EMPLOYEES' CHOICE AWARDS: Chipworks - Opening the door to employees

Courtney
Courtney Symons
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The open-door policy at Chipworks is so ingrained into the culture that the president’s office doesn’t even have a door.

From left, Chipworks reverse engineering specialists Alain Gauthier and Bheeshmon Thanabalasingam and lab specialist Jeff Campbell. At rear, reverse engineering specialist Ian Pritchard.

“It’s meant to put into action the statement, ‘My door is always open to you,’” says president Julia Elvidge. “People get to know what’s going on. We don’t hide things when it’s good and when it’s bad, no matter what.”

Rather, Ms. Elvidge has an open cubicle, which means employees of the reverse engineering firm can visit any time.

Those employees work based on a code of values posted throughout the office, centring around themes of innovation and mutual respect. Each month, an individual who best exemplifies those ideals is awarded the Values Cup.

Recently, that prize was renamed the Tim White Values Cup, after an employee who passed away due to an illness earlier this year. No one epitomized the values more than he did, Ms. Elvidge explained.

The culture at Chipworks is reciprocal, she says. Employees are rewarded with weekly in-office yoga classes, impromptu mini-putt games in the hallways and permission to leave early on Mondays to play hockey at a nearby arena.

But workers also give back – as they did over the holidays when a client requested a project’s completion before Christmas. Chipworks staff pitched in to keep things moving during their time off, completing the project at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

“That’s when you feel you’ve created culture that is giving both ways,” Ms. Elvidge says.

Business has been good – the company is shooting for 15 per cent revenue growth this year after hitting 12 per cent in 2012. Chipworks also hired 15 new employees last year, a growth trend that will continue into 2013.

All this activity happens within the company’s Bells Corners office, where photos of staff line the walls like yearbooks and miniature exhibits pepper the hallways, displaying the latest technology the company has torn apart and analyzed. Microscopes worth $1 million sit in labs near a kitchen with an outdoor patio that sees employees barbecuing lunches throughout the summer. It’s a blend of cutting-edge innovation and plain old-fashioned fun.

The company leased an additional 10,500 square feet of office space in 2012, bringing its total footprint up to 39,168 square feet – additional room to tack on more holes to the mini-putt course, among other things.

CHIPWORKS

FOUNDED: 1992

EMPLOYEES:130

CLIENTS: Large international semiconductor and electronics companies and the law firms working with them to protect intellectual property.

ECAs: 4

Chipworks is one of 10 local recipients of an Employees' Choice Awards.

Organizations: Chipworks

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