Freedom to be awesome: how we handle culture & reward

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Veronique Talent manager

31 Aug 2017  ·  5 min read

Culture eats strategy for breakfast, or so the saying goes – we'd like to throw in lunch and dinner, too.

“Company culture” has been one of the buzzwords for the past years now. It’s touted as the remedy for all kinds of business ails: a great workplace culture makes everyone happier, more productive, more cooperative.

Though we strongly believe in the power of culture - and we’ve always been proud of ours! - we’ve recently been working on achieving the right balance between company culture, personal growth and reward.

Let’s talk about what makes a great culture.

What the hell is culture, anyway?

The more technical definition of culture is: a set of group norms of behaviour and underlying shared values. Usually, these norms and values solidify over time, and stem from the founders or original members of the group.

In our case, those originals were our four founders: Thomas, Nick, Vincent and Tom. The four of them interlaced their beliefs and have been fuelling November Five with their values and behaviours for eight years now.

At the heart of our organisation is a friendship culture, with an emphasis on informality, autonomy, openness, trust and equality.

The wall of fame
Our wall of fame and fun...

According to us, that openness is one of the most crucial parts. To us it’s always come naturally: we have an exceptionally young workforce - our average age is 27,34 - and we started out small and grew organically. But in all organisations we believe that a preference for fast-paced working methods and direct communication lines can be cultivated.

It’s in our blood to share — knowledge, libraries, source codes, working documents, feedback, and general information.

All about the money? Not really…

As part of that openness, we work hard on our “flight plans”. We like to know where we’re heading, together. Culture might have an enormous impact, but that doesn’t mean we’d want to ignore strategy.

For the company, we’ve always had a clear vision: we strive to be the best, not the biggest.

And we can’t be the best without our team members! So being the best in their eyes means providing a balance between that open culture, an inspirational work environment (e.g. our new offices we’re so looking forward to), stimulating personal and professional growth, and the proper financial rewards.

For that last part, we recently introduced our “Remuneration 3.0” plan. This includes a new benchmark for job offers (we’re recruiting like crazy), a more substantiated way to decide on fair pay raises, and a flexible income plan.

While we’re obviously making sure that we pay everyone a good wage, we also wanted to go beyond the cold hard cash. Our new strategy allows everyone to have an impact on their wage and choose the benefits that most suit their needs from a wide selection (think additional insurance, different types of transportation, phone plans, etc). Of course, everyone gets a few basics. Like so many Belgian companies, we’ve also got people’s back when they need to be hospitalised (we hope not, but you never know) and we put something aside for a rainy day (aka, extra pension). Also available for everyone is our intellectual budget, which employees can use to buy books, attend interesting conferences or enroll in a course.

At the same time, we also set out to find a more objective way to measure the impact of our team members. We wanted to do more; acknowledge and reward individual performance contributions.

Our end goal, of course, is to have a high impact on each other! By stimulating a good mentality, productivity and quality, we as a company help raise all team members to their full potential. Simultaneously, our team members will lift the company to the champions league, as we like to say ;)

Individual growth and working together

As mentioned already, open communication lines are an integral part of the way we work. We trust that our colleagues have the resources they need to accomplish their goals and solve their own issues, but when needed, we all help one another. We all encourage each other to think independently, but we also value teamwork extremely highly.

Our teams

All teams and team members have the autonomy to decide about things like frameworks, way of working, documentation structures, team events, etc. by themselves. However, we work hard never to lose track of the alignment and collaboration between teams (that’s what those alignment meetings are for!).

At the same time, constructive criticism is important to us, because personal growth goes hand in hand with professional and organisational growth.

In the past, we’d hand out a more consolidated form of feedback during yearly evaluations, but this approach wasn’t always ideal. This is why we introduced Intuo, a tool to frequently give or ask for feedback and to align on personal and professional objectives.

This way, evaluations (that will now take place 2 times a year — our Talent Manager has a full schedule!) has become more a two-way conversation. They help everyone identify, develop and effectively utilize their talents by getting regular feedback.

The key is to cooperate on short and long term objectives and ambitions.

Everyone is his/her owner of objectives, but can always get help from his/her team lead, director, colleagues or even an external coaching party (in our case, Ticka).

And with those steps, we are on our way to becoming the best! Want to join us? Hop over to our jobs page…