Urban Systems Again One of the Best Places to Work in Canada
For the tenth year in a row we have been named one of Canada’s best workplaces
It’s official—for the tenth year in a row, Urban Systems has been named one of the “Best Workplaces in Canada”, on a list compiled for The Globe and Mail by the Great Place to Work® Institute in Canada.
Only four companies have ever reached this ten-year milestone, and the honour is particularly special given that the selection process is based largely on employee feedback (this year an impressive 82% of Urban staff participated in the survey). Unlike other lists that some might argue you can “market” yourself into, the results of this list are very organic. Organizations are scored in five basic areas: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie.
CEO Martin Bell shared his thoughts on the award and about how the organization has maintained such a high level of employee satisfaction amidst robust growth over the last ten years.
“We are proud of this recognition,” says Martin. “We’re very appreciative of the people that work here and feel very fortunate to have a crew that’s so talented and passionate. Each year we ask our people to participate in the survey not so we can be on this list, but so we can identify how we can be a better workplace.”
Martin says that back in 2008 and 2009, the team company-wide spent a lot of time talking about their core values and those things uniting the people at Urban. The higher calling of spirit in service for vibrant communities resonated with Urban’s people and they got clear about what living that higher calling entailed—how it looked on a day-to-day basis when dealing with colleagues, clients and their communities.
“We’re growing this culture, truly, by having the right people on board. We’re clear about our story and what we believe in, and then we let our people run with it. This has attracted some amazing people and strengthened our culture. What we’ve done is created a platform for people to be themselves, thrive in their own skin and contribute..”
When asked about what Urban does to keep its people so happy, Martin says it isn’t necessarily about perks, but rather about trust and freedom. The surveys have a space for open commentary from staff and Martin explains that many respondents talked about feeling they could be themselves at work.
“It sounds simple, but in some ways it isn’t a culture that exists everywhere. We really encourage people to be the best at being themselves, not a prototype of something we think they should be. We don’t direct them or tell them what to do, we just expect them to work with colleagues to develop plans together that make sense and enable contribution to communities. There’s a freedom and responsibility in that. We have high expectations but we also offer a high level of trust.”
Tonii Lerat, a Community Planner who has been with Urban since 2012 echoes Martin’s statements.
“At Urban I have the freedom to take on as much as I am willing. This adds diversity to my work and keeps me interested in what I am working on, because I am guiding it. I appreciate the fact that my ideas are heard and if I think there should be change it is heard and considered; everyone’s ideas are equal. There is no hierarchy and no box that I have to fit inside of. I like that I can sit next to the CEO when I visit Kelowna and I can pick up the phone and call senior people to ask questions without hesitation.”
Former Civil Engineering Co-op student Sushmitha Karunakaran says she loved working at Urban because she felt part of something bigger.
“It’s exciting and encouraging to be around people who deeply believe in the philosophy of serving others above all. The people at Urban are so committed to the idea of building vibrant, beautiful, safe communities and it really shows through in their efforts and actions. I had an opportunity to contribute to others in a way that was larger than myself, and that opportunity to do so was precious and extremely special.”
Municipal Engineer Meghan Aebig points out that flexibility and freedom are keys to why she loves her work at Urban. “Because we are an employee owned networked organization I have the flexibility to pursue my interests and work with a diverse group of clients and colleagues. I truly feel we are making a positive difference to the communities we work in.”
As part of receiving this special recognition, we have been asked to sit on a panel at the annual gala and conference held to commemorate the awards in Toronto. We will sit with the other three companies who’ve also achieved the ten-year milestone (TD Bank, Inforshare and Carsell Publishing) and share their ideas with those attending the event.
When asked about the future, Martin is optimistic. “We had the opportunity to grow up and benefit from senior colleagues who started this company and we want to set a strong stage for future generations to benefit as well. It’s a living company in that sense. We’re so proud to be attracting people passionate about carrying forward this vision and platform of contributing to communities. That’s ultimately our motivation—to contribute.”
Cheers to the next ten years!
Edmonton’s Chris Ulmer describes what it is like to work at Urban.