What a year it has been! 2020 has become an unprecedent and unique year for everyone. COVID-19 brought significant changes to the lives of everyone and people had to adapt quickly to challenges that seemed impossible to overcome before 2020. For Giatec, this year was full of challenges, learning, and transformation. This year helped us discover our resilience as an organization and we are grateful for this opportunity. As this year comes to an end, we have decided to share some of our reflections on how we have navigated and continue to navigate our “new reality”.
COVID-19 brought us to a completely new and undiscovered territory, where the old ways are obsolete and there are no instructions on what to do. As we frequently say, we were very lucky. Indeed, being a technology company in the construction industry has given us an advantage. Giatec’s strong corporate culture and the good technological solutions we already had in place allowed us to adapt quickly to the situation when the pandemic hit Canada in March 2020.
Within days we were able to quickly and smoothly transition our staff to remote work and our operations continued as per normal even though prior to COVID-19 remote work was not a regular thing. For Giatec, our corporate culture has always been important, so we started to ask many questions such as “How do we sustain our corporate culture in the remote world?”, “How do we make sure employees still felt valued and connected?”, “How can we guide employees and help them achieve their goals?”. Ultimately, we were looking for answers on how to protect, develop, and improve our culture during such uncertain times. Answering these questions allowed us to stick with the human-centric approach that has always been central to our culture.
As Giatec has continued to navigate the situation, it has been clear that our adaptability is key and our primary responsibility is to our team. At the very beginning of the pandemic, when uncertainty was extremely high, Giatec made a decision that we would put our employees first and avoid layoffs to every extent possible, we have successfully avoided making any layoffs as a result of COVID-19. Taking care of our people is in our organizational DNA.
One of the main philosophies of Giatec’s culture, which has been built over the past 10 years, is to work hard, have fun, and make history together. This has helped us to develop a concept of work-life integration, which became even more important during the past year. The global pandemic has blended our work and home lives even more than it was before and for Giatec it was very important to provide some fun activities to employees so they can shift their focus from their work tasks and relax. To keep employees engaged and boost team spirit we continued to organize and promote team events. There were multiple initiatives such as virtual lunchrooms, online bingo games, virtual escape rooms, online yoga classes, and monthly lunch n’ learns. During the summer, when some restrictions were waived, our teams got together to participate in COVID-friendly activities, reconnect with their team members and just have some fun. In October, we organized a socially distanced Haunted Walk which also received great feedback from our team. Decision making around in-person activities was not easy as public safety always has to come first but following all guidelines we have been able to ensure an amazing, safe and fun experience for our employees.
To make sure our employees see the clear link between their objectives and organizational goals, we have re-evaluated our performance management process and introduced a new platform(BambooHR), which has helped employees to track their goals and progress even in a remote environment. We have also implemented a new performance review system to enable employees and managers to track progress and exchange feedback on a frequent basis. Ultimately, we have made the process more transparent, structured, and inclusive following a belief that the feedback is a two-way street. In the fall, Giatec conducted annual performance reviews and, despite the challenging economic situation, provided salary increases that recognized employees for their hard work and contribution and showed our appreciation.
Health and Wellbeing:
Employees’ health and wellbeing was always important to Giatec, but this year it has become a central concept as we navigate the global pandemic. This includes not only physical health, but also the mental state and general wellbeing of our employees.
The lockdown was extremely hard on everyone. As the line between work and life has become more blurred, Giatec took responsibility to more actively support the wellbeing of our employees letting them know that their mental health is very important. Over the past 9 months, Giatec has conducted multiple surveys to collect employees’ feedback regarding their work situation, preferences, and overall mental health. Managers have periodically checked in with their teams not only professionally, but also on a personal level. Giatec also provided some stress management training to all employees by inviting a certified professional to provide valuable information to help employees cope with stress and uncertainty.
In August we started to re-evaluate our benefits package, we knew that we should make a stronger contribution toward the overall wellbeing of our employees. Health and well-being of employees was always important to us but has become a central concept since the beginning of the pandemic. For this reason, Giatec has decided to introduce a Wellness Spending Account as a part of our Health Benefits Program. The Wellness Spending Account was created to support the diverse lifestyles of our employees, create more flexibility, and promote a concept of wellbeing. As we understood that each employee has their own definition of personal wellness and has diverse needs especially in the current situation, we have included a variety of options in our Wellness Spending Account; such as, sports memberships, sporting equipment, mindfulness sessions, music, art, and language classes, in person and even online sessions or subscriptions. We have also provided an opportunity to cover daycare, housekeeping, and yard services and many more costs. We strongly believe that our new benefits plan is not only helping our team members to balance out-of-work responsibilities, but also more accurately reflects our corporate culture and values. This is just one reflection of Giatec’s commitment to invest in and take care of our people.
This year we have seen how rapidly the world can change. In such an environment, lifelong learning is more important than ever. For this reason, Giatec started to provide more opportunities to our employees to gain relevant hard and soft skills. As a part of the training and development program we have introduced our Year of Leading Brilliantly Program designed specifically for our leadership and mid-management teams to help develop essential leadership skills. As a company-wide initiative, Giatec introduced a series of lunch n’ learn sessions with recognized experts and included various topics such as distance communication, stress management, diversity and inclusion, career development and, effective communication. Lastly, Giatec has increased departmental training budgets to make sure our team members are on top of new technologies and concepts.
In 2020 Giatec has faced many challenges. However, we have taken these challenges as an opportunity to reflect, identify our weaknesses and strengths while redefining our people strategy and vision. This year has become one of learning for us where we constantly reflected on our past and present, made difficult decisions and came up with solutions. Ultimately, we have chosen an even better future for our organization. As our main driver was always achievement of our vision, we have chosen to focus on our culture and we are grateful to be where we are now!