We Don’t Run an Adult Day-Care Center! How We Built a Workplace Without the Fluff

As my career developed, I have had the pleasure of working with many different peers and managers, being exposed to a variety of corporate cultures. I have admired initiatives and behaviours, and seen others that frankly made my skin crawl. In starting our business, I wanted to create a great place to work and I firmly believe that it all starts with people.

We care more about what people want to be doing rather than what we want them to do. If there is a match, we hire them and then we treat them like adults. We hire based on a cultural fit first and technical ability second.

What do your employees want to be doing?
Firstly, we try to find out what it is our employees want before they are hired. The hiring process is the foundation and key to building a great company culture. We ask questions such as: “What excites you? What motivates you? What frustrates you? Describe the best team you have been a part of and why? What would be an ideal work environment? What do you do for fun? Describe the best company you ever worked for.”

One of our primary questions in an interview is, “If you had a white piece of paper and could design your ideal job today and for the future, what would it look like?” No one ever says they want beanbags, foosball tables and Xbox. We tried that yet they were never used anyway.

That’s why we hire adults, and treat them as such. We are not in the business of running an adult day care centre! We have fostered a culture of “output not input, i.e. we measure success based on what is delivered rather than the process of doing so. When you have created a workplace where everyone is doing their ideal job, there is no need for distractions of such as toys and armchairs. It is our core belief that excellent people who are treated in an excellent manner will deliver excellence to our clients by default.

Lead from the front
Of course, there is a lot more to a corporate culture than just hiring great people.
Critical is having a leadership team, from the CEO down, that truly and passionately care about putting their people first. Simply saying you care is not enough – it needs to be demonstrated; consistently. Actions speak way louder than rhetoric. The main thing to remember when relating to employees is everyone is different. I firmly believe the way we communicate is key and we promote a philosophy to “always seek to understand first before being understood”.

Live your values daily and believe in them
A simple thing we live by is our mantra: One Team One Dream, Honesty, Integrity, Trust (HIT); Accountability, and Celebration, Efficiency, Service Excellence (ACES). Collectively therefore, One Team One Dream HIT ACES.

We employ individuals wanting to be highly successful and a part of a winning team that HIT ACES. We understand that you cannot hit an ace every time you serve so we surround our teams with leaders who can coach them to be better versions of themselves daily, enabling them to hit aces more and more often.

How to kill your culture in a heartbeat
The thing that kills every corporate culture is company politics which have their roots stemming from either gossiping about something or someone or, worse still, trying to one up their peers as a means to get ahead – behaviours that belong in a day-care centre and not a company!

Build an atmosphere with an open workplace and feedback policy where everyone is free to talk with their manager or escalate any concerns to their senior management. We encourage all employees to feel comfortable to raise issues without fear of retribution (people will not raise an issue if they don’t feel safe to do so). We call it the ‘pebble in the shoe’ – when you have a pebble, talk to us before it turns into a blister – it’s much easier to shake the pebble out than it is to heal a blister.

Politics can’t be and are not tolerated. Instead, we try to screen out candidates who have “tall poppy syndrome” and seek to hire and build high-performing individuals who take pleasure in the success of their peers, not profit from their weaknesses. “Being the best you can be” is welcomed and encouraged. We have a philosophy of “catch someone doing something right” engendering a sense of pride and achievement amongst peers for doing a great job. Everyone likes to work in an environment where everyone is successful.

In six years of being in business, this approach has proven to foster teams of high performers who each seek to assist others to deliver the best of themselves. We all know what it is like to work in negative environments where behaviours become about personal survival and no one wants to work in a place like that!

Ronnie Altit

CEO, Insentra

As seen in Business First Magazine