Be awe­some: A key tenet for suc­cess

National Post (Latest Edition) - - MOST ADMIRED CORPORATE CULTURES - Nancy Carr

You can’t help but be in­trigued by a com­pany that ex­presses its core val­ues in phrases like: “Wake up. Be awe­some. Re­peat.”

That slo­gan is one of the things Jamie Hing likes best about Loy­al­tyOne, a global leader in the de­sign and im­ple­men­ta­tion of loy­alty pro­grams and ser­vices, and cus­tomer an­a­lyt­ics. Loy­al­tyOne was se­lected by Water­stone Hu­man Cap­i­tal in its an­nual Canada’s 10 Most Ad­mired Cor­po­rate Cul­tures Awards (En­ter­prise).

“What I find here, and what keeps me here, is that so many peo­ple are pas­sion­ate about what they do,” says Hing, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor, re­port­ing and in­sights, who has worked at Loy­al­tyOne for more than six years.

The owner and op­er­a­tor of Air Miles, one of Canada’s most rec­og­nized brands, Loy­al­tyOne has been in the busi­ness of build­ing and man­ag­ing loy­alty pro­grams for global clients for more than 20 years.

But it’s much more than the blue and white logo seen in retail stores af­fil­i­ated with the iconic re­wards pro­gram across the coun­try. Owned by Texas-based Al­liance Data Sys­tems Corp., Loy­al­tyOne is also a provider of cut­tingedge an­a­lyt­ics and retail so­lu­tions, loy­alty con­sult­ing and in­dus­try re­search.

Its global in­flu­ence is re­flected in its own­er­ship of Prec­ima, a rapidly grow­ing global retail strat­egy and an­a­lyt­ics com­pany, and its ma­jor­ity in­ter­est in BrandLoy­alty, one of the largest and most suc­cess­ful data-driven loy­alty mar­keters.

One of the key ad­van­tages of work­ing at a com­pany as di­ver­si­fied as Loy­al­tyOne is that as­so­ciates have the op­por­tu­nity to learn, grow and en­rich their ca­reers in ways that they might not be able to do at more nar­rowly fo­cused firms.

“The main rea­son that I’ve been here for over 11 years — dur­ing which time my friends have had three or four dif­fer­ent jobs — is be­cause there are so many diff er­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties here,” says Jonathan Lee, di­rec­tor of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and client ser­vices at Air Miles.

“If you work hard, you’re pas­sion­ate, au­then­tic and you pro­vide value, t he com­pany gives you op­port uni­ties t hrough­out t he or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Lee would know. He ar­rived at Loy­al­tyOne fresh from an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in com­merce at Queen’s Univer­sity. So f ar, he’s worked in an­a­lyt­ics, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and client ser­vices, hon­ing his ca­pa­bil­i­ties with data and in­sights, his board­room pres­ence and his peo­ple-man­age­ment skills.

As a mem­ber of the com­pany’s se­nior l ead­er­ship team, Lee also helps cham­pion Loy­al­tyOne’s cor­po­rate val­ues through­out the or­ga­ni­za­tion — some­thing that all lead­ers are asked to do in or­der to bring the com­pany’s val­ues to life ev­ery day.

“We have a few core val­ues t hat we f ol­low, and re­cently we put them into ev­ery­day terms to get peo­ple to un­der­stand and em­brace them more fully,” Lee says.

De­scrip­tive catch­phrases like “less is more,” “em­brace the fringe,” “keep it real,” and “team first” rep­re­sent the val­ues of sim­plic­ity, cu­rios­ity, au­then­tic­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion is def­i­nitely a value that comes up again and again when talk­ing with Loy­al­tyOne as­so­ciates. The com­pany seeks in­put from its as­so­ciates and they seek in­put from each other. For in­stance, there’s the “What If ” pro­gram, which is an on­line fo­rum where as­so­ciates can share ideas and new ways of think­ing about prod­ucts, ser­vices, busi­ness strat­egy or how to work to­gether.

There’s also the mil­len­nial ad­vi­sory board, which is com­prised of 20 young peo­ple from dif­fer­ent parts of the com­pany.

“We’re a sound­ing board for or­ga­ni­za­tional changes that would im­pact the qual­ity of Loy­al­tyOne as a work­place,” says Heather Gouin­lock, se­nior busi­ness an­a­lyst, in­ter­na­tional, who also co- leads the men­tor­ship pro­gram for the com­pany’s Women’s Lead­er­ship Ini­tia­tive. “We meet on a monthly ba­sis and dis­cuss a dif­fer­ent topic. It’s a great ex­am­ple of how the or­ga­ni­za­tion val­ues t he opin­ions of as­so­ciates from all l evels and dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics.”

Gouin­lock is also part of a team of as­so­ciates who have moved from their tra­di­tional cu­bi­cles to an open- con­cept test space. Their feed­back is be­ing con­sid­ered in ad­vance of the Toronto of­fice’s move to a new build­ing near the Dis­tillery District next year, which will be a new kind of col­lab­o­ra­tive space that em­braces Loy­al­tyOne’s cul­ture of in­no­va­tion, fun and well-be­ing.

“Even our se­nior vice-pres­i­dent has given away her of­fice and she is now in the thick of things at an open-con­cept desk,” says Gouin­lock, adding that the com­pany’s CEO, CFO and se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources have all done the same. “It’s highly col­lab­o­ra­tive. We’ve got th­ese great desks that move up and down de­pend­ing on whether you want to sit or stand, and we re­ally feel closer as a team.”

Other teams will be cy­cling through the test space over the next year to get a feel­ing for work­ing with­out walls, while pro­vid­ing in­put.

In t erms of per­sonal health and well- be­ing, as­so­ciates come to­gether an­nu­ally over the span of a week to vol­un­teer at high- im­pact char­i­ties at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions across the coun­try, re- in­forc­ing their bonds with the com­mu­ni­ties where they work.

They’re also en­cour­aged to take the stairs when pos­si­ble, use the on- site gym or their well­ness sub­sidy to join a gym of their choice.

And be­cause all as­so­ciates — es­pe­cially mil­len­ni­als — value mak­ing con­nec­tions and mak­ing friends in the work­place, the com­pany also hosts com­pet­i­tive tech chal­lenges, such as the hacka- thon, and the an­nual Fun Day: last sum­mer’s con­sisted of a mas­sive scav­enger hunt fol­lowed by a party for 1,200 as­so­ciates.

When it comes to em­ployee recog­ni­tion, the com­pany’s Pass It On pro­gram is a unique way to high­light some­one at any level of the or­ga­ni­za­tion for do­ing great work that ex­em­pli­fies one of Loy­al­tyOne’s core val­ues.

“Es­sen­tially, a mes­sage gets posted to a dig­i­tal board with a thank you and a com­ment and a pic­ture rec­og­niz­ing some­one for some­thing they’ve done,” says Gouin­lock. “It’s a way to cel­e­brate some­one you’ve worked with.”

Air Miles also play a big role in how Loy­al­tyOne re­wards its as­so­ciates. For in­stance, they’re awarded when an as­so­ciate cel­e­brates their fifth, 10th, 15th or 20th an­niver­sary with the com­pany. On each of th­ese mile­stone dates, as­so­ciates re­ceive 20,000 Air Miles and a paid two- week sab­bat­i­cal leave, ex­plains Lee, who cel­e­brated his 10th an­niver­sary last year.

In 2010, when Lee’s va­ca­tion al­lot­ment was five weeks, he got a paid twoweek sab­bat­i­cal leave and joined some col­leagues on an ex­tended trip to Aus­tralia — air­fare, nat­u­rally, funded with Air Miles.

“I was never a big trav­eller, but with those two ex­tra weeks and the Air Miles I felt that I could af­ford to go to Aus­tralia,” says Lee, who has since be­come an avid globetrotter. “That trip changed my life and my view on the world.”

With Loy­al­tyOne in a growth phase right now, the com­pany is ac­tively ready­ing its tal­ent. Hing was re­cently tapped to take part in a lead­er­ship train­ing pro­gram called Ex­pe­di­tion, which cul­mi­nated in a Dragons’ Den­type of com­pe­ti­tion where par­tic­i­pants had to solve some of Loy­al­tyOne’s ac­tual busi­ness chal­lenges.

“The pro­gram wasn’t just about train­ing but we were ac­tu­ally prac­tis­ing what we were learn­ing,” says Hing, who holds an hon­ours busi­ness de­gree from Oshawa’s Univer­sity of On­tario and has worked at big­ger com­pa­nies but prefers the more in­ti­mate feel­ing of mid-sized Loy­al­tyOne.

“So now I can pass that along to my team of peo­ple that I work with.”

Like Lee and Gouin­lock, Hing sees a long ca­reer for her­self at Loy­al­tyOne.

“I’m one of those peo­ple who can get bored quite quickly if there’s noth­ing new for me to learn,” Gouin­lock says.

“But this is an ‘ all- hand­son- deck’ en­vi­ron­ment and there’s al­ways some­thing new to l earn and some­thing dif­fer­ent to work on. It’s been a real jour­ney, and I don’t ex­pect it to end any time soon.”

WE HAVE A FEW CORE VAL­UES ( THAT WE PUT)

I NTO EV­ERY­DAY TERMS TO GET PEO­PLE TO UN­DER­STAND AND EM­BRACE THEM MORE FULLY THE MAIN REA­SON THAT I’VE BEEN HERE FOR OVER 11 YEARS IS BE­CAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY DIF­FER­ENT OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES HERE. IF YOU WORK HARD, YOU’RE PAS­SION­ATE, AU­THEN­TIC AND YOU PRO­VIDE VALUE, THE COM­PANY GIVES YOU OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES THROUGH­OUT THE OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION — JONATHAN LEE, LOY­AL­TYONE

DAL­LAS KWOK, LOY­AL­TYONE PHO­TO­GRAPH

Heather Gouin­lock, left, Jamie Hing and Jonathan Lee, like their Loy­al­tyOne coun­ter­parts, share a pas­sion for their work.

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