WD-40 Strives to Create Positive Lasting Memories

WD-40 Strives to Create Positive Lasting Memories

Company deliberately shifts to organizational democracy

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, says the most special aspect of being a democratic workplace is that people are truly valued.

When people are content in what they do, feel recognized, see they make a difference and that their contributions are noticed, they have a different attitude that turns into positive results for the company, he says.

“I think life is about memories, and if we can create positive lasting memories in the workplace then it’s going to be an enriched workplace for the people that are here,” Ridge tells Axiom News.

Among its accolades WD-40 is a 2011 winner of the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces, which surveys employees on the level of democracy in an organization based on 10 democratic principles.

Ridge says it was about 14 years ago the democratic environment started at the San Diego-based organization.

“When I got the opportunity to lead the company back in 1997 and we looked at all of the great opportunities we had in front of us it was very clear to me that we weren’t going to do that with an autocratic environment, we needed to be very democratic,” he says.

He says the company needed to take what was then the currency of power – knowledge – and turn it “from silos of knowledge to fields of learning.”

He adds spreading learning was important because the organization’s future was changing to have the majority of its business outside of the U.S.

Now more than 60 per cent of WD-40’s revenue is outside of the U.S., and the company is 3.5 times the size in revenue compared to what it was, he says.

The year after the economic recession was the best of the company’s then 56-57 year history, and “others salivate on” WD-40’s return on investment capital metrics, says Ridge.

The business benefits of practising workplace democracy, as well as servant leadership – which is one of Ridge’s 10 Traits of Leadership – is having an engaged workforce, he says.

One of the ways the company tracks results is through an employee opinion survey. The No. 1 ranking in its most recent survey, with a 99 per cent positive, was that at WD-40 Company “I am treated with respect and dignity.”

Ridge says they call themselves a tribe at the company, not a team, because the tribal environment reflects that they care about its people.

“There’s a number of values that develop over time, where you end up with a very rich culture that’s based around care, candor, accountability and responsibility,” he says.

“If you come and work here we say we care about you, we understand that you’ve come here to do the best you can and we want to make sure that you get the opportunity to not only do the best you can but to develop and to grow,” he says.

The company has a reputation of being a great place to work, says Ridge, noting 95 per cent of employees would recommend it to a friend.

People within the company know they will be having adult, candid conversations, and mutual respect is expected.

Trust is built on people understanding that the people they work with are professionals who are competent, know what they are doing, will do what they say they are going to do, and are connected with the company, notes Ridge.

“All of this together comes to being an organization that then has fun and creates positive lasting memories.”

-- More to Come

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Writer Bio

Jennifer Neutel's picture
Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

Contact Jennifer: jennifer@axiomnews.ca, or 705-741-4421 ext. 26.

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