Three Small Changes with Outsize Impact

Small changes at these three firms had major impact for their company performance and employee happiness.


While popular thinking may be that big results come from major organizational overhauls, evidence shows the opposite is quite often true. Mammoth companies like Apple and Google have shown impressive growth and improvement by making small tweaks. The same is true when it comes to employee well-being and the structure of jobs. People — employers and employees alike — tend to think changing the way we work needs to be expensive and time-consuming. In truth, even the smallest changes can bear huge results in terms of employee fulfillment and productivity. Here are three companies whose slight shifts in thinking led to outsize results in employee loyalty, satisfaction and productivity.

What if we paid employees to go on vacation?

The Minor Change: One CEO found that sending employees on vacation made them better workers, and not for the reasons one might think. At FullContact, employees are given $7,500 once a year when they take vacation; that’s in addition to their standard paid vacation benefit. The program is, as CEO Bart Lorang calls it, paid-paid vacation. There are, of course, rules: Employees must actually leave work (whether they head to their couches or to the Caribbean is up to them), they must disconnect from all work communication, and they can’t perform work while they’re gone.

The Major Impact: While the benefits of disconnecting from work to relax and rejuvenate are widely known, there are a plethora of unexpected benefits that arise when employees are practically forced out the door. By heavily incentivizing employees to cut all contact from the office, they are obligated to shake loose their “I’m the only one who can do this” mentality, making them better at documenting their work, sharing knowledge and empowering those around them. According to Lorang, the experiment has paid off. “At the end of the day, the company will (and has) improved,” he says.

What if we told employees to stop sending e-mail?

Vynamic CEO Dan Calista (Photo by Shira Yudkoff)

The Minor Change: After a demanding stint at a major consulting firm, Dan Calista knew he wanted to create an entirely different corporate culture when he

launched Vynamic. The company embraces a “feedback loop” system that considers input from employees at every level; they regular rotate workspaces to promote collaboration; and Vynamic places a premium on employee health and wellness. But it’s their companywide email curfew, or zzzMail policy, that generates the most buzz. Born from a desire to promote work-life balance and reduce tele-pressure — the harmful stress caused by being connected to work 24/7 — Vynamic’s zzzMail policy asks that employees simply refrain from sending or reading email between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends. If truly urgent needs arise, employees are asked to phone. If inspiration strikes in the middle of the night, employees are free to write the email, but asked to refrain from hitting send until morning.

The Major Impact: zzzMail, in combination with Vynamic’s other employee-centric policies, has yielded measurable results for the Philadelphia-based company: Its employees are in the top 15th percentile for happiness at work, according to Happiness Works, and the company earns an average score of 9.2 out of 10 on their regular customer satisfaction surveys.

What if employees knew each other’s salaries?

BufferGroupJan16 sml
     The Buffer team in Hawaii

The Minor Change: At Buffer, employees do know their peers’ pay. In fact, Buffer not only shares salaries internally, they share their entire salary philosophy and calculator with the world. The concept of transparent salaries was launched at Buffer more than two years ago, when the firm was just 3 years old, and extends to all employees, including upper management. But, Buffer’s spirit of openness doesn’t end with employee salaries. In fact, “Default to Transparency” is among the company’s core culture values, meaning transparency extends to equity structure, pricing, revenue and diversity of employees by race, gender and age.

The Major Impact: Transparency ensures a level of employee buy-in and loyalty that can be lost when they feel limited by organizational hierarchies and hidden agendas, and at Buffer, the gambit seems to have paid off. According to Quartz, applications for open positions doubled within the first month the transparent salary program was announced.


Instead of being stymied by the vast and daunting prospect of revolutionizing their workplaces, these companies made small, but innovative, changes that have reaped substantial benefits. In fact, in most cases, the benefits went far beyond expectation. Calista expected zzzMail to give employees a break from technology, but the policy has also improved how Vynamic co-workers communicate overall. Lorang expected employees to return to work well-rested, but improvements in collaboration and sharing at FullContact were icing on the cake.

What impact could one small step toward workplace change have at your company? Let us know at on our Facebook or Twitter pages.