Workplace cultures that fill you with envy

| August 4, 2012 | Comments (0)

The Women@Work column appears weekly in The Globe and Mail.

On a recent Friday afternoon, Michael De Monte, CEO of Scribble Technologies Inc sat in his downtown Toronto office waiting for an ice cream truck to arrive. It’s not an everyday occurrence at the technology company but they encourage employees to treat others on their birthdays so when De Monte’s turn came around, he decided to get creative.

At first blush, ice cream may not seem like a winning tactic to secure and retain high-end talent – although his 40 employees also get treated to free burritos on Fridays and movie premiere tickets. Yet, in an increasingly competitive knowledge- based economy, employers need to keep thinking outside the box to create a playful atmosphere that drives a sense of community.

Scribble shows that this need not arrive with a huge price tag. Although creating a community atmosphere costs in terms of effort and planning, it remains an important tool to stem attrition rates. Salary alone isn’t always the deciding factor when employees contemplate jumping ship.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about making sure your employees are more than just worker bees. They are here to enjoy work. We try to give them things that are more than just a pay check,” explained Mr. De Monte.

Undoubtedly, corporate culture plays a pivotal role in determining an employee’s productivity and is often cited as impacting women’s advancement. Some suggest that women place a higher value on a business environment that emphasizes community and friendships. Gender aside, who among us hasn’t heard about a cultural attribute at another company and felt temporarily filled with envy?

Employers committed to creating an enjoyable community atmosphere may stand a better chance at engaging a workforce hungry for happiness. Study after study shows that employees crave more than a pay check.

For example, in Canada, the majority of respondents in a Randstat Workmonitor survey disagreed with the statement that a good salary is more important than enjoying work. Praise, attention from managers and the ability to lead trump traditional incentives, such as cash bonuses and stock options, a . Finally, a Princeton University study uncovered that an employee’s emotional well being plateaued at $75,000, meaning any additional income didn’t add to their overall happiness quotient.

That opens a window of opportunities for companies to cater to their employee’s emotional state of mind.

The emphasis on being authentic at work and emotionally supported plays directly into Vancouver-based Peer 1 Hosting’s corporate values.

“We talk about our compensation being fair but our culture being competitive,” said Chief People and Performance Officer Sheila Bouman. That commitment starts at the recruiting process, where candidates being interviewed may be asked to put a golf ball or draw a picture of something that inspires them. The objective, explained Ms. Bouman, is to force candidates to drop their guard and let their authentic selves shine through. It’s part of their overall philosophy to emphasize deeper relationships across the corporation, which includes 500 employees worldwide.

That message carries through to their leadership development techniques, which include intense, facilitated conversations in front of peers, forcing workplace issues to come out into the open.

“It’s not like we want to make every leader cry but we want them to be who they truly are and be bold enough to carry that back at work,” said Ms. Bouman. “If leaders are numb to their emotions and self-awareness, they are going to tolerate a level of numbness in their workplace,” she added.

Intriguingly, the emphasis in the company on developing emotional intelligence creates a culture that some would deem as feminine, suggested Ms. Bouman, although only about a third of their workforce is female. Male or female, the approach appears to work and the company wins a top rating score on their yearly engagement survey on the topic of feeling cared for by managers and peers.

“People can be the best paid in the industry but if they are not challenged and connected to a higher purpose, they aren’t happy and they aren’t contributing,” argued Ms. Bouman.

At Toronto-based Booty Camp Fitness Inc, which includes 15 employees and 75instructors, fun constitutes one of the company’s core values. Insisting that theypractice what they preach, employees during downtime can often take an hour off to do a kickboxing workout or attend a yoga class. The company also keeps a prize wheel, which employees spin to win a massage or a work-from home day.

“I find that having a fun and lighthearted workplace that encourages and rewards their employees really does inspire loyalty and dedication to the business,” said Sammie Kennedy, CEO of Booty Camp Fitness. “Essentially happy workers are better workers,” she added.

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Category: Women@Work

Leah Eichler

About Leah Eichler: Leah Eichler is the founder of Femme-O-Nomics. View author profile.