Creating a great working environment is one sure fire way to keep staff satisfied and excited about being a member of your team. A warm and welcoming company culture is also essential to attract and retain talented people who make your business successful. This is vital as with today’s low unemployment rates and skills shortage, there are many other employers vying for the best talent.
Reseller News spoke to a number of technology companies recognised as being best employers or having stand-out working environments, to gain their working methods on creating a superb company culture.
A good way to identify New Zealand’s top employers is the annual Unlimited/JRA Best Places to Work survey.
Distributor Express Data has been a finalist in the survey five times, with general manager of sales and marketing Paul Plester saying the company has an emphasis on looking after its staff.
“Our key message is Express Data takes care of its staff, customers and vendors. That’s an emphasis from all our management and it’s a consistent, long-term message.”
The trans-Tasman organisation holds an annual staff event on the Gold Coast, where the CEO and other speakers give presentations, along with awards presented for long service.
In addition, there is a day to day focus on rewarding staff.
“We don’t go for six months and say ‘morale is down, we need to do something’,” says Plester. “Managers will do little things like ice creams on a hot day and that’s part of the expectation of all managers.”
Fellow distributor Revera has also been a finalist in the Unlimited/JRA Best Places to Work Survey several times.
Executive director Roger Cockayne says when he and CEO, which at Revera stands for chief enthusiasm officer, Wayne Norrie led a management buyout of what was Hitachi Data Systems in 2002, they were determined to break away from the corporate culture.
“Even though we were doing the business it wasn’t that happy a place to work, at least from my perspective as country manager. We said one thing that is going to change is we’re going to enjoy what we do.”
The company had gone from five staff in 1995 to 85 staff by the time of the buyout.
“It was important that we got the right people with the right buy-in to what we were doing. We looked for external organisations that had a good reputation for motivating people and now the culture is built around several cornerstones.”
Cockayne says a big part of Revera’s culture is symbolised by a rock. Each employee owns one and a number are placed around the offices. The story behind Revera’s rocks comes from an associate of Cockayne, who was a surf lifesaver in Sydney, whose club used to gather on a particular rock. There was a code of truth associated with the rock, which meant only the truth could be spoken on the rock, says Cockayne.
“The rock policy means staff are given a rock and over time the rock builds up in value. That’s your share of the company and it’s a tangible thing that you’re part of this organisation.”
Revera has several sayings in the offices which are used by staff, adds Cockayne.
“Can you help me please, are the five most important words in this business. We also started doing things in the same order. Everything is done first for the customer, secondly for ourselves and then for money.”
Positive talk is also part of the culture.
“If you want to tell someone they’re not doing well, then you say it in the nicest possible way.”
Cockayne adds that employees are motivated to work harder.
“Most people when they work give 80 percent, because there are always other things on their mind. If you want that extra 20 percent and a bit extra you’ve got to lure that out of them. We’ve tried to build a culture where people think ‘I’m getting a lot of satisfaction out of what I’m doing and there is plenty more to do’.”
Revera also gives prizes for good work.
“Every six months we have a rock-sitting meeting where all the company goes and we set the goals for the next six months. Staff then write their own goal plans and we leave them to get there.”
Transparency is also a big part of the company culture, says Cockayne.
“There is no holding back on company secrets with staff. They can ask for a fireside chat – me or Wayne and the senior management team will sit down and tell them what we know.”
For Gen-i its culture is demonstrated every day by its 100-strong senior management team, and it has a core set of values it instils in staff, says group general manager Chris Quin.
These include being approachable, showing respect, being non-hierarchical, tenacity, loving technology, recognising high performance and having fun.
“These are written in a set of behaviour statements to be used by managers,” he says. “They take it out to their people and demonstrate that culture day to day.”
Gen-i also has two training courses that all staff undertake: leadership mastery and team mastery. A select team of staff has been trained so these courses can be conducted in-house by people who are known within the company.
As a large organisation, Gen-i must use a range of events to update staff, says Quin. These include quarterly roadshows where managers give presentations, get feedback and give out awards that reward behaviour that fits the company’s culture.
In addition, Quin writes his own weekly email to staff.
“I look at little things to be recognised and some funny things that happen. I imagine I’m just catching up with people and chewing the fat and talk about what I did on the weekend, because it’s important to have a life outside work. By writing about what I’ve done I can show that.”
Cellnet meanwhile used its rebranding last year as an excuse to host a fun day for staff.
“We got all our vendors on-board and each one was responsible for organising and funding a particular activity on the day,” says marketing manager Dave Clark.
“Lenovo sponsored a spit roast lunch and Ricoh provided trays of Red Bull. Myself and the sales manager dressed up as Kermit the Frog and Shrek, because the new logo was green, and went around handing out gifts to the staff.”
This fun day gave Cellnet the impetus to continue social events and Clark says everyone has got behind the new brand. “The staff have seen a lot of investment over the past 18 months and it gave them a lot of confidence that the company was ready to go to the next level.”
Cellnet operates a social club that runs regular activities and it has its own social grade netball team, the Cellnuts, which plays in the local league in North Harbour.
“Every week a wrap up is sent out via email detailing whether we won or lost and who the star player of the day was. That provides a focus point with a physical activity that people can get involved with or come and watch.”
Cellnet also holds theme days, such as a bad tie day.
“Our last event was an international food day because we’re very multicultural. It was great sampling a piece of the world.”
However, a new name is not the only issue good managers need to address.
Training provider Auldhouse has changed owners a number of times since it was founded in 1988, and is now part of Telecom.
However, many of the original staff are still with Auldhouse and it has retained the feeling of a family business, says general manager Melanie Hobcraft.
“We look after our people, treat them with respect and most importantly we listen to what they have to say.”
Hobcraft says the company’s culture shapes and influences everything and everyone within the business. “Auldhouse staff feel they can fulfil their desires around what they do in the workplace. Wherever possible we promote from within the business – our staff have a high degree of loyalty, trust and motivation and all of these things influence the experience our customers have when doing business with us.”
As technology has changed dramatically since Auldhouse’s inception, its culture has moved forward, says Hobcraft. “People have become more engaged, morale and motivation has risen which has ultimately increased our customer satisfaction – our customers like who we are, continue to come back to us and recommend us to other organisations”.