Subtitled: Tips to help turn your workplace into a Great Place to Work (Part 1 of 2).

“We want to be known for our culture, we want to be the leading culture workplace in Australia” (MDs of i2C)

As part of my on-going search to uncover real world examples of best practice employee experience/engagement, I recently sat down with Steve Tull, People & Culture Manager at architectural firm i2C, #19 on the 50 Great Places to Work Australia 2017.

Steve is the man tasked with bringing this bold vision to life.

In November ’99 i2C began when two architect mates decided to branch out and set up on their own, keen from the start to ensure their workplace had the right culture, one founded on the slogan ‘built from beer’.

As the team handbook proudly declares, “Our ethos is one that embraces fun, flexibility and professionalism…We are passionate about our people, our projects, our culture and our clients”.

After spending time chatting with Steve, and hearing all the great ways i2C are engaging their people, I realised there needed to be two parts to this blog.

Culture

When you have a team, whose MDs started the business wanting the workplace character to feel like mates hanging out at work, then you can appreciate how and why culture is at the heart of the i2C team.

This commitment to culture is evident across i2C communication. As MD Anthony Merlin states in the team handbook, he …” recognises the importance of a positive and dynamic workplace in the delivery of great client service and excellent results”.

How does this work in practice I hear you ask?

Involving the team in developing the culture

There are currently seven points of culture at i2C – Accountability, Passion, Teamwork, Fun, Integrity, Excellence & Balance.

These were developed during a team building session seven years ago, in which the MDS deliberately absented themselves.

Three whiteboards were set up across the room and staff were asked to write on the boards what they thought working for i2C meant for them. This brain dump was later whittled down to the seven current points.

The 7 points of culture are included in the team handbook given to new employees, and each year one of the points becomes the theme for the year. For example, in 2017 it is Communication, last year it was Accountability.

Leaders accept and acknowledge that the whole business is never going to hit those seven points, 100% of the time, but they continually emphasise working towards them. For example, each Monday morning in resource meetings, current projects are discussed in detail across teams. This reinforces that all the team are accountable for the results, and ensures transparency.

Meanwhile, Steve is currently leading a review of the seven points to see if they still hold true. All team members had the opportunity to contribute to the review by taking part in a survey.

An example of the i2C team culture of fun – “CHARITY_Mo Police Lineup”

Recruit to fit

When i2C recruit new hires, there is an emphasis on getting to know candidates to see if they are a right fit for the business. Part of the recruitment strategy includes inviting select candidates to attend a Group Information Session that is in part letting the candidates learn more about i2C, but is equally a chance for i2C to really get to know candidates over a few beers. Sure, skills tests are a part of the process for technical roles, but these happen only after Steve, an MD and relevant manager feel a candidate they have gotten to know, is a right fit for the i2C culture.

Putting yourself to the test

It was around seven years ago that the two MDs made their visionary statement that kicked off this blog, and in what looks to be a pretty logical step on the way to proving you have the best workplace culture in the land, they entered the Great Place to Work survey.

The process for entering the survey includes sending details of your company’s financials, policies and procedures, and culture through to the GPTW team for their review, and then facing up to a survey of 65 hard questions being asked of all employees.

Steve explains that by competing against other companies that are committed to having a great employee experience, i2C are inspired to continually do more so they not only hold their spot but ultimately climb up the rankings. An additional benefit of participating in the survey is the invitation to attend award events, and hear what the top place getters are doing.

Annual team building days

The whole team get together at an offsite location for two days, to review the year past and reset for the next.  An annual yearbook is launched and is an engaging and appealing collection of cool photos showing what the team has been involved in from the previous year.

The physical experience

Spaces are deliberately designed to support the culture. The Melbourne office relocated in 2016 into a converted former shoe factory. The factory was stripped out so now everyone works on the top level and the bottom level is devoted to break out and fun spaces including couches and chairs to relax in, a communal kitchen, 2 beer taps and a table tennis table.

Having fun at work

A great workplace culture includes a rich culture of social activities, which goes way beyond the traditional end of financial and calendar year functions, and includes fun times like snow trips, Friday morning golf club from 6.00am (I’m reliably informed that is time to get 9 holes in before work), and costume themed work days such as Halloween. So seriously is this fun taken, that each year at the Team Building event, the ‘Golden Yoghurt’ award is handed out to the King or Queen of culture who played the biggest part in getting these kinds of activities organised.

And that’s enough sharing of i2C’s tips for this blog. If you want to learn more, watch out for Part 2 coming your way soon.