Sneak Peek: Five Collaboration Ideas from Inside Plantronics

plantronics-1014A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of visiting the Plantronics headquarters in Santa Cruz, California. The business purpose was to meet with a handful of SMART Technologies’ Collaboration Executive Council (CEC) members in a semi-annual meeting hosted by SMART’s customer and CEC member Plantronics.

The CEC event was great – I learned a lot about our customers, how they think, where they face challenges and what their longer term collaboration goals and visions are. You can check out posts dedicated to the CEC event on SMART’s Next Level blog (the first one appears here). But today, I’m going to focus on Plantronics’ and provide a sneak peek at its collaborative culture and workspace. In the coming weeks, you can expect more in-depth coverage of how Plantronics made collaboration the heart of its business culture.

As we were heading into the event, I looked at the agenda, and I asked the organizer whether the Plantronics HQ tour would really take the full 90 minutes allocated. I have to confess, I was a doubter!

The answer to my question was yes, it would take 90 minutes.

What I didn’t fully appreciate going into this was just how serious the team at Plantronics is about collaboration – both the activity and creating an environment that fosters true collaboration. It’s pretty amazing, and I thought I’d share a few highlights from the tour. (This tour, by the way, could have easily filled up two hours or more. They more or less had to drag us away at the 90-minute mark.)

Five things I thought inspired true collaboration include:

  1. Hot desks. Almost everyone – even the CEO – has a hot desk at Plantronics. This physically changes the cubicle and office culture to more of a shared work space mindset.
  2. Formal and informal meeting spaces. Careful thought has been put into enabling informal collaboration outside of the traditional meeting room. There are lots and I mean LOTS of ad-hoc work spaces, huddle rooms and booths to remove the barrier of “someplace to meet” on a topic or project.
  3. Waterfall walls and pink noise. Addressing the sound component of collaboration is a really thoughtful environmental design feature. Some people worry that shared work spaces will be too noisy, but this auditory element prevents distractions that happen when office workers overhear others.
  4. Collaboration outside. Plantronics is in Santa Cruz. Why not take advantage of the beautiful location? Water features and collaboration-friendly workspaces are located outside as well offering workers the flexibility to work on the campus grounds or simply benefit from a change of scenery on a project.
  5. The labs. The labs are welcoming, open spaces in which to inspire and innovate. There is a lot to look at, touch, feel and experience.
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Hats off to Plantronics to what is clearly a true commitment to a collaborative culture. The thought and resources invested into their amazing workspace go above and beyond, in my humble opinion. I haven’t seen their employee satisfaction numbers, but I have to guess that they are high – and that they have increased since the office was redesigned. It’s very impressive. If you ever happen to be in Santa Cruz and have a vested interest in collaboration, I highly recommend reaching out to Plantronics for a tour. It’s worth every one of those 90+ minutes.

Even if you can’t make it to Santa Cruz, check back here soon to learn more about Plantronics. It’s also worth evaluating your company’s collaborative culture. How far along are you in your plans to create a more collaborative culture? I’d love to hear your comments. Not sure how you’re doing? You can also self-assess with SMART’s Inspired Collaboration Assessment tool.