"Freedom and Democracy at Work"—that's the tagline for WorldBlu Certified Freedom Centered Workplaces, of which Madison's sixty-seven-year-old Widen Enterprises is now a member (one of only twenty-six in the country; headline-making Zappos is another). Organizational democracy is a system of organization that is "based on freedom, instead of fear and control," and that's a spirit Widen—a marketing technology solutions company—embraces wholeheartedly.
"We hire really great people, very educated. They have a lot of incredible ideas, so how do we tap those ideas?" says CEO Matthew Gonnering. "You should feel free to experiment with a lot of different things here, and the business benefit is engagement. Employee engagement is at the foundation of our strategy. Our culture drives everything else."
That creative entrepreneurial vibe is on clear display at Widen, which recently renovated its headquarters to be one large open workspace with portable pods bordered by whimsical, Wisconsin-themed rooms for those who need quiet (the Chippewa Falls Leinie's Lodge room has a working tap). Widen also hosts 48Create, in which staff members are free to work on their pet projects during work for forty-eight hours, culminating in a competition showcasing innovation.
"Think of being fully engaged in a job that allows you to work on things you want to work on, to take whatever ideas you've got and implement them. To hear the financial outcomes and see how satisfied customers are," says Gonnering. "It keeps you excited, it keeps you passionate and it helps us shape our future. Because when employees can see their contributions, they want to contribute more. They want to be a part of it."
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