01 Jul Culture’s Impact on Business: Leesa’s Successful Pivot
The current pandemic has forced all of us to adapt to a new environment, both personally and professionally. In the world of business, we’ve seen so many different responses to the changing landscape. While a crisis can certainly put unwanted pressure on a company and magnify pre-existing issues with their culture, difficult periods like these offer an opportunity for a company to demonstrate their commitment to their values, make sacrifices and discover new approaches that will benefit their business and the world around them. The other week we looked at GameStop’s shortcomings responding to the crisis. A lot could be learned from what they failed to do, but let’s look at a Leesa: a company that serves as a model instead of a warning. I’ve come across many companies that say they are committed to accountability and transparency – as a certified B corp, Leesa walks the talk.
When the pandemic came and businesses began to slow down or shut down altogether, the decision makers at Leesa saw the new landscape and looked for a way that they could be of service to others. As a mattress company that operates primarily online, they could have been content; they could have continued to steer their ship ahead. They weren’t a small brick and mortar outlet that had to adapt or die. They chose to make a change because they weren’t content with subsisting, their change was driven by the values that are core to how they operate – being “makers of good” – they see themselves as a part of the solution, a positive presence in the world.
Workers are naturally more motivated to do well if they feel that their effort is going toward something meaningful and positive.
Instead of continuing to sell their standard mattresses, they adapted their product to be more suitable for hospital beds. Changing their product was a huge risk and a huge sacrifice. It forced the company to innovate and become more flexible. Filling the increasing demand for hospital beds forced them to find ways to expedite their production process and form relationships with new distributors. In their effort to make a positive impact on the world, they learned new approaches that will improve their efficiency even when the crisis is in the rearview. According to Forbes, “[Leesa]’s fastest product launches take about nine months from idea to customer delivery. This spring, their team designed and shipped a complete hospital bed kit, with a newly designed mattress, as well as a cover, pillow, and wedge to provide suitable elevation for Covid-19 patients, in less than three weeks.”
Leesa’s culture is clearly based on a desire to be a beneficial presence in the world. This alone is huge for creating a successful, productive work environment. Workers are naturally more motivated to do well if they feel that their effort is going toward something meaningful and positive. By demonstrating their commitment to their core values, Leesa showed their employees that the work they do is for something bigger than the bottom line. But Leesa did more than this. In the era of working from home, Leesa adapted in ways that allowed their employees to do their best work while making sure they also have time for themselves and their loved ones.
Employees are motivated because they feel their voices are heard, their talents are trusted, and they feel they are contributing to something worthwhile.
The company moved new people into decision-making positions, expediting decision-making processes, and increasing transparency. This is huge because it places trust in employees and allows opportunities for employees to step up and rise to the occasion. Speaking about the company’s new flattened hierarchy, Leesa Sleep CEO said “We have a lot of people leading who would’ve never had the opportunity prior, because of our company’s functional team divisions and operational processes.” Additionally, the new daily all-hands meetings genuinely seek two-way communication and they haven’t been afraid to change employee’s roles to address the new needs of the landscape. One employee took on a totally different role when she helped the company establish itself with a whole new client base by connecting with hospitals directly. If Leesa hadn’t opened up communication to collect input from workers who normally would not have access to high level decision-making, it may have been far more difficult for them to switch approaches so rapidly.
Employees are motivated because they feel their voices are heard, their talents are trusted, and they feel they are contributing to something worthwhile. It hasn’t all been easy for Leesa. They had to temporarily cut salaries by 20%, but they have a culture of transparent communication, and that cultivates trust so it allowed them to make this tough decision without completely demoralizing workers. Leesa has also established daily moratoriums on meetings so that workers can take a break from Zoom calls to care for themselves and their families. Yet another way that Leesa cultivates a culture of care, never forgetting that behind all the work being done is a team of individuals dealing with the crisis in different ways.
Leesa has offered an incredible model for businesses wondering how to navigate a crisis like this one. By sticking to core values while keeping an eye on innovation, by motivating employees to do their best work while acknowledging their personal needs, Leesa has built a company culture that has created a healthy work environment as well as a healthier world.
Shaara Roman is founder and managing director of The Silverene Group, a culture consultancy that helps companies align their people programs with business goals.