Ashared love of food is the flour and water that binds the Chipworks team together, jokes Jennifer Rantz, the company’s manager of human resources. “We often joke about this … we bring in cake for Chipworks’s birthday, most events involve food, and anyone who travels knows that they have a commitment to bring back the region’s fare to share with team members,” she says. “Even our ‘ monthly values cup,’ awarded to employees often, gets filled by the recipient with chocolates or other treats to share.”
In all seriousness though, it’s the excellent work-life balance and open communication policies that have contributed to the company being a winner of the Employees’ Choice Awards for a third year.
Founded in Ottawa in 1992 and now with offices worldwide, Chipworks is an international player in reverse engineering and patent infringement analysis of semiconductors and electronic systems. Intellectual property groups and legal counsel employ Chipworks for patent licensing and litigation. Research and development and product management departments, as well, rely on Chipworks for new product designs and launches.
Despite its intimidating-sounding undertakings, it’s a casual, supportive atmosphere that prevails in Chipworks’s halls – an aspect that makes this company popular with its employees.
“The reason why people work at Chipworks is that it’s a fun, collaborate, family culture,” says Ms. Rantz. “There’s not one person I feel uncomfortable approaching and no question is too stupid. It’s highly technical work. There’s a lot of cross-functional learning that goes on internally to understand what we do and how to sell it. We learn from each other.”
This sentiment is echoed in employee feedback. In the 2009 Employees’ Choice Awards survey, staff praised “the high level of transparency” from management during challenging economic times and their “ability to motivate and encourage employees to do things the smart way and not just the fastest, status-quo way.”
One wrote: “It’s very seldom that one finds an organization/company that treats its employees as if they’re part of the family; family members that are there to help one another out to succeed in their respective careers/special- ization; family members that share and communicate success and problems irregardless of their position in the hierarchy.”
In terms of improvement, employees requested more risk-taking from the company when pursuing new market opportunities and more investment in training. But feedback was more positive than negative.
Successes are readily celebrated at Chipworks. In addition to the monthly values cup, the company awards its employees with certificates and gifts in recognition of one, three, five and 10 years of service. On top of regular benefits, employees enjoy in-house yoga and massage services, weekly summer barbecues, and a “summer hours program” where they take a paid day off every two weeks. They can also buy or sell extra vacation days.
Plus, Chipworks recently introduced a sabbatical program where employees can take unpaid leave for four to 12 months with guaranteed employment upon return.
In the words of one employee: “They really do care about me and my work-life balance. This is not just some tagline on our intranet or a corporate document buried somewhere on the network. They really do care and have been this way for the nine years I have worked here.”