Situated in a former movie theatre site complete with giant screen and seats, beer taps on two floors, and gaming nights, employees at bitHeads must pinch themselves to determine if they’re dreaming. “I’ve heard people say they can’t believe they get paid to work here,” agrees Kerry Bent, manager of human resources. “There’s nothing sterile about this environment at all. It screams fun!”
bitHeads is a customized software development company that helps clients develop products and get to market faster. Established in 1995, the company has helped more than 100 Canadian, American and international clients in the telecommunications, mobile wireless, enterprise/Internet, med-tech, retail, and more recently the gaming markets.
The old movie theatre of the Westgate Shopping Centre makes the perfect location for this fun-loving company.
“We have fun and we get things done,” says Ms. Bent.
That’s evident with the in-office bar, pool table, and movie theatre available for gaming and movie nights, staff meetings and private employee birthdays. Ms. Bent adds the staff ’s willingness to spend time together outside of work is what sets bitHeads’s HR practices apart.
“A lot of time we’ll be here all day together, then after work at an activity or games night. It’s a family environment and like working with all your best friends. And I get feedback from employees saying the same thing,” she says. “When we hire people, we’re careful of making sure they fit in with the environment. We’ve had very few people leave us.”
Indeed, employee feedback in the 2009 Employees’ Choice Awards survey makes voluntary departures seem unlikely.
Staff awarded the company very high marks in employee engagement and personal growth, along with management and leadership style. Feedback for improvement was minor with “more training” being the most insistent call. Just as likely were employees saying there was nothing to improve on.
“I cannot dream of a better company to work for. I am part of bitHeads and I feel like this is my company and I’m helping directly to its growth,” wrote one.
Another commented: “One of the amaz- ing things about bitHeads is that they feel like a small company in terms of rapport and camaraderie, but the HR support policies and people are much richer than even the biggest company I have worked for in terms of making employees feel valued.”
Staff members are rewarded with spot awards, monthly opportunities to win tickets to various events, in-house monthly massage therapy, 50 per cent off company merchandise and bi-weekly free lunches, where staff receive informal company updates. Then there are the parties.
“We celebrate all birthdays together. We meet at the bar after work, and everyone receives a gift on their birthday,” Ms. Bent explains.
The company birthday is celebrated in similar style. Every October, employees pool their money to buy gifts for the “Head Bits,” as the company founders are affectionately known. The gifts range from the practical to the zany: Ms. Bent recalls a customized goalie helmet, gaming chairs, golf putter and even a robotic dog.
But bitHeads puts emphasis on employee welfare as well, with immediate medical benefits, flexible working hours and innovative initiatives such as lunchtime boot camps with a personal trainer. More recently, teams conducted a pedometer race to Easter Island, tracking their steps and distances covered each day.
And this focus on health and shared responsibility extends to the community too. The staff is big on charity work. From bake sales to book sales, employees organize weekly activities to raise money for charity of the month – once, a banana loaf went for a reported $120.
In the words of one employee: “Not only does bitHeads make their employees feel valued … they also contribute in making them feel valued within the community.”