Creating a Culture of Community & Support
As summer winds down and fall takes its first chilly breaths, it feels like a good time to take stock of this year’s challenges, successes, and surprises. At Gemstone Logistics, we’ve had our fair share of all of the above.
As we reflect, we’re reminded that the most important accomplishments are always closest to home. Many of our ongoing big-picture achievements wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t turn our eyes inward to the dedicated team behind Gemstone.
When you bring people with distinct skills and personalities together to work toward a single goal, there’s the potential for great achievements and great adversity. Our management team has always been mindful of this. We think the people working with us deserve to feel fulfilled in their jobs, and not just because of the work they do, but the community they create.
“I really love the dynamic environment Gemstone provides. In my many years here, I’ve been given the opportunity to grow with the company and I’m always encouraged to keep learning and try new things. The people I work with are absolutely amazing. We are able to work hard and have some fun along the way, like the time a couple guys decided to unpack the toilet paper rolls around my desk. I could not imagine working anywhere else!”
- Kaitlin Stewart-White, Manager HR & Client Relations, Gem since 2012
Who We Are
Canada’s tech industry has the highest turnover rates in the country. That’s a staggering statistic, and not one we take lightly. At Gemstone, our average tenure is 3.5 years, a number we work hard to maintain and improve.
For our team, the work we do goes well beyond the employer-employee transaction of “work for pay.” It’s a give-and-take relationship that allows us to achieve goals together. While a team member works on building a new program or relationship with clients, we’re also invested in building that person up so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. It’s about teamwork, caring, and an investment in the success of the entire team – including the individuals that make up that team.
Above all, Gemstone has developed a culture of support. People jump in and help, even when it’s not their job, or they’re not scheduled to work. We’ve had several busy weekends after software launches, which resulted in a major overload for those scheduled to work. In these times, there’s no question that others will jump in to help without being asked. Employees will give up an entire weekend to be on the floor with their colleagues, supporting them whole-heartedly.
In these cases, it’s not just the employees giving up their time. Their families also contribute to the work we’re doing by giving up precious time spent relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. We express our gratitude whenever we can by including families in events like BBQs and game days, but it’s something we all appreciate more than any single action can say.
The impact of culture is immeasurable. It affects how our employees feel when they go home to their families and hobbies at the end of the day. It impacts our clients’ moods after they hang up the phone from a support call. The results even affect the quality of the work we do.
Protecting and instilling that culture isn’t something we take for granted. Our team is made up of current and future leaders, which means we have to work hard to nurture the sense of community we’ve built. We do that in four ways:
1. Activities and Events
“I love working with Gemstone for many reasons, but its inclusive, laid-back atmosphere is certainly a highlight. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming right from my first day, and nobody hesitates to crack a joke or a smile. It’s hard to pin down a favourite Gemstone memory, but the social events are always a great time. I am certainly not one to complain about getting paid to lose at Mariokart.”
- Carter Buan, Corporate Travel Consultant, Gem since 2019
It’s important that we get to know each other as human beings; not just as colleagues. We host fun events throughout the year as a thank-you to employees and their families, but also just to keep everyone relaxed and feeling their best.
Last month, we brought in a massage therapist for the day and our team received 15-minute chair massages right in the office. Other events we host regularly include family potlucks, afternoons spent at Level Up Gaming (just around the corner from the office), scavenger hunts, BBQs, trips to the Edmonton Corn Maze, and more.
We also have a Fitbit walking program that encourages people to be more active. Different tasks have different point values, including camping, fishing, and hiking. But the fun twist is that you get double the points if you complete a task with a coworker!
Whenever possible, we put our energy together to help with community events. In previous years when the Bissel Camp was running at Lake Wabamun, we’d volunteer for a day and spend time with the kids and families. Our staff helped camp coordinators with cooking and activities.
2. Instilling Values
These values aren’t just posted in the boardroom; they’re in the everyday work we do for clients, in the way we help each other get work done, and in the way we communicate with each other. We live by them, and a lot of our team members have found these useful in their personal lives as well.
“Gemstone is a home away from home. I often describe it as a corporation with a mom & pop shop feel. We genuinely believe in our values and utilize them in every aspect of our jobs including hiring, contribution evaluations and our culture. We are encouraged to fail with accountability and it is what breeds our success. Empowerment is one of our values and this is a close cousin to failure.
On top of all this, we are lead by a man that sincerely appreciates the mutual respect between staff members and management in addition to a work/life balance. This allows us to recruit and retain the best of the best and share our success with clients.”
- Danica Levesque, VP Operations, Gem since 2012
3. Hiring Based on Characteristics, Not Skills
Recently, we hired someone with virtually no qualifications. She hadn’t worked in the industry before, and she didn’t have the skills listed in the job posting. After interviewing her, we knew that didn’t matter. She was the right fit for the team and what she didn’t have in skill she made up for in dedication. Today, she’s a high-performing employee who continues to amaze us and herself as she learns and grows with mentorship from her coworkers.
When it comes to building the Gemstone team, we’re looking closely at outlook, drive, and willingness to learn. We want to know what you can bring to the team and culture, not just what’s on your resume.
“The people here are really something special, and I'm not talking about just the few in my department, but everyone, including management. Management take great care in selecting not just those who can perform the tasks required, but individuals who are genuinely invested in creating a comfortable work environment. Being able to have casual fun conversations with anyone while getting the work done is truly one of the best parts of being here. I've never felt so comfortable working anywhere else.
Everyone is about putting out their best while simultaneously making sure everyone else has what they need to do the same. This comes around so quickly that often support can be reciprocated even daily and with that, it builds a strong foundation that we're in this together. It's also very rare if someone goes above and beyond and they're not recognized for their efforts immediately.
It wasn't long ago that a change in my life lead me to a special request of upper management. They didn't hesitate to step up when I needed that personal support and it's something I'll never forget.”
- Justin Gritten, Lead Developer, Gem since 2015
4. Open Concept Workspaces
A work environment can have a major impact on how people interact, what they’re feeling, and how they feel about their jobs. So what does working at Gemstone Logistics really look like?
First, we have a unique open floor concept in our tech centre. There are a few teams working on different projects and helping customers in different ways, but there’s no separation between them. People say hi, they have conversations, and it’s not rare to see people working side-by-side as they solve a problem together.
We also have an internal communications system that allows us to chat instantly. Because our work often moves quickly and we need fast solutions, we need to be able to get live support from each other. It also opens up a helpful and non-judgemental space for support. Everyone has the chance to ask and answer questions (and see the answers to questions they might not have known the answers to). That means teams can be interdependent and get the support they need, but individuals also become more independent as they learn.
Want to Join the Unique Team and Culture at Gemstone?
If you’re interested in joining a motivated team of people who care deeply about the work they do and the impact it has, we’d love to hear from you. Send us your resume and cover letter and tell us what makes you a great fit for the team, and why you’d be excited to join us.
“The Gemstone team is awesome! My role at Gemstone is to smile everyday and everyone on our team makes the smile keep going.
Someone has said, ‘There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just treat your staff how you would like to be treated’ This is 100% true for Gemstone.”
- Nisha Chudal, Support Desk Analyst, Gem since 2017