By Lisa Thibodeau
As tech firms the world over try to create unique workplace cultures to help attract and retain skilled workers, several Kanata North companies are finding success connecting their staff to something bigger than their day-to-day tasks.
Across the tech park, employees are forging closer ties to their community by leading technology classes for seniors, becoming directly invested in their company’s future through ownership stakes and understanding the impact of their work by travelling to the other side of the world.
These are just some of the examples of how Kanata North companies are increasing employee engagement by tackling the admittedly abstract challenge of crafting a positive workplace culture.
“A lot of people have a hard time defining (workplace culture), but it’s how it feels to go into work every day,” says Louise Reid, a senior consultant, facilitator and coach at Kanata-based Stratford Managers. “How you get your job done, the vibe, how a company lives their values and what they do to make employees want to show up to work every day – that’s the culture,” she adds.
Addressing tech’s gender imbalance is becoming an increasingly urgent priority for many tech firms. In Kanata North, Trend Micro is among the companies opening its doors to share some of its strategies to tackling the challenge.
Some 30 per cent of the firm’s 250 local employees are women, compared to 11 per cent in the global cybersecurity industry, says Marcia Sequeira, Trend Micro’s Canada country manager.
To recognize the importance of women in tech, the Ottawa company hosted its first-ever women’s forum earlier this year, inviting employees to talk about diversity and inclusion at work.
The company also promotes community outreach through charity fundraisers. Having employees connect outside of work is extremely important to ensuring everyone feels like they belong, says Sequeira. On one occasion, she recalls a rather shy employee coming out of their shell after their brownies turned out to be the surprise star of a
charitable bake sale.
“From then on, believe it or not, I saw such a different, more open attitude,” she says. “It took a brownie to let that person open up … the littlest things can make such an impact.”
The company has also made an effort to inject fun into the office to break up the workday. Every Friday, employees are invited to the lunch room for ping-pong, video games, specialty coffee and beer on tap.
The idea of working in an inclusive office that cares about its staff is a way of maintaining employee loyalty, says Reid.
“There’s a growing trend of being able to bring your whole self to work,” she explains. “Where we used to talk about work-life balance, I think we’re now looking more at a
Being flexible and giving employees a sense of freedom is one way Benbria tries to maintain an edge over larger companies with which it competes for talent, says Jordan Parsons, CEO of the customer engagement platform company.
“We have a lot of bright people who come in here and want autonomy and to grow into their individual roles, whether it’s product management, engineering or whatever else,” he says.
The company’s open concept office helps forge strong employee connections and brings a sense of collaboration to the space, says Parsons. Employees also have the option to
work from home, and Parsons says it’s important to communicate the trust he has in his team to get their job done from any location.
Benbria also offers employees shares in the company, which adds another dimension to their role in shaping the firm’s future while building additional loyalty to the company’s brand.
“We hand out ownership at every level of the company, and it’s hugely meaningful to people,” he explains. “You want employees to care about every level of business from who the next hire is to client happiness.”
Qlik, a data analytics company, takes a different approach to creating a positive workplace culture. Staff are encouraged to see the direct impact of their products through a slew of community outreach opportunities.
The company partners with international not-for-profits to bring its technology to businesses in developing countries. Employees recently traveled to Malawi where they met children at an orphanage run entirely by local women.
Qlik instills a sense of purpose by showing its workers the good they are doing by working with the company, explains software engineer Thomas Devisscher.
Earlier this year, the company invited employees to an event to teach seniors computer skills such as email and social media. Attendees were able to interact with the older participants, sparking smiles on the faces of many Qlik staff and bringing coworkers closer together, says Tamimi Ahmad, a developer advocate engineer.
Qlik also holds seasonal events for staff such as pie day at Thanksgiving and summer barbecues to give employees from different departments the chance to catch up and connect with one another.
Officials at Qlik say they’ve found a direct connection between creating a positive and supportive workplace and the company’s overall success.
“We’re here to build a great product but you can’t do that without people who feel like they have a good support system to rely on,” says R&D manager Jim Reed. “Culture is critical to trust, which is critical to getting people to work together on a common cause.”