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

Growth is the name of the game for most b u s i n e s s e s – and Pro­tus seems to be manag­ing it well. For the past few years the com­pany has been adding em­ploy­ees to keep up with busi­ness ex­pan­sion (this year, it was named one of Jour­nal’s Fast

Ottawa Busi­ness est Grow­ing Com­pa­nies) and for three years, has also found a place in the top 10 of the Em­ploy­ees’ Choice Awards.

But growth can be dis­rup­tive. Busi­nesses of­ten strug­gle to in­te­grate new em­ploy­ees into cor­po­rate cul­ture, and as head­count in­creases that cul­ture can change, for bet­ter or worse.

So how does Pro­tus man­age growth while main­tain­ing its em­ployer-of­choice sta­tus? Com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives point to the ba­sics as the firm’s step­ping stone.

“I think we of­fer good ben­e­fits and com­pen­sa­tion that is a lit­tle higher than the av­er­age in the mar­ket, to il­lus­trate our com­mit­ment to our cus­tomers,” says Jan­ice Van­der­burg, hu­man re­sources di­rec­tor.

Pro­tus also pro­vides so­cial events to help em­ploy­ees un­wind – sum­mer bar­be­cues fea­tur­ing pop­u­lar themes like “Pro­tus Idol” and volleyball games, for in­stance. And the com­pany tries to main­tain its open-door pol­icy for em­ploy­ee­m­an­ager com­mu­ni­ca­tion, even as the num­ber of work­ers in­creases. For ex­am­ple, CEO Joseph Nour holds town-hall meet­ings and pays close at­ten­tion to the em­ploy­ees’ needs, says Sue Ruther­ford, Pro­tus’s mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor. “I don’t think there’s a sin­gle em­ployee that he hasn’t wel­comed into the com­pany per­son­ally.”

Be­yond the ba­sics, the com­pany ties com­pen­sa­tion into the cul­ture via its em­ployee re­fer­ral plan.

“When you’re build­ing a com­mit­ted work­force, you’re looking for like­minded peo­ple,” Ms. Van­der­burg says. “We have quite a large con­tact cen­tre … be­cause one of our busi­ness strate­gies is high-qual­ity cus­tomer sup­port. To find that on a cus­tomer sup­port team, our re­fer­ral pol­icy has been very suc­cess­ful. It is a fi­nan­cial pay­ment to an em­ployee who rec­om­mends an em­ployee that re­mains with us.”

Feed­back from pre­vi­ous Em­ploy­ees’ Choice sur­veys told Pro­tus’ man­agers that they needed to im­prove com­pany com­mu­ni­ca­tion, en­sur­ing em­ploy­ees un­der­stood how their own work­place mo­ti­va­tions aligned with the cor­po­rate growth strat­egy. To that end, the com­pany is in­stalling per­for­mance-man­age­ment soft­ware. It helps em­ploy­ees track their own day-to-day goals – whether that in­cludes speak­ing with a cer­tain num­ber of cus­tomers in a day, or in­tro­duc­ing a cer­tain num­ber of clients to a new Pro­tus ser­vice fea­ture. That helps the staff mem­bers match their own goals with those of their de­part­ments and com­pany as a whole.

Pro­tus’s work­force seems im­pressed with how the com­pany han­dles hu­man re­sources. “We aren’t treated as just a num­ber, our opin­ions mat­ter,” read one com­ment in the firm’s sur­vey. “They take our feed­back and try to bet­ter them­selves with that feed­back. They also pro­vide an at­mos­phere that is fun and pro­fes­sional. It is prob­a­bly the best place I’ve ever worked.”

For Ms. Van­der­burg, suc­cess is a three-way street con­nect­ing com­pen­sa­tion, growth and cul­ture.

“We have a recog­ni­tion plan to re­ward good per­for­mance monthly, and make new em­ploy­ees feel part of the team more quickly,” she says.

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