Chip­works Inc.

Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Awards 2009-10 -

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.”

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