Work culture: (Re)empowering employees

September 16th, 2019 5 min |


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How do you make sure that work culture grows from the ground up? That’s the ambitious goal facing Janie Poirier, Internal Events Manager at GSoft. It’s a balancing act that involves creating the right conditions to promote employee initiatives, without copying Silicon Valley’s top trends. “We want employees to steer our work culture,” says Janie. “After all, they’re the masterminds behind our innovation.” Since GSoft recognizes that a strong work culture is good for business, Janie and her team have been given the green light to move ahead with this initiative

Promoting a proactive approach

Companies that want to let employees lead the corporate culture need to actively encourage it. For example, Janie and her team created a toolbox that makes it easy for GSoft employees to organize in-house activities like coding events, trivia nights and design workshops. “The only rules are that the activity has to be aligned with GSoft’s values and it has to bring employees together,” explains Janie. GSoft also encourages employees to share ideas or lessons learned by organizing lunch ’n learn sessions after they attend conferences or take training courses. Even though their coworkers don’t have to participate, they often do, helping create and reinforce communities of practice between different units.

In the same spirit, the Culture and Organization Department recently created internal knowledge-transfer opportunities. “This year, we held the GSoft Pop-Up event, in which employees could give workshops on topics that were either directly or indirectly related to their work.” In the end, 15% of the employees chose to teach their peers new concepts in the areas of software design, leadership, communication, design thinking and digital marketing. The event did a lot to strengthen connections between employees.

The only rules are that the activity has to be aligned with GSoft’s values and it has to bring employees together!

Keeping an ear to the ground

As companies grow, their needs change. Thirteen years ago, GSoft was just a small startup founded by three friends. The same feeling of camaraderie still permeates the company today, but the way it plays out is changing as new employees are brought on board. The company used to organize an annual getaway, but that tradition fell to the wayside as the average age of employees edged upward, creating a shift in their needs. GSoft still wants to promote team cohesion, but it’s finding new ways to achieve the same goal. Today, company events are held in Montreal and during the daytime. And employees often get to bring their families along to enjoy the fun.

“From periodic BBQs to our annual Christmas celebration for kids, we’re keeping our festive spirit alive,” says Janie. “We all look forward to getting together and meeting each other’s families. It lets us see our coworkers in a whole new light. That said, we make changes every year. For example, when some employees said they wanted to tone down the consumerism in our Christmas event, we asked parents to bring in used toys from home so that we could donate them to a local charity. In the end, our toy drive was very successful! We keep an eye on participation rates and survey results. When needs change, so do we.”

What’s the secret to making it work?

Businesses that invest in work culture stand to score big returns. According to a survey conducted by Gallup Workplace (2017), companies with highly engaged employees have substantially lower turnover rates (-24% to -59%, depending on the industry). What’s more, highly engaged business units enjoy better customer satisfaction (+10%) and sales results (+20%). Ultimately, these business units are more profitable (+21%). There’s no doubt that investing in corporate culture pays off.

But how do you create a strong work culture? The Great Place To Work Institute provides part of the answer. They’ve pinpointed practices used by companies that outperformed their peers over the long term. What do they have in common?

  • They make substantial investments in employee well-being
  • They offer career advancement opportunities
  • They communicate their mission clearly
  • They regularly review internal practices

To be strong and sustainable, company culture needs to come from the ground up. When employees change, the company and its work culture should adapt accordingly. “You should never take things for granted. Instead, you have to keep an ear to the ground and be responsive to what employees have to say,” concludes Janie. It’s up to each company to figure out how it can support its culture and vision, and plan to review its practices along the way.

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