Want Top Talent? 5 Ways To Design A Winning Candidate Experience To Attract and Retain The Best

Company culture is the personality of your organization, reflected in your vision, values, norms, symbols, systems, language, beliefs and habits. It impacts everything. It impacts everything, including the quality of the candidates you attract and the employees you retain.

Much like a garden, your company culture will grow whether or not take care of it, but left untended you'll find yourself buried in weeds and overgrowth. A well-designed and developed culture will nurture the people in your company, show them that you value and respect them, help them to grow into their best, brightest, most productive selves, and attract more top talent and customers aligned with your values and mission. An undeveloped culture will allow office politics to spread like weeds, blocking the flow of information and innovation, damaging your brand internally and externally, and making work a generally unpleasant and unproductive place to be.

Candidate experience is an often overlooked, but hugely influential, component of company culture design and development. Candidates pour their heart and soul and hours of their time into the application and interview process, researching your company, networking, prepping, and visioning themselves as part of your team. The candidate experience, from the first touchpoint to their post-interview process, is a massive opportunity to demonstrate your company culture. 

Here are five ways to make sure your candidate experience design positively reflects your company culture: 

1. Chuck your old job posts. Seriously. If your job posts read like every other blurb online, they're not reflecting your unique culture. Your job postings are candidate's first "insider" impression of your organization. When candidates read your posts they're peeling back the curtain on the show you present to the public, and they're looking for alignment between who you say you are as a company, and who you really are on the inside. Here are some great job ads and posts to inspire you: 

2. Dial up your auto-response. Invest a little extra time to make sure your candidates aren't left feeling like they've sent their application floating off into outer space, never to be seen again. Making people feel valued and respected at every opportunity will pay off in your public image, and the public perception of your culture, even if the candidate isn't a match for this particular role.

Trello, a project-management platform, has an outstanding application auto-response that goes beyond the usual "thank you for submitting your application", it's personable and reflects their communication style, and includes things like "what to expect next", FYI, and more. If you have a few minutes, take a look at their auto-response here: Trello's Awesome Application Auto-Response

 3. See candidates in action - just don't expect them to do free work for you. It's perfectly acceptable to ask candidates to provide a sample of their work, or to demonstrate their work in the application process. It is completely unacceptable to ask candidates to demonstrate their work by working on a real project that you'll use in your business, unless you want to pay them. Asking candidates to do free work "samples" on your projects demonstrates that you're a self-serving organization that doesn't respect candidate's time and work enough to pay them for it. 

Be aware of the amount of time you're asking candidates to put towards their work samples, and don't ask them to demonstrate their abilities on a hypothetical project until you've screened them for other required experiences and skills in the first stage of the application process. 

4. Design the interview experience, from pre-arrival to departure. Before the interview, set your candidates up for success by ensuring they have all of the information they need before they arrive (or before they log in if it's a virtual interview). Provide them with all of the information about who they're meeting with, where they're meeting, how long they can expect the interview to last, and more. 

Once candidates arrive on site, make sure there's someone available to welcome them, and demonstrate your company values the minute they walk in the door. Offer them a beverage or show them to the kitchen, let them know where the bathrooms are, and make sure that whomever they cross paths with gives them a warm greeting, or at least a smile and nod. This is your company's time to shine - show your candidates that your values and mission aren't just words on a wall decal! 

Start the interview on time,  stick to the schedule, and stay present. This sounds obvious, but candidates are often left waiting and wondering what's going on behind the scenes, and tardiness, or distracted interviewers show candidates that they're not a priority. 

5. Follow up, follow up, follow up. Do. Not. Ghost. Candidates. 

ghosting isn't friendly. don't be like casper, don't ghost candidates.

ghosting isn't friendly. don't be like casper, don't ghost candidates.

Send a follow-up email to your candidates to thank them for their time and effort, and inform them, or remind them of the next steps in the interview process. 

Do not "ghost" candidates. "Ghosting" is a phenomenon common in the Millennial dating scene, whereby one party just ceases communication and disappears, never to respond again - like a ghost.  

Ghosting your candidates is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. It disrespects your candidate's time and efforts, leaves them feeling unacknowledged and de-valued, doesn't demonstrate gratitude or empathy, and casts shade on your company culture. In short, it negatively impacts your reputation as an employer, and your overall brand. 

If candidates haven't made it to the next round of interviews, let them know. A short, personal email is best, but if you have a large number of candidates a unique email template that reflects your culture and values is acceptable.

For the lucky candidates selected to join your team, demonstrate your company culture with fun, celebratory welcome emails or calls. Consider sending a video featuring a welcome greeting from the team, a photo, a welcome kit with swag, or another unique communication that welcomes your team members and begins to align them with your company culture from before Day One! 


Want a free assessment of your current candidate experience design, with recommendations and ideas you can implement immediately? Schedule a free 25-minute consultation call with one of our company culture consultants here. 

Culture Labx TO April 2017: Discover the Untapped Potential of Coaching Leadership, A Micro-Workshop & Talk

Great Leaders Are Great Coaches! On April 20th we hosted our fourth Culture Labx Toronto event, featuring Kurtis McBride, CEO, and Bryan Peters, Director of Product Innovation, from Miovision. 

Kurtis and Bryan shared the secrets of how they made the transition from the traditional managerial hierarchy structure to a Coach Leader model, including: 

• How they overcame potential barriers to success

• Processes that support coaching at every level of their organization

• Best practices for ongoing training and development

• Developing a Culture Of Lifelong Learning and more!


Kurtis' talk was followed by a short, fun, and engaging activity designed to enable participants to test out the Manager-Coach framework in real time. A debrief and Q&A followed the activity, with a discussion that left the participants with all the information they needed to implement a coaching practice in their businesses. 

Our newest partners,  Fuel Foods provided us with a delicious menu of healthy foods that had us feeling great while we were eating, and even better afterwards!  As always, beverages (Beau's Beer, Wine) and snacks provided by Mindful Snacks were served. 

 All proceeds from Culture Labx TO events are donated to Ladies Learning Code's youth programs, helping woman and kids learn the language of the future.

Thanks for another amazing event! Check out the photos below, and the (soon to come!) video from our media partners at Now Creative.

- Alexis

Culture Talks: 5 Experts x 5 Minutes + Breakout Discussions = Success!

On Tuesday February 7 we invited 5 Founders and Senior Leaders from successful startups and tech companies to present 5 minute talks about their experiments, successes, and failures in leadership and culture development.

David Axler, Head of Market Expansion at Influitive, Konval Matin, Director of Culture at Shopify, Elijah Moore, Cofounder of Collage, Izabella Gabowicz, COO of Sensibill, and Mike Brcic, Founder and CEO of Sacred Rides & Getaways shared engaging and entertaining stories from the trenches of culture development, followed by breakout discussions focused on key areas of culture building.

Many thanks to our awesome food sponsors at San Fransescos, beer sponsors Beaus Organic, snacks from Mindful Snacks, and incredible venue sponsors Breather. We’d also like to thank our sponsors at Mercatus Technologies, PCCK, Now Creative Group/ Now Commons, and Nika Zbansik Photography (checkout her photos below!). Stay tuned for our event video from Now Creative, we’ll update this post to include it asap.

As always, all proceeds from Culture Labx events are  donated to Ladies Learning Code's youth programs, helping women and kids learn the language of the future.

Don’t miss out on our next event on April 4 at the Breather space at 111 Peter Street. We’re open to suggestions for format (we’ve hosted speakers, panels, short talks, and we’re thinking about workshops, more great speakers, longer talks, or facilitated connection/ networking events,  and we’d LOVE your feedback!).

Please send speaker nominations to: alexis@dovetailteambuilding.com

Thanks for another great event! Check out the photos from Nika Zbasnik below, and stay tuned for our event video from Now Creative.


Alexis & Marlina



Don't Create A Strategic Plan Until You Do This First

5 Quick Steps To Creating A High Powered Business Vision Statement

Want to guide yourself and your team to massive success in 2017? Don’t start with a strategic plan. In fact, don’t start with a plan at all.

“No plan?!” I can hear you saying, “what is this madness?!” Hold off on the judgement for a hot-minute, and sit yourself down for a short visioning exercise that, if used correctly, can help you take your business to new heights.

What IS Visioning?

I’m not asking you to go on a Ayahuasca or LSD mind-bending drug trip, but rather to take less than an hour sometime in the next few days to sit down and spend some time with yourself, imagining a new vision for your business, and yourself.

Whether you’re a founder, or an employee, visioning your life and business is one of the simplest and most powerful exercises you can do. 

A vision enables you to see into the future without any psychic powers or Tarot cards. It can help you be more innovative and creative, and bypass, just for a moment, all of the objections that you and your team create for yourselves when you ask “but HOW are we going to do that?”. Don’t worry about the “how” just yet.

Without a vision it’s impossible to align your values, understand your mission, create an effective strategic plan, or develop an aligned team and an outstanding company culture. Once you have a vision and know where you’re going, you and your team can figure out how to get there. So start. with. the. vision.

Your vision statement can be as long or as short as you like. There’s no time limit on a vision. I know founders who write five, ten and fifteen year visions, as well as at least one founder who writes daily vision statements. The important thing is not to edit while you write, to have a specific time period in mind for your vision, and to write your vision as though it’s already taken place.

Let’s begin!

Step One:

Take a breather. Step away from your desk, find a couch or a coffee shop or somewhere people won’t look at you too oddly if you close your eyes or drift off into awake-dreamland. Bring a notebook and pen with you.

Step Two: Get into the “zone”

Turn off distractions and get into the “zone”. Play some quiet music if that helps you to relax. Open up your notebook, and do four minutes of free-writing about all the things you loved in your life and business over the past year. Don’t take your pen off of your paper. Keep it positive and just keep writing, even if it’s not making much sense.

Step Three: Take yourself on a trip to the future

Set a timer for five minutes, then close your eyes, or if you’re not comfortable with that, focus your vision on something specific in front of you (not someONE in front of you in the coffee shop, we don’t want you to get arrested).

Take a deep breath, and think about a specific day. In this example we’ll vision a day that’s three years from now, but feel free to choose a different time period. Be fully in the moment, on that specific day, three years from now. With your eyes closed, picture yourself: Where are you sitting or standing? What’s happening around you? Who are you with? How do you feel? What does it smell like? What just happened before this moment?

Keeping your eyes closed, sit in that moment. Enjoy it. Think about what’s happening around you, in your business, and in your life. Don’t stress about how it all came to be, just enjoy it for what it is, appreciate how you’re feeling, enjoy this ideal vision.

Try to stay in the visioning for the entire five minutes. If you find yourself drifting back to reality, or stressing about how you’re going to achieve this vision, take a deep breath and refocus on the vision three years from now. Pay attention to the fine details. If you’re in an office with your team, what’s on the table? What colour is are the walls? What are you saying? What are people saying to you?

When the timer goes off, open your eyes and then open your notebook again.  

Step Four:

Set a two minute timer and free-write about your vision as though it’s taking place. You’ll be writing from the future, so enjoy this bit of time travel! Don’t worry about perfection, just keep your pen on the paper and write. Try to be as detailed as possible. Include sights, smells, sounds, your mood, anything you can think of. If the timer goes off and you have more to write, don’t stop.

Read through what you’ve written.

Next, read through the following prompts, and add to your notes if you feel you’ve missed anything:

  • How big is your organization?

  • Where do you and your team work?

  • What do your employees say about working with you?

  • How do you feel at work?

  • Who do you love to work with?

  • How do your clients feel when you work with them (or the users of your products?)

  • What do your clients say about you?

  • How do your clients or users find you or your product?

  • How do you love to sell your services or products?

  • What do you refuse to do at work?

  • What are your favourite workplace traditions?

  • How do you and your team measure and celebrate success?

Step Five:

Read your vision every morning for three days in a row. Edit it as necessary. After three days of reviewing your vision, share it with your team. Be open to their opinions, don’t be afraid of criticism, and provide ample opportunities for them to share.

Ta-Da! You've begun the process of defining and aligning your company's values and vision statement!

Your vision for your business and your life is the basis of everything you create. In this phase of planning don’t waste time stressing about “how” you’re going to achieve it, or how to align your team to your vision. 

Next week I’ll be talking about creating and defining authentic company values, creating a vision and values statement, and aligning your team to a common vision and core values.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work on making my vision a reality!



PS: "Define and align with your company's values & vision statement" is Step One in Dovetail's FREE Guide: 7 Steps to Build AMAZING Company Culture! Click on the button below to get your free guide today:

The Secrets To Building Great Company Culture, and How It Can Increase Your Bottom Line: Podcast Episode

Happy New Year!

It's 2017, and I'm so excited about the coming year, sure to be filled with lots of fantastic workshops, retreats, and team building events! In the autumn I sat down for an interview with the Drown The Noise podcast, and it was finally published over the holidays! 

The podcast host, Andrea Lynett, and I talked about what culture means, why companies need to think about culture development (before it's too late), and a few easy to implement strategies for improving your company culture.

We also talked about:

  • The secrets to nailing awesome company culture
  • The types of clients I works with and what processes my team and I implement
  • How to maintain great company culture
  • Why happiness and business need to go hand in hand
  • Why you can't treat culture as 'fluff'
  • Character traits of happy employees and how you find the right people for your company
  • What Culture Lab X is and how people can attend

Without any further ado, here are the podcast links:

Click here to see the episode on itunes


If you have a minute, I'd love your feedback about the episode. Please leave a comment in the comments section below.

Thanks for coming along for the ride, can't wait to see you in 2017!

Cheers to another fantastic year, 


Culture Labx TO: Culture Sells, Leverage Your Culture For Branding and Marketing

Culture Labx TO: Culture Sells, Leverage Your Culture For Branding and Marketing

On Thursday November 17 we celebrated the final Culture Labx event of 2016, with a panel discussion with a group of culture champions, followed by lively breakout discussions. 

This month's theme was "Culture Sells: Leverage Your Culture For Branding and Marketing". Our panelists shared insights about developing outstanding company culture that's an authentic representation of your brand, improving Glassdoor scores, engaging employees as brand ambassadors, and more. 

5 Signs Your Bro Culture Is Scaring Away The Best Talent (And What To Do About It)

A few weeks ago a friend of mine sat through a job interview at a startup where she thought she’d be a perfect fit. They asked the usual interview questions, asked about her technical skills, and then they did something that completely ruined their chances of hiring an amazing candidate: they asked her if she liked beer pong, if she minded doing shots, and whether or not she’d be ok with off-site meetings that involved partying and visits to the strip club with clients.

This wasn’t an interview for a job at a bar, a porn website, or a fraternity, but their interview questions implied that their culture is built on drinking, partying, and misogyny. It left my friend with a bad taste in her mouth, and she shared her experience with more than a few people, giving the company a bad reputation in  her circle.

My friend’s experiences led us to coin a new name for the Bro-Culture office: “The Bro-ffice”

is this your office? photo credit:  "goat", warner bros, 2016

is this your office? photo credit:  "goat", warner bros, 2016

By now we’re all aware (or at least we should be), that company culture is not created by installing ping pong and foosball tables, and office beer taps. Culture is the unique personality of a company, and it impacts everything, including your branding and the perception that job applicants have of your company.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy parties, team bonding trips and events, and the occasional drink or three, but it does mean that if you want to grow your business with a highly qualified and  diverse team of A players, with the skills to take your business to the next level, you need to make sure you have substance at the core of your company culture.

How do you know if your “Bro-ffice" culture is scaring away the best talent?

  1. You don’t have authentic company core values that align with your vision and your company values aren’t ingrained in your strategic plans
  2. Your employees don’t know or respect your company core values
  3. You only celebrate in one, non-inclusive way that doesn’t fully reflect your company values, the diversity of your workforce, or the diverse workforce you’re trying to build.
  4. Your only culture development initiatives involve “bonding” over drinking, sexist humour, and games that don’t appeal to women and minorities.
  5. Your interview questions to determine culture fit are focused on the surface-level aspects of your company culture (such as drinking, sports viewing, “funny” gross/ sexist humour etc), rather than your deeper authentic values, which are demonstrated in many other ways

So what should you do about it?

  1. Clarify your authentic values, and your company’s authentic values. If you’ve never spent time exploring your values, or creating a vision for your company, make the time to do it. Now. (ahem - we’d love to help with that, our Values & Visioning Workshop and consulting packages are great places to start with this work).
  2. Incorporate your company’s values and vision into every process, system, and document;  job postings, interviews, onboarding, training, weekly meetings, strategic planning, rewards and recognition, performance reviews and more. As Razor Suleman, founder of Achievers and CEO of NextCanada, says “As a founder, it’s your job to tell your team the “why”, and their job to determine the “how”. When everyone knows and understands the company values, they can act in accordance with those values, and build and scale a high performance team that’s in full cultural alignment.
  3. Include your entire team in planning celebrations that include their interests and needs. Ask them for weekly feedback on rewards and celebrations. Involve them in planning fun company traditions.
  4. Try some out of the box team bonding activities that engage everyone, beyond just drinking and video games, such as cooking competitions (the Iron Chef), adventure races or scavenger hunts (the Goosechase), charitable activities, artistic events, shows, and more.
  5. Implement a values-based interview process to help your hiring team avoid unconscious bias and a homogenous workforce. We recommend using Fortay.co in your hiring process!

TL; DR: If you think you have a “Bro-ffice Culture”, you probably do. The first step is to recognize that you need to take action immediately, take time to draft authentic values, and implement them in all of your business processes, strategies, and documents. Include your team in the “how” of implementing culture change, and empower your employees to create a more inclusive and engaged workplace.



Culture Labx Toronto: Building A Culture of 'A Players'

Last night we hosted the inaugural Culture Labx Toronto (CLxTO) event at Achievers with our partners at Fortay.co. The event brought together startup founders, employees, and culture practitioners from Toronto and Waterloo for drinks, pizza, mindful snacks, mingling, and a great keynote and Q&A by Razor Suleman, founder of Achievers and CEO of NextCanada.

Culture Labx is a global community of founders, designers, and practitioners who focus on the topic of culture as the backbone of the future of work. Culture Labx started in San Fransisco in 2013 and has culture communities around the world, including London, New York, Chicago, San Fransisco, and now Toronto.

All proceeds from CLxTO events will be donated to Ladies Learning Code in Toronto, in support of youth programs. 

We're planning bi-monthly CLxTO meetups in Toronto, and eventually Waterloo with the intention of bringing together founders, leaders, and culture practitioners to support each other in developing and scaling outstanding, high performance company culture. We'd love YOUR input or feedback to make this the most impactful and rewarding experience for every attendee, please contact us or leave a comment at the end of this post with any ideas or suggestions for future events, as well as suggested speakers, event topics, and venues. 

Thanks to our sponsors from Mercatus Technologies, Perry + Currier Inc./ Currier + Kao LLP, Beaus Organic, Southbrook Vineyards, Mindful Snacks, Now Creative Group, and Achievers. Cheers to our community partners OneEleven, DMZ, WorkTango, Ladies Learning Code, and TemboStatus!

Check out the highlights from last night in this selection of tweets from attendees, and our media partners at Now Creative Group: 

Simon Sinek's 2 Essential Interview Questions For Culture Fit

This morning I listened to Gary Vaynerchuk's podcast, The Ask Gary Vee Show #226* where he and his listeners interviewed Simon Sinek, the author of "Start With Why", "Leaders Eat Last" and "Together is Better".

The entire episode is worth listening to, however I'll save you time and cut to the most important segment about developing amazing company culture, when a listener asks a question that's on every #culturefirst founder's mind:

"How can I get my new employees to buy into my 'why'?"

This is one of the most challenging aspects of hiring and on-boarding. Often, once founders and business leaders have defined their company's"why", and their authentic values, vision and mission, they put them into a SOP handbook, or a slide deck, or maybe even some pretty wall decals or posters... and that's where they stay.

simon sinek, pointing out  that it all starts with "why"

simon sinek, pointing out  that it all starts with "why"

Being a #culturefirst company, and hiring and on-boarding for culture fit means integrating your "why", values, vision and mission into every step of the process. From the job posting, to the interview, to the first day, to the on-boarding and training process and beyond.

According to Simon Sinek, the easiest way to get employees to buy into your "why", is to hire people who "get it" from day one. As he says in the podcast "The greater you are at communicating your "why", people will want to work for you regardless of the opportunity you afford them. They'll want to be a part of it."

How do you know if you want them to be part of it?

Sinek uses what he calls the "give and take" method - where he looks for candidates who are almost equally selfish, and self-less. He argues that the traditional "give and get" method doesn't lead to candidates satisfying their own needs, and over time the relationship will become unbalanced; they're going to give without taking and you won't know how to give them what they truly want.

Sinek's two essential questions for ensuring that employees buy into their founder's, and company's "why" are:

a. What is it that you have to give to our organization that we will need?

b. What is it that you selfishly want from us?

According to Sinek, "When those things match, you have a balanced relationship." For example, if a candidate gives him a vague response such as that they want to "work with smart people" Sinek tells them that they can do that anywhere. If a candidate cannot specifically state what they want to take from his organization specifically, or the relationship, then he won't engage with them.

These two questions and the philosophy behind them should theoretically help you to hire people who have a passion for your company, their work, and most importantly, your "why", vision and values; the foundations of your company culture.

*Check out the Ask Gary Vee Show Episode #226 here.

#culturefirst always,


Why Company Culture Matters To Me

"If you live for the weekends, your sh**t's broken."

- Gary Vaynerchuk

When my Dad was 40 years old he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, an incurable degenerative disease. He knew that the disease would rob him of everything, but he didn’t let it stop him.  In the face of a terrible diagnosis my Dad set out to LIVE every day, as fully as possible. He continued to work, and travel with the love of his life (my Mum), and our family, he skied every winter until he had to be carried off the mountain by ski patrollers, he rode his bike, he played in the drum corps with his oldest friends, he ran with our dog… he showed us all how much he loved us, he laughed as hard as he could, and he embraced every single day.

My Dad’s been gone for 6 years, but I only recently realized the greatest gift he left behind: by showing us how to embrace the time we have here on earth, my Dad taught his family and friends that life is too short not to truly LIVE it every single day, and not just the weekends.

In my life LIVING every day means travelling the world to help companies build and scale amazing company culture, consulting and facilitating workshops and retreats with international and distributed teams, seeking adventure, and helping you build a workplace full of engaged, productive, connected and happy employees, whether they’re working remotely, or in your hometown office!

We get one trip here on Earth. This is it. One life. So why not make it the most amazing trip ever? For you, and for your team, no matter where they are in the world.

Build an amazing company culture, boost your bottom line, and truly LIVE every day.

- Alexis Dean, Dovetail Founder & Chief Experience Officer

5 Steps To Use Storytelling In Meetings To Boost Your Company Culture

5 Steps To Use Storytelling In Meetings To Boost Your Company Culture

Bad meetings can kill your company culture.

Whether you’re running a massive Fortune 500, or a hip new startup, you’ve probably attended meetings that left you thinking “This should have been an email”.

Most meetings are disruptive time wasters, but they don’t have to be.

Including storytelling in meetings can increase employee engagement, build relationships between colleagues, improve communication, increase productivity and support the development of a successful company culture.

Our Favourite 10 Company Culture Development Books

At the end of May we hosted Toronto’s first #CultureConnect event, a panel of company culture experts followed by a series of breakout sessions designed to provide participants with ideas, tools, and resources to develop their company culture, increase employee engagement and productivity, improve employee retention, and more.

Here’s a recommended reading list from our panelists and participants! I’d love your feedback: have you read any of these books, would you recommend any others for company culture development?

  1. Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Read Alexis' review here.

  2. Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives” Kip Tindell, Founder of the Container Store. “shows how genuinely caring about the people in and around your business is the surest road to profitability.” Read a review from Inc. here.

  3. Joy, Inc. How We Built a Workplace People Love, Richard Sheridan, cofounder and CEO of software design firm Menlo Innovations.

  4. Change the Culture, Change the Game: The Breakthrough Strategy for Energizing Your Organization and Creating Accountability for Results.Roger Conners & Tom Smith. Captures what the authors have learned while working with the hundreds of thousands of people on using organizational culture as a strategic advantage.

  5. The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace. Chris Edmonds. “Shows leaders how to create a high performing, values aligned culture through the creation of an organizational constitution”.

  6. The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an environment  that energizes everyone. Shawn Murphy. The author advocates a steward model of management, revealing how to explore personal and organizational purpose and align them, overcome resistance and skepticism, build camaraderie and intrinsic motivation, and identify goals and track progress collaboratively.                                                          
  7. 'Let My People Go Surfing' by Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia.

  8. 'Tribal Leadership' by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright "This book focuses on the art and science that lies in leveraging the power of a tribe, and how to foster an organizational culture which both inspires individuals AND creates a communal platform for world-changing results."

  9. Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead. Laszlo Bock, Head of Google’s People Operations."We spend more time working than doing anything else in life. It's not right that the experience of work should be so demotivating and dehumanizing."


The Future Of Company Culture Development: Notes From Toronto’s First #CultureConnect Event

Toronto’s first ever #CultureConnect  brought together the city’s best company culture experts, founders, manages, HR experts, and startup teams for casual networking over drinks and snacks, an expert panel, followed by lively and engaging participant-driven breakout discussions.

The event was designed to help participants reflect on their company’s culture, and provide them with tools, resources, and support to boost employee engagement, and increase employee retention, productivity, profitability and happiness at work.

Dovetail Canada and Shopify partnered to plan and host the event, with event space, drinks, and snacks generously donated by Shopify.  Our media sponsors at Now Creative live-tweeted the panel and breakout session discussions, and took photos.

The amazing team of expert panelists included:

Dave Holmes, Mayor of G-Adventures

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh, Culture Ambassador at Shopify TO

Robyn Ross, Country Manager at Tilt

Adil Dhalla, Director of Culture at The Centre for Social Innovation

The breakout sessions were hosted and facilitated by panelists at stations around the venue, with guiding questions to help participants gain as much as possible from the event. Guiding questions included:

Robyn Ross, Tilt: Remote Employee & Office Culture. How can you maintain culture as your company expands, with remote/ satellite offices and employees? How similar to headquarters should the culture of remote offices be? How much autonomy should remote offices have, in the building and development of their culture?

Dave Holmes, G Adventures: Engaging Millenials + Why Purpose Matters. How can company culture best engage Millenials? What are some specific action steps that you can take to engage Millenials in your workplace? Why does purpose matter, and how do you align employees with your company's purpose?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh, Shopify: Shared Ownership of Company Culture. How can you and your senior leadership team/ culture team move your culture from “me” to “we” format? (Culture shouldn't be owned exclusively by one person/ team, it's something that employees should all feel comfortable participating in and impacting).

Adil Dhalla, Centre for Social Innovation:  Breaking Broken Cultures. How do you fix a broken culture and what are the signs that it's broken to begin with?

The discussion groups were highly interactive, and participants benefitted from the opportunity to share challenges, successes, and experiences around building company culture, and developing successful teams in a wide range of industries and companies.

Here are some of the highlights from the event, courtesy of our media and live-tweeting sponsors at Now Creative, and a few tweeting participants: 

How A Tumour Taught Me About Company Culture Development

Last autumn my best friend Louise* felt a lump growing in her neck. Louise is a busy mum with four young children, a full time job, and a husband with heart problems. When she felt the lump, Louise decided that she just didn’t have time to deal with the “thing” on her neck, as she referred to it. It was just another item on her long list of “things” to deal with:  grocery shopping, naps, bath time, chauffeuring the kids to school,  and a lump in her neck.

Louise did as many women do when they’re faced with a health scare; she ignored the problem, hoping that it would go away on its own if she took better care of herself and reduced her stress levels, drank green smoothies, and went to the gym more frequently.

As autumn turned to winter, Louise grew busier and busier. As Louise’s to-do list grew, so did the lump. Christmas shopping, baking, cooking, chauffeuring the kids to school, holiday parties.. and a lump in her neck.

Over the Christmas season the lump grew and grew until one night Louise felt like she was suffocating, and she finally decided that she couldn’t ignore it any longer.

The Doctor

When Louise finally went to see a specialist he performed a rush biopsy, then diagnosed her with a pre-cancerous tumour and declared that it must be removed along with her entire thyroid. The doctor scheduled the surgery for the following month, and sent Louise home with nothing but instructions to rest and relax.

The Alternative Therapy

Not one to “rest and relax”, Louise sought a second opinion with a Chinese medicine practitioner. He prescribed a strict regimen of Chinese medicine in an awfully smelly tea made of herbs, bark, roots and leaves. She measured the circumference of her neck every week, and as she consumed the tea, her tumour appeared to shrink

The Results

Three and a half weeks later Louise scheduled a pre-surgery appointment with her doctor. When he scanned the tumour he was astonished; it had shrunk to a quarter of it’s previous size. He promptly cancelled her surgery, and began to investigate the Chinese medicinal tea that Louise used to shrink her tumor.

The Integrative Healthcare Solution

The Chinese bark, roots and herb tea did wonders, and although the tumor continued to shrink, it did not completely disappear.

Four months after her diagnosis Louise underwent a minor outpatient procedure to remove the remains of her tumor, leaving her thyroid intact, and sparing her a lifetime of synthetic drugs and hormonal imbalances caused by thyroid removal


How did Louise's tumour teach me about company culture development?


Companies ignore their “lumps” because they’re busy doing what they think is the “real work” of their business.

At Dovetail we work with lots of companies that are busy busy busy, and ignoring their own deeply rooted, possibly highly problematic “pre-cancerous tumors”. These “tumors” are issues at the very core of their organizations, deeply rooted in their company culture. Louise’s occasional exercise and green smoothies were healthy and they felt good, but they didn’t make a drastic change in her health, just as a one-off team building event, retreat, or keynote speech leaves employees feeling good for a moment, but doesn’t effect major change in most organizations.

If you wait until you’re being choked by a problem with your culture, you might have to hack it out of your company.

Louise waited until the lump was nearly choking her to death before she went to the doctor, and he gave her one solution - the complete removal of the tumor AND her thyroid. Companies that wait until their culture issues are choking their business are often left with one solution - cutting out the problem by firing talented people with specialized skill sets. Not only do they lose talented employees, but they lose the work that they did, and they waste valuable time and resources recruiting, hiring, and training new employees. Estimates of the cost of firing an employee run as high as 150% of annual salary.

Integrative solutions are much more effective than stand-alone solutions.

When we approach culture development in the same way as integrative health care, we can see that integrative solutions are far more effective than stand-alone workshops, keynotes, or short-term organizational changes.

Long-term  integrative solutions for the win.

Louise was cured by integrative healthcare, and studies of her case and treatment plan will help hundreds of other patients in the future. After the remains of Louise’s tumor were removed, her  Chinese medicine practitioner and western medicine doctor eventually began to work together, they were able to support one another,  gain a deeper understanding of their patients needs, and develop a more systematic long term approach to integrative treatment.

When facilitators and consultants collaborate to support a company’s culture development, they’re able to build upon one another’s’ programs, and capitalize on their deeper understanding of each other’s specializations. It’s helpful to see each individual component of a culture development plan, such as an offsite team building day, leadership workshop, or management retreat, as a kind of microcosm, a “play within a play”. Short workshops and events are only impactful when they’re fully integrated into the team’s long-term goals and objectives

At Dovetail, we believe in a long-term, integrated approach to culture development. We offer shorter assessments, workshops, and team building programs as introductions to our services, and we work to build long-lasting and highly impactful relationships between our specialist facilitators and our clients.

We’d love to hear from you! How’s your company culture? Do you have any “tumours” lurking in the body of your business? If so, what’syour integrative treatment plan for developing a healthy, high performance culture?

If you enjoyed this article, please use the buttons on the left side of the screen to share it with your colleagues and your social media network, and start the #cultureconnection

Join us on May 12 at #cultureconnect at Shopify in Toronto, and build your company culture to boost your bottom line. Click here for more information.

Your team is a few short steps away from this level of happiness!

Your team is a few short steps away from this level of happiness!


Lucas, Suzanne. “How Much Employee Turnover Really Costs You”. Inc. Magazine. August 30 2013. http://www.inc.com/suzanne-lucas/why-employee-turnover-is-so-costly.html

Dattner, Ben. “How to Plan a Team Offsite That Actually Works”. Harvard Business Review. June 25, 2015. https://hbr.org/2015/06/how-to-plan-a-team-offsite-that-actually-works

Hate Team Building? You're Not Alone. Here's How You Can Use Team Building Events To Build Your Company Culture.

Mention the words “team building event” at your next staff meeting, and count the number of groans and eye rolls.

Team building has a bad rap. It’s long been associated with trust falls, kumbaya circles, and cheesy activities that companies feel obliged to plan, but that no one really wants to do.

At Dovetail, we’re obsessed with helping our clients build their company company culture. Team building events are just one piece of the culture development puzzle, but when they’re planned and executed properly, they can have a major impact.

Here are three of the ways that team building events can help you build your company culture. If you're not seeing these benefits, it's probably not worth your time.

1. Disconnect and Re-Prioritize

Disconnecting from work together puts team priorities before individual priorities, and increases employee engagement, profitability, and customer ratings, and reduces turnover.

Successful companies with healthy, high performance cultures know that when managers disconnect from their electronic devices and their own work to how that they value spending time with the team, it sets the tone for the entire company. When employees feel respected by their managers, their engagement levels increase by an average of 55%. (1) Hundreds of studies have shown that increased employee engagement leads to higher profitability, increased customer ratings, and reduced turnover. (2) If your team building event isn't providing you with an opportunity to put the team first, it's probably not worth doing. This sounds obvious, but some "team building" events are actually more like "team dividing" events that pit individual employees against one another.

2. Increase Innovation and Creativity: 

Recognizing and highlighting employee’s unique skill set in fun activities outside of their regular work is empowering, motivating, and can drive innovation and creativity in the workplace.

When employees are faced with challenges and roadblocks in unfamiliar situations, they use their full range of skills and knowledge to develop creative and effective solutions. This type of entrepreneurial thinking can inspire a culture of motivated and passionate employees who are “resourceful enough to develop creative and effective solutions to problems and roadblocks on their own” (3)

3. Increase communication and collaboration:

Connecting employees from different divisions increases communication, and enables people to see the "big picture".

Employees who feel connected to colleagues and understand how different areas of the company work are more likely to make decisions that benefit the company as a whole, rather than solely their own department or themselves.


Team building is only a waste of time if you treat it like one. Healthy, high performance company culture is built when company leaders take time to disconnect from their work and meetings, show that they value their employees, learn about their unique skill sets and strengths, and authentically connect with, and foster connections among, their employees.


  1. Schwartz, Tony. “What Is Your Quality of Life At Work?” (a survey of 19,000 people). Harvard Business Review. June 30, 2014).

  2. Poath, Christine. “Why You Hate Work”. The New York Times. (May 30 2014).

  3. Saltzman, Barry. “How To Make Your Workplace Fun, Productive, and Creative”. FastCompany, (April 10 2015) (quote from Colin McGuire, BizFit 2015).

Check out some of Dovetail's most popular team building events here, and contact us for your free team building event quote today.

Our Startup Pivot: How And Why We Did It

According to a recent forbes.com article, 15-20% of startups pivot from their initial business plan. It’s good to know we’re not alone.

Almost twelve months ago I launched Dovetail Team Building and Training with the intention of creating corporate programs that were fun, impactful, and designed to improve participant's work lives. 

It’s been a wonderful year, and we’ve had a great time facilitating our leadership development and communication workshops, and hosting a wide range of team building events. As i reflected on 2015, I realized that

Our events were fun, and our workshops were engaging, but our programs weren't having the long-term or deep impact that                                          I dreamed of when I launched the company.

One of the best things about being a one-year-old is that learning is inevitable and unending. Just as a one year old child can’t stop themselves from learning to walk, no matter how many times they fall down, we can’t give up on fulfilling our vision. We want our programs to make a real difference in the companies we work with.

So, we’re pivoting. We’ll continue to follow the lean startup model of learn → build → measure → learn, and we'll continue on this cycle as our programs evolve to better serve our clients.

Dovetail Team Building and Training is becoming Dovetail Canada. Our mission is the same, to help you build your company culture and boost your bottom line, but our strategy has changed.

We’re looking forward to helping our clients truly build their unique company cultures. We’ll do this by forming meaningful relationships with small to midsize companies, and working with them as Directors of Culture-For-Hire (“DOC’s for hire). For organizations that already have an in-house culture development champion, we’re offering our culture assessments, culture route mapping, and our culture development workshops that are just as much fun and experiential, as they are impactful.

We'll still be hosting fun and entertaining team building events, but now they'll be part of a larger strategy to help our clients build their company culture.

Thanks for an amazing 2015, we can’t wait to grow with you in 2016 and beyond.

- Alexis, Founder of Dovetail Canada