EMPLOYEES' CHOICE AWARDS - prairieFyre makes a game out of employee performance

Courtney
Courtney Symons
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The first sound one hears upon entering prairieFyre Software’s office in Kanata is ping-pong balls bouncing off a table.

PrairieFyre chair Clarke La Prairie

First introduced about eight months ago, the games table was part of the company’s cultural shift to make its office a great place to work.

“We started off two years ago redefining the strategy for the organization,” says Sheri-Lynne Leskiw, director of corporate services and organizational effectiveness. “We wanted to make sure we were viewing people not just as a cost, but truly as a strategic driver for our success.”

The call centre began by researching what other companies do and then identified deliverables it wanted to achieve each month.

Part of the new strategy involves offering career planning to employees to help them climb the corporate ladder. Fifteen per cent of the company’s staff moved into new roles last year as a result of the program.

“Our motto is that your opportunities here are limited only by your ambitions,” Ms. Leskiw says. “If you have somewhere you want to be, all you need to do is declare it to us and we’ll try to help you get there.”

Other new initiatives include a recognition program encouraging employees to nominate a colleague for going above and beyond their job description, with CEO Chris Courneya distributing an award at a company event.

But sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that mean the most, Ms. Leskiw says. A wellness month, for example, where a yoga instructor and massage therapist came into the office for a day and employees participated in a five-kilometre walk together. A new coffee machine and bean brand after complaints about the old java, celebrated with a mug given to each employee. Fresh fruit brought into the kitchen each week instead of vending machines with unhealthy choices. And of course, the ping-pong table.

“We work hard and we have high expectations in terms of performance and accountability, but at the same time we recognize that people need a break,” Ms. Leskiw says.

And despite those breaks, the company has experienced double-digit growth since its inception.

That success has allowed prairieFyre to continue hiring new staff and avoid layoffs during the economic downturn.

Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from playing ping-pong on the job.

PRAIRIEFRYE

FOUNDED: 1998

EMPLOYEES: 130

CLIENTS: St-Hubert BBQ Ltd., Subaru Canada, Mitel Networks Corp. (largest client)

ECAs: 1

Organizations: St-Hubert BBQ, Subaru Canada, Mitel Networks Corp.

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