How Music Transformed Zoom Calls and Strengthened Our Company Culture

The shift to remote and hybrid working has impacted corporate culture. Like everyone else in 2020, we became a Zoom-centric company, which continues to this day. This shift required us to figure out how to collaborate remotely and maintain our collective connection.

As CEO of MATRIXX Software, this was particularly intimidating. I had just taken the job in January 2020, only a month and a half before COVID shut down everything. Previously, I was on the board, but I was not a day-to-day employee. Not everyone knew me and vice versa. In all the companies where I have worked, however, culture has been one of my main priorities. I knew that making MATRIXX a place people want to work would be crucial to our success.

Given the circumstances of the pandemic, I barely had the chance to meet my team before the lockdowns were put in place. Establishing personal connections is practically not easy. Like everyone else, I’m used to relying on informal chats and small talk between meetings. In our new world of consecutive virtual calls, the occasional catch-up has been lost. Additionally, productivity was questioned: would it be easy to achieve goals in an isolated environment?

Like most businesses, Zoom calls were essential to keeping us all connected. However, we had to find a way to break the monotony of another virtual meeting if we wanted to maintain a level of cohesion between our teams.

That’s when inspiration struck: music. Music is often the great equalizer. It motivates, uplifts, energizes and entertains. We started a tradition of inviting two employees from different parts of the company to be guest DJs and play a song before and after company-wide meetings.

We quickly discovered that this activity created a unique bond between our guest DJs, who often did not know each other before. It was also a good way to engage people in a meeting and motivate them while waiting for a call to start. Besides being a fun activity that wouldn’t take a lot of time, it energized people and helped us get to know a little something unusual about each other.

A CORPORATE PLAYLIST TO INSPIRE

Music can inspire and bring people together in unique ways. It carries its own culture and can also play a fun role in building and supporting corporate culture.

Over the past year, we’ve created a corporate playlist that ranges from Foo Fighters covers to an original remix. In the end, each track ended up reflecting the sentiment of the employees. In many ways, these songs tell the story of the last two years of life through the ups and downs of COVID and many other external issues that we all face in this world.

Besides picking a song, my favorite part of our DJ project is that I get to chat with the guest DJ about why he picked the tracks and what they mean to him. Many songs are inspiring. Among the first choices were the REO Speedwagon Ride with the changes and Faith by Dolly Parton. Other songs show conviction in difficult times.

At the beginning of 2021, when everyone had returned from vacation, someone chose here comes the sun by the Beatles and closed with Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra. Last month, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we featured an eclectic playlist of female artists, including Alicia Keys with Girl on FireSia with unstoppable and Aretha Franklin with Respectto name a few.

LEARN PERSONALITY THROUGH MUSIC

You learn things about people through music. The guest DJ project has increased the visibility of employees who otherwise might not have had this opportunity. People’s musical choices also showcased their personalities in ways we otherwise wouldn’t have.

This has been especially important over the past 24 months, as many people in the business today haven’t met anyone in person or haven’t seen each other in a long time. We’re international, so it’s been fun to see some of our Australian teammates, for example, proud to share famous Australian bands with the company.

Music can also relay messages about unity and working through differences. Someone recently chose Call me by Blondie, citing the song’s unique backstory. Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry, a punk rocker, wrote the lyrics while Giorgio Moroder, the Italian “father of disco”, composed and produced the song. Despite their very different styles, their collaboration generated a hit song that encapsulated sound, time and place. While chatting with our guest DJs, dressed in their baseball caps, sunglasses and accessories, I had the same feeling about our team: with the right alliances, the right teams and the right people, everything is possible.

As part of our ongoing focus on company culture, we run surveys to make sure we keep the pulse, check how people are feeling, and get ideas on what we need to work on. Despite our initial concerns about culture and productivity, we ended up having one of our best selling years in 2020 and the trend has continued.

We’ve hired some fantastic people in this remote new world and got to know them virtually. I’ve never met in person many of the people who have joined over the past two years, but our focus on culture has paid off. About half of our new hires come from employee referrals. If you have happy employees who love what they do and whose skills match the role, the rest will follow.

One thing is clear: we plan to keep guest DJs going, even as people start returning to the office and meeting in person. Music has proven to be a powerful way to reinforce our corporate culture and deepen our connection as a team.


Glo Gordon is CEO of MATRIXX softwarea global leader in 5G monetization for the communications industry.