June 3 2022
On Tuesday, Vincit USA’s CEO, Ville Houttu, spoke as a finalist in the 2022 Speaker’s Contest held by the Nordic Business Forum. More than 300 competitors took part in the competition, and the winner was chosen from the top six on May 31st. in the finals held in Helsinki, Finland, Houttu entered the contest with a presentation on “Why Making Every Employee CEO For A Day Is Essential For Your Business.”
Ville’s topic got the audience and online community to think about how making their employees CEO of the Day can help their business grow. We are grateful for Ville’s participation in the event and congratulations to Duncan Wardle, the contest winner, on his accomplishment. To view Ville’s presentation, watch the video here, or for more information on Vincit’s CEO of the Day program, read the following blog written by Ville.
What happens when one of the employees steps into the boots of the company’s CEO once a month and has unlimited decision-making power and budget? The CEO of the Day concept has been in use at Vincit USA for four years. In this blog article, I will explain why the concept has proven so successful and why you should consider applying it to your own organization as well.
The article was originally published in Vincit's Trend Review 2022. By the way, I also discussed the topic in one of the most listened to podcasts in the United States, Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast, you can listen to the episode here.
Vincit USA was founded in 2016 when its first office opened in Palo Alto, California. At that time, we did not yet have any employees or customers in the United States. Today, Vincit USA already employs more than 50 people working with many leading brands such as Logitech, Yamaha and Kellogg’s.
While the success with customer and business care is inspiring, it is especially gratifying to be able to create something new that will help make your business a better place to work. One such thing is our acclaimed CEO of the Day concept (Adam Grant, Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur). As part of this, we select once a month an employee who is allowed to be the CEO of the Day. This employee will have the power to make a lasting decision about the company and have an unlimited budget.
My habit is to hold an annual meeting with each employee. This encounter will help create a deeper connection with the employee and give a new perspective to our growing company. I once asked an employee to arrange an appointment for our annual meeting. Soon an invitation to the meeting appeared on the calendar with a playful title: “Promote John to CEO?”
After an initial reaction, which was amused, and partly appalled, I thought about it. Why is it the responsibility of supervisors to continually improve the workplace when employees themselves know their needs best? I pitched the idea to my local management team and after a few discussions, we decided the concept was worth a try.
I promoted John as CEO for a day and set him the following challenge: make one decision that will make Vincit USA a better job tomorrow than it is today. It’s been almost four years since that day and we continue to use the CEO of the Day concept.
To work well, a concept needs clear rules and frameworks. At Vincit USA, they are:
-Trust : Today’s CEO gets an unlimited budget to implement one of his decisions.
-Responsibility : Since responsibility cannot actually be shared, the decision is made solely by the CEO. I have been asked for approval or opinion many times, but I always refuse to comment.
-Accountability : Employees spend company money like their own. Today’s CEO makes the decision on behalf of all staff and to improve their well-being. Similarly, other employees live with the decision made by that person, resulting in interaction and responsibility.
-Deadline : All decisions have a deadline. The decision will be published on the agreed date and time. The decision is presented with its starting points and reasons. In addition, the CEO of the Day talks about how the decision will make the company a better place to work.
-Irrevocability : Once a decision has been officially made public, it is impossible to revoke it without disappointing those who benefit from it. The decision can be good, bad or irrelevant, but once decided also remains decided. This allows the employee to try out a leadership role and assess whether leadership makes meaningful work in future plans.
-Weighed decision : All decisions are made on the basis of the information currently available. The future will show whether the decision will lead to improvements.
The purpose of the rules is to give employees the most truthful picture possible of acting as CEO. Hardly anyone will feel like a CEO if they are told that decision-making power is limitless but the budget available is $20.
The importance of the concept lies not only in the truthful experience an employee gains, but it also provides an important lesson in leadership. Increasing money and power does not make decision-making easier or hassle-free. On the contrary, it can make the final decision-making more difficult.
At Vincit, we want to give decision-making power to all of our employees, not just managers. We want every employee to feel important, influential, and consulted when making decisions that affect their work. In this way, we can show that the company supports its employees and is willing to promote their development.
The day as CEO also highlights the fact that failure is acceptable and humane. The CEO will make the decision based on the information available, and whether the decision is successful or not, the company will move forward. The worst thing would be not to decide anything. Implementing a failed decision teaches as much, if not more, than a successful decision. What decisions has the CEO of the Day made so far? Once the employee elected as CEO of the Day has finalized his or her plan, the decision will be announced at the monthly meeting for all employees. After the announcement, the person who served as CEO of the Day will select the next CEO of the Day torchbearer.
To date, we have implemented the following decisions, among others:
-Free access to the professional expertise of Boon, a mental health service provider.
-Vincit-branded GORE-TEX outdoor jackets for employees for the cold winter months.
-A Uber account paid for by the company to order a safe ride home when the company’s joint happy hour meeting is over.
-Udemy online course service to increase employee knowledge.
-A paid holiday when an employee’s birthday falls on a weekday.
-A monthly movie ticket that can be used at a nearby theater, for example, after work or later with the family.
-A fruit basket delivered to the office every Monday.
-Colleague Lunches: When an employee invites a new colleague to lunch, they can be billed to the company for lunch.
-Fun Fridays: once a month, there is a joint leisure time at the initiative of the staff in connection with the upcoming event.
The things that employees want to develop in their workplace may seem insignificant to a boss who is used to thinking only of the big picture. Ideas that streamline everyday life are easy to ignore with a shrug, when in fact, they promote employee health and satisfaction. On the other hand, the HR manager no longer has to guess what employees need when they decide these matters themselves.
The opportunity to serve as CEO of the Day gives employees an idea of what business decisions can be made about. This is something most employees would not normally experience. The concept teaches that decision-making is difficult, no matter how much experience is gained. In addition, it illustrates that decisions are not always right. Everything fails sometimes - and it doesn’t hurt - especially if you learn from the mistakes you make.
Stepping in the CEO’s boots broadens the perspective of employees and gives a better understanding of how and why decisions are made in the organization. It involves all employees in creating a community atmosphere and forces them to think and plan how to make the workplace better for everyone. In addition, the publication of a decision teaches the presentation of decisions in a structured manner and describing their background. It also explains to employees what making big decisions and the consequences of them really mean. Because the environment is safe, employees don’t have to worry about being convicted.
First of all, it is worth thinking about what you want to achieve with the program. For example, do you want to follow Vincit’s model and focus on developing a workplace culture? Or maybe you want to involve employees in improving productivity? Or maybe you want a program-driven program? There are many options, the most important thing is to start!
-Choose your company’s first CEO of the Day
-Determine which area of your business you want to develop
-Please provide the date and time of the release of your first CEO of the Day decision.
Future leadership is built on trust and respect. The initiative to build these is primarily in the hands of management. Borrowing the CEO’s boots is a sign of unreserved management confidence in employees and has been very successful in increasing the company’s internal cohesion. The more you trust your employees, the more they will trust you. And the more trust you find, the better the commitment, permanence, efficiency, and well-being of your staff.
Interested in hearing more about this topic? Listen to an episode of Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast featuring Ville Houttu as a guest.
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