Employees' Choice Awards: ‘Weekly Huddle’ helps tech advisers make the grade

Adam Feibel
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The Employees' Choice Awards were handed out Feb. 25 at the Marshes Golf Club. From Feb. 29 to March 11, OBJ is profiling one winner a day. Today, we feature Grade A.

Fuseball games and paintball outings are just some of the "crazy stuff" that keeps employees smiling at Grade A.

Fifteen minutes a week can make a huge difference when it comes to ensuring employees are happy, engaged and, as a result, successful.

At least that’s the case at Grade A, where the so-called Weekly Huddle has been central to the IT service and support firm’s corporate culture. It is a 15-minute timeslot reserved each week to showcase employees’ accomplishments and kudos from clients, talk about current projects and potential new customers and keep everyone up-to-date on company news.

“Really, it’s a time to give them thanks for the hard work they do,” says Mat Lafrance, co-founder and president of Grade A. “Recognition is a big deal.”

Mr. Lafrance says that philosophy has paid major dividends.

In years when Grade A’s staffers were more than 95 per cent satisfied according to internal employee satisfaction surveys, the company saw direct increases in customer referrals, he says. In 2015, for example, when employee satisfaction was at an all-time high, the company gained 43 per cent more new clients from referrals than they had gained the previous year.

To date, the company has created more than 350 service agreements and serviced more than 40,000 customers with its after-sales computer support and technology advisement.

“Not only do you get your staff engaged, (but) your customers are happier, (and) they want to know the crazy stuff you’re doing. They like the story, and then they also spread that story,” says Mr. Lafrance.

Some of that “crazy stuff” has included paintball outings, rock climbing, squash, Friday evening video game sessions – and, of course, parties.

In the lunchroom every day, employees also see a big-screen TV that displays positive feedback they’ve gotten from clients recently.

“If you really want great customer service, your staff have to be completely engaged,” says Mr. Lafrance, adding that the firm’s corporate culture was modelled around Google’s human resources practices and philosophies.

The company now employs 52 people – up from 34 in 2013, when Grade A won its first and most recent Employees’ Choice Award. Two employees are marking their 10-year milestone in 2016.

Mr. Lafrance says that as the firm grows, it’s important to establish “clear and defined career paths,” so that every team member feels like they have a future with the company. That helps the employee and the company, he says, because the longer someone remains with Grade A, the better they get to know their customers and vice versa.

“At the end of the day, a happy, high-performing staff beats process and strategy any day,” Mr. Lafrance says.



Founded: 2002

Employees: 52

ECAs: 2

What it’s doing right:

Holding frequent employee appreciation and recognition events

Keeping staff happy and highly engaged

Establishing “clear and defined” career paths

Organizations: Google

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