As we scale our business and add to our team, we hear some questions often: “What’s the environment like?”
“Am I going to enjoy working there?”
“What are your core values?”
Company culture is about the way an organization treats its employees, clients and wider community. What defines a company culture as positive or otherwise is the biggest hurdle, because each individual employee has a different idea of what they would like to see in their company’s culture.
Chris Bryson, Unata’s founder and CEO, saw this challenge coming from a mile away and acted on it when he made his 17th hire—Stephanie Gossage, Manager of Culture. On top of office communications, HR administration and event planning, Gossage’s main role in the office is to be present and have a pulse on the environment.
“It’s my job to make sure I’m available and accessible within the office. It’s one thing to have lots of events but it’s another to have someone who’s fully dedicated to listen in on what’s actually going on in the office and make changes accordingly,” Gossage said.
The biggest question that Gossage faces is the “how.” How do you make culture a focal point of your organization, instead of an afterthought? How do you ensure your cultural brand impacts every employee in a positive way?
There are three ways Gossage leads that charge for us.
Establishing Core Values Early
Be Good. Be Bright. Be One.
These words are painted on the wall in our Wellington Street office space but they’re also ingrained in everything we do. While it may seem simple, it took extensive conversations to identify these three pillars to our culture. In the end, what we want to make clear is we’re a company for people with a strong moral compass, with bright and innovative ideas who actively collaborate with one another to achieve goals as a group.
Establishing these values early in our company’s existence was arguably the most important part. The process began by identifying the traits we want in our targeted talent pool. We wanted self starters, curious hard workers and creative thinkers. We wanted intelligence, integrity and team-first mindsets.
This list grew so large that Bryson, Gossage and our leadership team knew we couldn’t paint a massive list of words on our wall. At the end of the day, what do these traits have in common and how can they be simplified?
Taking this list and simplifying it has allowed our team to attract today’s workforce—the innovation is in the simple, no-nonsense way we’ve portrayed everything we stand for.
Tech and Tools
As a technology company focused on innovating and disrupting the grocery shopping experience, it only made sense for Gossage to utilize different technologies and analytics to take this culture-first mentality to the next level.
An example of one of these tools is Officevibe – created by the Montreal-based startup by the same name. This tool sends quick surveys out via Slack, which easily integrates into our day-to-day. Once the surveys have been completed, Officevibe provides analysis based on their own algorithm. “You can split it up by team and really drill down to see where issues are happening and address them that way,” Gossage mentioned.
Having a large group of individuals make up the team, Gossage’s biggest challenge is ensuring her efforts motivate everyone in the office.
“The event stuff is great, like lunch and learns or bringing in a yoga instructor, but that doesn’t motivate everyone. Some people have families and don’t want to do stuff after work. Some just want to come to work, do their job and go home which is totally fine. So how do you make sure everyone feels supported? That’s my biggest challenge.”
Having the ability to push out and receive analysis from the team in an efficient manner is one of the ways she’s able to stay ahead of that challenge.
Position Culture as an Obvious Component of Strategy
We see individuals and corporations preach “corporate culture” every day on Twitter, LinkedIn and in job postings. The most important way we ensure every employee sees this as a real part of our organization is by making it an obvious priority.
When the team gathers in the Penthouse for meetings, we ensure key components of the organization have a platform to provide updates, ask questions and announce exciting ventures. We’ll hear from Bryson, the engineering team and finance in these meetings. Most important, Gossage gives a culture presentation right in the middle of all of it. When we sit down to discuss the most important and urgent aspects of our business, culture is included—every single time.
“It shows the team this isn’t a reaction, it’s part of the strategy. It’s part of the every day, it’s in our DNA,” Gossage remarked with excitement. “People always preach culture but we live it.”
When asked why establishing culture at employee #17 has worked so well, Gossage cited the fact that culture should not be a reactionary aspect in your company.
“It’s worked so well because we’ve taken it really seriously,” Gossage added. “Putting these systems in place ahead of time was key. It’s not in response to something bad that’s happened, it’s about getting it right from the start.”
Investing in a Culture Manager early is not something you see very often. But for us, it’s already paying dividends.
Alexis Clarfield-Henry is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Unata.