes that Marbles approaches clients with an open, down-to-earth, and honest mindset, aiming to foster collaborative relationships. “In the business world, there is so often a pretense, and we just try to be down to earth, honest, and transparent, and truly collaborate to create the best possible results,” says Tim.
Drawing inspiration from Frederic Laloux’s concept of “Teal Organizations,” Marbles empowers its employees to contribute towards decision-making, rather than solely relying on advice from senior team members. This approach was born out of a difficult financial situation a few years back, resulting in a shift towards self-management and collaborative problem-solving.
When asked how the company ensures everyone takes responsibility within this self-management framework, Berghmans highlights the importance of psychological safety. He stresses that being able to openly express feelings and thoughts and have open, honest discussions about them, is key to Marbles’ work culture. This transparent and candid environment is actively maintained and reinforced on a weekly basis.
Discussing recruitment, Berghmans outlines a three-step process that Marbles uses to ensure candidates align with the company’s culture and purpose. The process includes interviews focused on cultural fit and hard skills, as well as a trial day at the office. The decision to hire is then made collectively by the team.
“When recruiting, our purpose is to create happiness in the world and we want to feel this from our people… We must feel that there is a match: personally, culturally, and with our purpose. I can’t emphasize enough how important that purpose is for us, as it motivates people to step out of their comfort zone,” Tim emphasizes.
As for his own journey at Marbles, Berghmans recounts how he transitioned from an account manager to focusing on the company’s long-term vision, speaking with companies and coming up with creative ideas. He also mentions a former intern who, after becoming a full-time developer, decided to switch roles and has since been successful in various positions.
Interestingly, Marbles’ focus is less on the financial returns of employees and more on helping them be at the top of their game. Tim believes that if they focus on employee happiness and thriving, financial returns will follow. He also reveals ambitious growth plans for the company, aiming to grow from 17 to 70 employees in three years, maintaining the company’s unique culture through self-managing teams.
Finally, when asked about their unlimited vacation policy, Berghmans states it all comes down to trust. “Everyone treats everyone as an adult. They know when they can take time off and when they can’t. This sense of mutual trust is fundamental to our company,” says Tim.
In conclusion, the podcast sheds light on the unique management philosophy at Marbles, which blends a firm belief in employee happiness with innovative approaches to self-management, recruitment, and benefits.
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