We’re all familiar with working in an office where just going to work everyday feels like a big task. Coworkers rarely converse with one another and bosses sit in their offices behind closed doors. Your daily role is merely a function, and your strategic suggestions are met with a wave of the hand, that those kinds of decisions are above your pay grade. Now imagine the opposite. You walk into an office and employees are frequently working together, solving issues and challenges together in a cohesive way.
The leadership team of Momentum Credit, a microfinance lender to individuals and SMEs, has established an open office environment in order to encourage cross-departmental collaboration and knowledge sharing. Here’s some insight into what that looks like for their employees, as well as some ways in which this strategic decision has allowed Momentum to see rapid growth in its short company history.
No assigned seating
Wambui Kuria has been the Talent & Development Officer for Momentum for just a few months, but the homely atmosphere to the office makes her feel like she’s been here for years. “There’s something peaceful about this place. Honestly, people have a good feeling about it, even our clients, they say there’s a good feeling about Momentum.” This is in part due to the open seating arrangement that Momentum has implemented.
“It’s very interesting, we don’t have sitting positions. I don’t sit near my manager, I don’t just sit with people in HR, I sit with people in sales as well as Finance. We don’t have tags, you can sit in any desk, anywhere, at any time. It’s really open and friendly. When you’re around here, you can’t tell who is support staff and who the bosses are.” Furthermore, the openness of Momentum’s office is reflected in the leadership style of its management team.
The senior leadership of Momentum don’t just expect their employees to work in this way without leading by example: “Our managers are very open. I can walk into the CEO’s office and say to him, ‘come say hi to our visitors.’ It’s more like an American start-up, but the Kenyan way.” They have also formalized their interactions with all employees by instituting regular meetings with all staff members. “We designed a program where our CEO has to meet with everyone, every quarter. We call them 1-on-1’s. Like today, he’s meeting employees from different departments.”
Listening to & considering feedback
Management do not have these meetings simply as formalities, they take into account what their employees are suggesting. “What I like here is that leaders listen. Yeah they know much, but they actually listen to our ideas, what we say. They may not implement it, but they will certainly listen.” This critical linkage between theory and practice is vital to keeping employees bought in on the overall vision, and make for an environment where those not used to this style can adjust and succeed. “We think strategically about how things will affect performance. With people, it’s how your leadership is and how your structure is organized. With the proper leadership and structure, people will find themselves adapting well to it.”
Open office environment helps reduce turnover in salespeople
“Being in HR, just knowing the market for salespeople, their turnover in the market is around 60%. Here, we’re doing like 20%. It’s great. I don’t stress,” says Wambui. She explains that the open office extends to those traditionally seen only as out-of-office employees. “In some companies, salespeople are kind of disregarded, because they don’t have desks in the office. But if a salesperson comes here with a client, they’ll be given a room. So while they don’t usually stay here, they have a right to a room. You’ll find it very weird for normal insurance companies, or in the banking sector, it’s unique. For me it’s very different.”
She explains that for herself and other employees, there’s a bit of adjustment to this working style. “Now, if you look at most companies that do this model, you’ll find these the salespeople are rarely allowed in the office. You sell, tell your team leader whatever you’re selling, team leader will come and process. But I came here, and the shock was real, you see these people in the office, and you couldn’t even tell they were salespeople. Everyone respects them, we have a kitchen where you can take tea & bread in the morning. We all sit together. It’s a very kind place.”
Winning Out Through Culture
Employees at Momentum clearly believe that these efforts are helping them build something special “Once you’re here, there’s openness. If there’s a problem, we solve it quickly, there’s no bureaucracy, honestly. People here like to do things first. We are a team of dynamic people. I think our average age is 26. It’s a very dynamic office, and that whole culture translates to our clients. Our clients come here and they get surprised. It resonates with everyone. What we sell, is sold by more than 15 different companies as well. But why we sell well, is our people. In 2 years, we should win out.” Momentum may be a young company, but their growth trajectory is in part due to the culture that’s been developed among employees, allowing everyone to work together effectively.
As a client of Shortlist, we’re proud of the achievements Momentum have made in such a short time. If you think their working environment is a fit for you, check our open jobs to see if they’re hiring!