This Tech Culture blog provides an opportunity for TMC to highlight how businesses in our industry build strong teams, create environments in which employees are encouraged to collaborate, and keep those workers engaged over the long term. It’s also a chance for us to promote the new TMCnet Tech Culture Award.
So how does a fast-moving company like GENBAND that’s all about helping businesses, communications services providers, and over-the-top players deliver real-time communications do that from an internal standpoint? We spoke with GENBAND Vice President of Human Resources Petrena Ferguson to find out.
How would you describe GENBAND’s company culture?
GENBAND has been able to compete and grow because of our culture and spirit of teamwork, development of career paths, and opportunities for high performers. Our investment in training and education of our workforce and high quality business tools make it possible for our globally distributed team members to collaborate with each other and our customers and partners. Our culture’s foundation is based on our core values of innovation, imagination, execution, and ethical responsibility. These shared values provide the platform for our employees, allowing them to share a global connection while simultaneously celebrating our diversity. In addition, we operate as responsible corporate and global citizens. We are ethical in our dealings and inclusive in our approach. We believe that everyone: colleagues, partners, suppliers and customers, should be treated fairly, with respect and dignity. We value our brand as it represents our people, our products, and the communities in which we live and work.
How do your employees figure in to that culture?
People are our greatest assets. The nature of our work relies on innovation, creativity, agility, and collaboration. These are things that only our talented workforce can provide in meeting customer expectations and driving our success.
How does the increasingly distributed workforce create challenges to building a strong company culture?
We have employees in 28 countries, which does create challenges in driving a consistent company culture across the globe. We try to tie all initiatives back to our core values, these resonate across all cultures, languages, traditions, etc. We utilize our own technology to facilitate employees, collaboration and work together effectively to bridge any geographic barriers. Employees can connect, anywhere at any time.
I understand your company leverages GENgage for employee engagement. Explain.
These are employee-led social committees that are present in most of our locations. The focus of these employee-led teams is two-fold: to drive fun, locally and to build a connection with the local community with the intent of giving back. These teams are provided an annual budget to support the mission. I have been in many companies that have attempted to do this type of thing, but not as successfully. The reason that GENgage works so well at GENBAND is that it’s organic, employees are driving fun for other employees. GENgage is also responsible for coordinating GENBAND Day, our Annual Global Day of Service. A majority of our locations/employees spend the day (generally on June 1s) volunteering and giving back to their communities. Last year, GENBAND employees donated 10,000 hours of their time to giving back. This event is a unique differentiator for GENBAND and really drives our focus on giving back to the world.
What else does GENBAND do to build employee morale?
We have a recognition program called PRAISE where any employee can recognize another employee at any time. The reward can range from a thank you card to a $100 monetary gift.
Our Awards of Excellence annual recognition program allows any employee to nominate another employee or team for their in-year contribution. The nominations are then reviewed, and the top 50 individuals and/or teams are selected. Recipients receive a monetary award. We also have Patent Awards since leading-edge thinking and innovation is at the heart of our core values and to ensure our continued growth and success, we encourage employees to put forward and file their patent ideas. GENBAND has a generous incentive program that rewards inventors for work that results in patent filings. As a company we have more than 400 patents worldwide. Through Spirit of GENBAND, of the 50 AoE recipients, the management team selects eight to 12 individuals whose contributions represent the greatest impact to the business, exemplify the core values, and are recognized as leaders within their areas of discipline. Recipients and a guest are invited to a special event hosted by our CEO and the management team. And one employee from the SoG recipient is selected as the employee of the year.
Tell us about GENBAND’s involvement in the Global Corporate Challenge.
We rolled out GCC in 2015 as a wellness initiative but it ended up being an engagement tool as well. It was an overwhelming success, with 75 percent of our global population participating (GCC average is <50 percent). Employees created virtual teams of seven and competed against each other in a virtual race around the world. Employees walked, ran, swam, and engaged in other types of exercise and worked together to win. The result was that GENBAND was recognized by GCC with 3rd place Globally in the Science & Technology sector and 1st place in the U.S. in the Science & Technology sector. Thousands of teams compete in GCC.
How difficult is it to find, hire, and keep great people in tech these days?
We feel that we offer several advantages over other tech organizations that allow us to attract, hire, and retain great people. These advantages include our unique culture, empowering our employees to have a real sense of ownership in their contributions to the organization, providing them with the freedom and flexibility to be productive regardless of where they are, and having direct access to our leadership team so that they know that they know their feedback is being heard and considered.
What does it take to get and retain the best employees in an industry in which companies like Google have such a strong brand, enormous financial resources, and a culture of fun?
We actually focus on a few key things that differentiate us from the bigger players. We are smaller, so employees have a greater ability to be recognized for their contributions to the company’s objectives and success, and their contributions are recognized at all levels of the organizations. The leadership, all the way up to the CEO, are always asking employees for their ideas and how we can better improve the company. Another differentiator is that employees can work from anywhere, at any time. All employees have access to state-of-the-art technology to support their roles and we promote teleworking. Lastly, we have a culture of flexibility, we do not dictate hours of work and actually promote working flexible hours, so multi-location teams can connect with each other. We have teams in Ottawa, Canada, that are working regularly with teams in Istanbul, Turkey, and teams in Plano, Texas, that are working with teams in Mumbai, India. Again, GENBAND’s own technologies facilitate these engagements.