Creating Great Teamwork Creates Sold Bottom-line Results at PEER Group

What happens when two engineers get together to create a work environment where they love to come to work every day? 25 years later you have a team of highly motivated and committed employees that drive an amazing bottom-line.

That is what founders Mike Kropp and Bob Harris have created at PEER Group Inc. Their vision in 1992 was to “love coming to work, love the people, and love our work”. From there, PEER Group® has grown from 2 full-time employees and a handful of contractors in a ‘boot-strap’ start-up to a team of over 100 employees worldwide generating almost $24,000,000 in global revenue in 2016. It’s not just the PEER Group team that recognizes an amazing company culture: PEER Group has been named as one of the Best Workplaces in Canada for the last 5 consecutive years by the Great Place to Work® Institute!Being committed to creating healthy workplace culture, I had to interview a couple of key individuals at PEER Group and share with you some of the great ways they accomplish this success in team and business. Through interviews with Mike Kropp (PEER Group President & CEO) and Janice Retterath (Director of HR & Administration), I learned that PEER Group has intuitively applied On Purpose Consulting’s 5C’s throughout its organization. I believe their success relates directly to their focus on:

Clarity, Communication, Congruency, Collaboration,
and Commitment

 

 

Clarity:

Clarity is having well-defined company values, and the processes to operationalize these on a daily basis in order to achieve your results.

From their first days in business, PEER Group has hired for culture fit by conducting team interviews to ensure that all hires align with the company’s core values. Their ongoing focus on fostering a caring workplace has inspired each decision along the way. For example, PEER Group has a “baby wall” where every child born to an employee has a framed photo displayed to celebrate this life achievement.

Work-life balance is promoted through vacation time – each employee begins with 3 weeks per year and there is flexibility to hold over portions of the holiday to the following year to allow for special holidays and/or to enable international employees to travel home for longer periods.

These are only 2 examples of the many ways that PEER Group’s clarity enables them to operationalize their values.

 

Communication:

Communication will make or break an organization. Ensuring that communication is based on mutual respect by ensuring listening as well as talking is important in creating an effective workplace culture.

In Mike’s words, PEER Group “paints a vision” through sharing the complete finances to all permanent team members including costs, expenses, and revenues. Feedback is invited during this presentation in a session called “Open Mike – Ask Me Anything” where employees do just that – ask their president anything.

Feedback is also encouraged through a suggestion box and an open door policy for direct conversations. In an effort to encourage even more collaboration, later this year PEER Group will roll out a new intranet for better internal communications and replace their existing bulletin board-style tool.

When changes are happening in the organization, such as major renovations, the team is consulted for their input. Given the request from team members, the design of PEER Group’s new office space will include cubicles as the extra privacy enables focus on highly detailed tasks such as complex programming.

 

Congruency:

Congruency is when the leaders’ behaviour is consistent with the declared values of the organization. When this occurs, trust is enhanced, and team dynamics can soar.

The PEER Group leadership team places a high value on caring and teamwork. These values are shown through a solid pay structure, profit sharing, stability and work-life balance. They have created a “family environment” where during lunch times team members feel comfortable sharing personal goals, challenges, and dreams in life. Although he’s company president, even Mike joins the team and partakes in these lunchtime chats whenever he’s not travelling. He’s clear that there is no hierarchy or politics at these meals, just an opportunity to connect with each other.

In addition to the caring and teamwork that happens within the PEER Group walls, the entire company is dedicated to community involvement. Various teams work together to fundraise for local charities.

To help celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary this year, PEER Group’s co-founders also set up a $25,000 Endowment Fund at KidsAbility to help support the thousands of local children who rely on its services.

 

Collaboration:

Once trust is established and maintained, the team will engage in collaborative practices.

During the onboarding process at PEER Group, time is spent ensuring positive collaboration by:

  • Clarifying their policy manual as a guide to create consistency throughout all teams vs. a tool of enforcement.
  • Establishing mentoring relationships as another way to deepen cooperative team work and learning.
  • Assertiveness training which they call “You know what conversations”. It’s their way to have those difficult conversations and facilitate healthy relationships at work.

Beyond onboarding, all employees are encouraged to participate in the company’s mentoring and training programs.

Commitment:

When you actively work on the first 4 C’s, and you commit to your team members, team commitment is the result.

The leaders at PEER group are committed to their employees from the moment of hire. Performance appraisals are a pathway for career planning and development. When promotions happen, it is often from within and team members are given opportunities for training (paid time off for studying and exams) as well as skill development to prepare them for the new role.

Maintaining a core value of integrity and a strong belief that all good things flow from a place of integrity, PEER Group has created a highly committed team. Last year, staff turnover was only 4% due to retirements and career changes. When one individual wanted a career change, the management’s focus became how can we help with your transition? In fact, when one hire did not work out, they found a better fit between skills and job at another organization through the management’s professional network.

PEER Group commits to their team from the moment of hire to often the end of their career (of their employees, 6 % have been employed for over 20 years and 35% have been with the company more than 10 years). Clearly, the 5C’s are alive and flourishing at PEER Group!

As it says on their website: “The word “PEER” in our company name stemmed from the idea of interconnected software objects that communicate with each other as “peers”. Our employees are also the heart of our organization and a “peer group” is a group of like-minded individuals”. This is definitely what I witnessed during my recent visit to the organization’s head office in Kitchener, Ontario.

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