Trip to Mexico among Calgary startup’s efforts to boost engagement

How does a weeklong company trip to Mexico sound? While it’s a small organization, Splice Software Inc. sent its employees on a working holiday to Mexico this year as part of its efforts to make its 26 employees feel part of one team.

Employees worked some of the time during the trip, but Splice also organized soccer games, a challenge modelled on the reality show Survivor and other activities. “So it was work but it was still a lot of play,” says Makaila Jones, executive assistant to the chief executive officer at Splice.

The trip is one example of the many ways the company works to boost employee engagement. ”I believe trust is definitely the foundation [of employee engagement], and in order to have that healthy environment where people feel safe, they need to know they’re valued and that they can make mistakes,” says Jones, whose role includes responsibility for human resource matters at the company. “So if you create that kind of environment, your employees will feel more comfortable giving feedback and engaging.”

Most Splice employees are in Calgary, although five of them work out of their homes in the Toronto area. Given the distance, the company works to keep the Toronto staff connected to colleagues at head office.

Read: Employee engagement in Canada rises to 70%: survey

“I know we’ve been looking at giving them a budget to buy themselves fruit and business supplies so they don’t miss out on the perks of being in an office,” says Jones.

In addition, Splice flies the Toronto staff to Calgary to participate in a team-building event each quarter. The events include drum circles, axe-throwing activities and other ways to boost collaboration. “It’s good [the Toronto employees] can see all the people they’re talking to on a regular basis,” says Jones, noting workers in both cities constantly communicate over video chat and the messaging system Slack.

Read: Five ways to improve employee engagement

Splice also seeks feedback from its employees through anonymous surveys from TINYpulse, a human resources tool aimed at increasing engagement. ”We’ve been getting a lot of honest responses from it, which we can then give to our management team to figure out how we can improve processes,” says Jones, adding the anonymity is essential for employees to feel safe sharing their thoughts.

“Each week, we have a different question, and they can be pretty much about anything. Sometimes, we write our own; sometimes we use their data bank of questions,” says Jones. “Generally, it’ll ask: ‘How do you feel with communications here? What did you think about this event? . .. How do your values align with Splice’s values?'”

The surveys also have sections asking for suggestions to improve the company culture. Because of that feedback, Splice has purchased a panini press and a blender for the office and is considering implementing half-day Fridays, says Jones.

Read: What work-life balance benefits do employees value most?

The company also offers flexible work arrangements for most employees, who range from 22 to 55 years old. They can work from home whenever they like, and the company offers some flexibility around certain vacation days, meaning employees can take them without giving advanced notice.

Older workers are embracing the non-traditional benefits as well. According to Jones, Splice’s older workers find the flexibility allows them to better manager their family responsibilities. ”So really, you can integrate your life into work, and as long as you’re getting your job done, no one will ever call you out,” she says.

Read: Employers advised to discourage staff from taking workcations